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Relics as paleopathological evidence from the past – tooth relics

Author(s): A. Petaros | M. Cavka | A. Skrobonja

Journal: Bulletin of the International Association for Paleodontology
ISSN 1846-6273

Volume: 5;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 28;
Date: 2011;
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Keywords: relic | Saint | tooth | paleopathology

Relics represent ancient religious objects held in Churches or religious institutions for the purposes of veneration. They most often refer to the bodily remnants (mummified or not) of Saints. The importance they have retained in history is great (they were used as talismans in battles, as well to strengthen alliances or heal the sick) and still today religious people attach great importance to them. The aim of this article is to present the historical and paleopathological importance of relics, which have been poorly targeted through history. Among different types of relics the most significant tooth relics of three great religions will be presented: that of St. Apollonia, Buddha and Prophet Mohammed. Some of the most important invasive and non-invasive paleopathological studies conducted on relics (including teeth relics) are cited. The article concludes that there is a need for more research on Saints’ relics, although religious constraints and other limitations are present. Results published to date have shown how targeted and well-organized research can yield important and interesting information about the life and environment of the Saint, as well attest the authenticity of the analyzed remains. The article also points out the need to establish a database of relics and how the anthropological and paleopathological data recovered from their analysis would, while preserving their sanctity, improve our knowledge on the topic and add new osteobiographic data to the known written facts about a specific Saint.
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