Viking Teeth by Rob Shackleford
Vikings suffered from bad teeth. Archaeological examination of Viking skeletons show that more than a quarter of the population had holes in their teeth. Finds of crania show that most Vikings had several teeth missing. In a number of cases only a couple of teeth were left by the time death occurred.
Some Viking Men May Have Filed Grooves Into Their Teeth. The extent to which Vikings modified their teeth is unclear, but archeologists discovered filed teeth among the remains at Scandinavian burial sites in 2005 and in England in 2009. The teeth were intentionally filed with grooves that may have indicated victories against opponents. Another theory claims that Vikings filed their teeth to intimidate enemies.
Equally unclear is what they used to file their teeth, although David Score, the manager of the site in England, indicated the filing was done by a skilled practitioner.
One form of body decoration that is better supported is modifications to the teeth. The photo shows crescent-shaped grooves cut into the incisors. Hundreds of Viking-age skeletal remains have been found in various locations with horizontal grooves carefully filed into the front surfaces of the most visible teeth. Almost all of these have been found in eastern Sweden, but others were found in Denmark and England. It’s been suggested that these grooves were filled with a pigment or dye to color them. It’s been further suggested that the Danish king Haraldr blátönn (Harald Bluetooth) received his name not from teeth darkened from decay, but rather from intentional modifications and colors applied to his teeth.
There is also evidence that they etched striations into their teeth then painted the striations with red resin and charcoal as a way to intimidate their enemies. Archaeologists have found skulls with horizontal lines engraved in the front teeth in Sweden, Denmark, and England.
In 2005 Caroline Arcini published her research on Viking dental filing in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Arcini looked at the skulls of 24 men from the Viking Age (ca. 800-1050 AD) found in Sweden and Denmark that had 2 or more horizontally, parallel lines in the teeth.
In 2009 archaeologists discovered a mass grave in Dorset, England with 51 beheaded skulls and 54 dismembered bodies. The bones in the grave dated to between 970 and 1025 AD, a time when the Vikings were raiding the Anglo Saxons in the UK. One of the skulls in this mass grave had lines carved in the front teeth. Isotope analysis on the teeth revealed that this person was from a Nordic country.
About the author:
Hi, I’m Rob Shackleford. I am author of a number of novels, though so far only Traveller Inceptio and Traveller Probo have been officially published. As Traveller Inceptio looks at the fates of modern historical researchers sent to the early 11th Century Saxon world, Vikings do feature.
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