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WTF is that? #17

February 23rd, 2010 link to (permalink)


These are false teeth not unique, but of a type with a sad and macabre history. What’s the story?

9 Responses to “WTF is that? #17”

  1. Indiefab Says:

    These appear to made from another person’s jaw (mandible) and maxilla with teeth intact. Instead of taking animal bone, teeth, metal and other materials and making a jaw and maxilla, these were made by harvesting straight from a person. You would be wearing some else’s mouth!
    I’m not sure of the history beyond that.

  2. admin Says:

    Yes you are right, they are real human teeth. There is a story behind them, not this set in particular, but the type.

  3. steve Says:

    They are a famous murderer’s teeth.

  4. admin Says:

    @steve They are not from a particularly well known individual, and there were many sets of this kind.

  5. Glen Says:

    I’m guessing something to do with slavery or the Holocaust? Something greusome and unpleasant?

  6. Indiefab Says:

    The only websource that I can find using this same image is about “Waterloo Teeth”. These were teeth harvested from the corpses of soldiers after so many European battles. Waterloo alone had 50,000 deaths. Scavengers would scour the battlefields and pick belongings off the bodies. Real human teeth were extremely valuable in the early 1700’s and thousands of barrels of human teeth were extracted from the dead and shipped to England to be used in dentures. They were typically afixed to a base of animal ivory or bone.
    However, I find no reference that says the upper plate and lower jaw were ever removed as a whole, like this shows. I can’t wait for the answer.

  7. admin Says:

    @Indiefab. You are absolutely right they are an example of Waterloo teeth, whether the jaw here is also real, I’m not sure.

    Waterloo teeth became the generic term for teeth made from dead soldiers, a practice that continued through the American Civil War, when Waterloo teeth from its battles were found in mail order catalogs in the 1860s.

    They reveal a time before World War I when fallen lower ranking soldiers were anonymous, people whose names didn’t appear on memorials and whose bones were dug up by companies contracted to grind them into fertilizer.

  8. bradley547 Says:

    The jaw itself is not human. Most likely bone or ivory. If you look close, the rear molars are carved into the material.
    Besides, a real human jawbone wouldn’t have enough material in it to carve a seat for the users jaw to go into.

  9. Indiefab Says:

    Good point Bradley. That’s exactly what my wife said about the molars when I showed her. These must have been the finest false teeth made at the time. Compared to George Washington’s teeth, these are far more advanced. Cool.

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