Ancient teeth and… Arak!

I am more than a little obsessed with teeth. Ancient teeth. Part of this is how teeth look when they come out of the ground: the enamel is usually shiny and white – unlike the drab, crumbly bone. It is a bit like finding a shiny noble metal like gold, as opposed to a corroded, more base metal like copper. But, there is more to it than looks. Teeth are incredibly informative and reveal all sorts of data about age, lifestyle, behavior, treatment, etc.

For instance, take a look at this ancient donkey x onager hybrid, that dates from around 2300 BC:


What beautiful incisors! The incisors also tell us that the animal was constrained, as there is evidence of “cribbing”. There are tiny chips and worn areas that come from the animal chewing and rubbing on hard surfaces. This is a younger animal, only around 10 years of age, and it is male. How do I know? He has well-developed canines, one of which is visible to the left, “behind” the incisors.

Now take a look at this dog that lived in Syria around 1800 BC:

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Those are some wretched teeth!

This is an older, male dog who clearly lived a tough life.  I don’t know all of that from the teeth – some is from the remainder of the skeleton.  But, this animal has teeth were they shouldn’t be, none where there should be, and all sorts of “bad”.  One canine is broken, the others are strangely worn down.  The upper incisors are crooked and unevenly spaced.  The lower incisors are growing on top of each other.  He may have done well in an ancient “ugly dog” competition!

So, do you like teeth now?

What about arak?  I love arak.  I find it incredibly refreshing after a long day in the sun, or in the lab examining teeth.

Arak is an anise-flavMassayaored alcoholic beverage distilled from grapes – like ouzo, raki, or pastis.  One of my favorites comes from the Lebanese producer, Massaya, which I was able to get in Syria, and in Philadelphia.  The grape  used  is Oubeidi, which also works its way into Massaya’s white wine.  When you order your arak, you will get a glass of arak, a glass of water, and a glass of ice.  Put a few cubes of ice into the arak.  Pour in some water – which will turn the arak milky.  Keep pouring until you get the color (and strength) that you want.  After a hard day of looking at teeth(!), you may end up with “tiger’s milk”, a very strong concentration!