history

Oldest tooth filling was made by an Ice Age dentist in Italy

Scared of the dentist? Be glad you don’t live in the Ice Age. A pair of 13,000-year-old front teeth found in Italy contain the earliest known use of fillings – made out of bitumen.

The teeth, two upper central incisors belonging to one person, were discovered at the Riparo Fredian site near Lucca in northern Italy.

Each tooth has a large hole in the incisor’s surface that extends down into the pulp chamber deep in the tooth. “It is quite unusual, not something you see in normal teeth,” says Stephano Benazzi, an archaeologist at the University of Bologna. Read more in New Scientist.

Feral Hogs Root Through History

Archaeological sites inside Florida Air Force bases are threatened by foraging pigs.

Feral swine, first introduced by some of the earliest European explorers to America, have been roaming Florida for the past 500 years, and are now present in at least 35 states. The invasive pigs are well-known as a destructive environmental menace, tearing up sensitive habitats and endangered plants and animals in their search for food. But the hogs can also dig up important archaeological sites, destroying an irreplaceable historical record.

“The damage feral pigs do to everything else — crops, wetlands, endangered species — it can all grow back,” said Richard Engeman, a biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “But once you move artifacts around, that doesn’t grow back.” Read more in Inside Science.

Canada used hungry indigenous children to study malnutrition

Ire follows article detailing tests on unwitting aboriginal citizens in the 1940s and 1950s.

Canadian government scientists used malnourished native populations as unwitting subjects in experiments conducted in the 1940s and 1950s to test nutritional interventions. The tests, many of which involved children at state-funded residential schools, had been largely forgotten until they were described earlier this month in the journal Social History by Ian Mosby, who studies the history of food and nutrition at the University of Guelph in Canada. Read more in Nature.

Slow science

The world’s longest-running experiments remind us that science is a marathon, not a sprint.

Although science is a long-term pursuit, research is often practised over short timescales: a discrete experiment or a self-contained project constrained by the length of a funding cycle. But some investigations cannot be rushed. To study human lifespans or the roiling of Earth’s crust and the Sun’s surface, for instance, requires decades and even centuries.

Here, Nature takes a look at five of science’s longest-running projects, some of which have been amassing data continuously for centuries. Read more in Nature.

On the record

The open science movement is just the latest development in the long history of scholarly communication.

The essence of science has always been communication. Nothing gets entered into the scientific record until it has been published in a peer-reviewed journal so that it can be explained to the scientific community at large, allowing them to examine and critique the work. And the roots of those journals go back to the letters that the first natural philosophers of the enlightenment wrote to one another to share their ideas and the results of their experiments.

So it is fitting that as new communications technologies are developed, scientists are among the first to adopt them and make use of them in their work. Read more in Materials Today.