This article appeared in the Spring 1976 (Issue #43) edition of the Kent Archaeological Review.
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A Human Tooth from St Margaret's Bay.
A great number of fascinating anecdotes about the past can often be heard if one only takes the trouble to listen to the older inhabitants of any town or village. On a recent visit to a certain Mrs Groves, a most interesting and knowledgeable senior citizen of St Margaret's Bay, a human tooth was produced which is said to have come from a burial under the Madge Memorial Ground (NGR TR 444 364). Mrs Groves very kindly lent me the tooth for further study.
The following passage, which may throw some light on the history of the tooth, was found in an old copy of the Deal and Dover Area Guide Book (1888).
St. Margaret's Bay.
The Rev E C Lucey (the late vicar), in his letter read at the Dover Congress August, 1883, says: -- "The high land to the eastward is a site of a Roman encampment; and on top of the Bay Hill, in now what appears to be a small chalk pit, but what was evidently a Roman or Saxon burial place, human teeth were once taken out in such quantities as to make it worth while to send them to a London dentist, while the flints found with them were used to make a wall.
From this encampment, my impression is that the Romans had a road across the Downs to Deal and Rich borough. There are tumuli yet to be met with on what is still the freedown (and are marked on the Ordnance map), which helped me to strengthen the idea.
I assisted at the opening of one of these some years ago; human bones, teeth, pieces of charcoal, and even some flint implements, were found -- the teeth being remarkably perfect. I may add that coins are occasionally met with."
The Rev E C Lucey mentions two find spots -- the Bay Hill burial and the tumuli on the freedown.
The tooth was subsequently examined by a dental surgeon who reported on it as follows:
- It appears to be an upper left canine incisor.
- Probably female because it is smaller than a male tooth.
- It is a fully developed tooth therefore from an adult over 18 years of age and considering the amount of wear in the centre (the dentine is visible) the estimated age could be 20 plus.
- With the tooth in its correct position there is an unidentified red stain about half way down the outward facing side of the root. The large amount of wear could be attributed to diet. In the preparation of meals foodstuffs would have been ground in a crude pestle or on a rough quern, thus introducing grit and other abrasive materials into the food which would probably speed up the process of dental wear. I would like to thank both Mrs.Groves for supplying the tooth and R D W Mabin, BDSc,(Qld.) the dental surgeon who very kindly examined the tooth for me.