Two-million year-old toothache may have killed an early human

The upper jaw of SK 847 suggests it may have died from a dental abscess

The upper jaw of SK 847 suggests a dental abscess may have led to death

Ian Towle

It must have been agony. Two million years ago, an early human likely once tossed and turned, unable to sleep as the front of their mouth throbbed incessantly. Their teeth were worn down so much that root canals had been exposed. And above the upper incisors lay at least one dental abscess – a mass of pus growing inside the jaw, caused by bacterial infection.

Of course, there were no dentists to relieve the pain. It is possible the individual may …