A Woman’s Work Was Sometimes Blue

Anita Radini, an archaeologist at the University of York, in England, spends a lot of time looking at tartar. definitely old tartar.

Tartar, or dental plaque — which film of bacteria which feels like sweaters on your teeth — contains a wealth of information about what long-dead individuals encountered in their daily lives. Dr. Radini has seen all sorts of things trapped inside the item: food particles, textile fibers, DNA, pollen, bacteria as well as even wings of tiny insects.

nevertheless several years ago, when studying the dental plaque of a nun through medieval Germany, Dr. Radini saw something entirely brand new: particles of a brilliant blue. She showed the findings to Christina Warinner, another tartar expert, who was shocked.

“They looked like little robins’ eggs, they were so bright,” said Dr. Warinner, group leader of archaeogenetics at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany. “I remember being dumbfounded.”

The skeleton of B78 dates to sometime between 997 as well as 1162 A.D. The nun was probably 45 to 60 years old when she died, as well as was buried in an unmarked grave near a women’s monastery in Dalheim, Germany. Historians know little else about the site, because almost all of the item was destroyed by a fire inside the 14th century.

Dr. Radini first noticed traces of blue when she immersed a sample of B78’s tartar in a weak acid solution. Scientists use This particular method to dissolve calcified tartar, so they can study any remaining food, pollen or some other particles.

At the time, blue pigment “was as, or more, valuable than the gold applied to manuscripts,” Dr. Beach said. Only a few percent of the lapis lazuli used inside the production process is usually converted into pigment, as well as the material would likely have had to travel through thousands of miles of trade routes to reach Europe.

The pigment likely ended up on the woman’s teeth as she used her mouth to shape her paintbrush. The researchers found ultramarine layered throughout B78’s dental plaque, which suggests which she painted many books in her lifetime.

“We struggle to find sources reflecting women’s lives inside the Middle Ages which aren’t filtered through men’s experiences or opinions about what women’s lives should have been,” Dr. Beach said. “currently, we have a direct piece of evidence about what This particular woman did on a day-to-day basis — all because they didn’t brush their teeth.”

“I have a brand new relationship with my Sonicare currently.”