Fluoride Action Network

Bones of the victims at Roman Herculaneum

Source: HeritageDaily.com | August 6th, 2015 | By Ashleigh Murszewski
Location: Italy
Industry type: Volcanoes


These studies of skeletal elements and burials in the Roman period have been of enduring interest to many archaeologists and proved to act towards a better understanding of the fundamental demographic regimes characterising Roman antiquity.

… The benefits of dental archaeology are broader than differentiating ages in skeletal remains as they can determine the diet and overall health of a population.  Once again, victims at Herculaneum prove to be a good case study when assessing diet and health of a population. Only a very low percentage of 3.8% of individuals were carious (Torino, Rognini & Fornaciari, 1995). This percentage is considered very low when compared to both ancient and modern populations (typically between 8- 12 %).

Many specimens show enamel hypoplasia due to altered amelogenesis: abnormal formation of the enamel (Torino, Rognini & Fornaciari, 1995). This is often caused by starvation or poor nourishment, although it is common in well-nourished communities suffering from fluorosis: ingesting of high levels of fluorine (Alessandro, 2006).  The high frequency of hypoplasia indicates that these results clearly demonstrate the presence of endemic dental fluorosis (Torino, Rognini & Fornaciari, 1995).

The source of these toxic levels of fluorine has been associated with volcanic activity, which releases highly soluble hydrogen fluorine. Volcanic rocks thus contain toxins which can be transferred through water-rock interaction processes in the aquifers. Therefore the primary pathway of these toxins into the human body is through the consumption of contaminated food and drinking water (Alessandro, 2006). Enamel hypoplasia is also commonly associated with tooth decay and cavities, which, if left untreated can prove to be painful, and cause difficulties when eating.

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Information on the Roman Herculaneum at Wikipedia:

Located in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, Herculaneum (Italian: Ercolano) was an ancient Roman town destroyed by volcanic pyroclastic flows in 79 AD. Its ruins are located in the commune of Ercolano, Campania, Italy.

As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is famous as one of the few ancient cities that can now be seen in much of its original splendour, and for having been lost, along with Pompeii, Stabiae, Oplontis and Boscoreale, in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 that buried it. Unlike Pompeii, the deep pyroclastic material which covered it preserved wooden and other organic-based objects such as roofs, beds, doors, food and even some 300 skeletons which were surprisingly discovered in recent years along the sea shore as it was thought until then that the town had been evacuated by the inhabitants.

Herculaneum was a wealthier town than Pompeii, possessing an extraordinary density of fine houses with, for example, far more lavish use of coloured marble cladding. …