Since the early twentieth century, the archaeology of dental modification has received significant attention, as modified teeth are especially important for interpreting past human culture in the archaeological record. Despite the existence of the practice in Ethiopia, to date no archaeological or ethnoarchaeological research has been conducted to examine the antiquity of the tradition. This ethnoarchaeological study investigates the procedures, motives and implications of dental modification from a social identity perspective, with special emphasis on the Karrayyu Oromo of central Ethiopia. The study reveals that the skillful local practitioners of dental modification, known as ogeettii ilkee, make modification to individuals’ upper front incisors. The study also shows that, among the Karrayyu Oromo, both adult males and females undergo midline diastema formation for aesthetic purposes, as well as for marking clan identity and rites of passage. This exploration is important to track the history of the Karrayyu Oromo, who have no written language, and to serve as a working model in different Ethiopian regions where the tradition is in place.
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- Dental modification
- Karrayyu oromo