Aged in his 20s or early 30s, the man had a mouth full of cavities and abscesses that would have caused him severe pain and could have led to a fatal sinus infection.
This would have acted as a barrier to stop food getting into the tooth, while any medicine on the cloth might have helped with the pain. The patient appears to have died just weeks after the treatment, however, possibly from an infection spreading from his rotten teeth.
His remains were scanned by Andrew Wade of the University of Western Ontario, as part of a project that recently saw bird mummies from the collections of McGill University’s Redpath Museum being scanned to reveal that their stomachs had been posthumously filled with food.
‘I expect that the cavities, and especially the abscesses, were quite painful,’ Andrew Wade said. ‘There is some connection between one of the abscesses and the sinuses, which may have allowed the infection to spread beyond the tooth. All of his internal organs have been removed except for his heart, so we can’t begin to say what killed him, but systemic infection resulting from the dental infection would be pretty high on the list of possibilities.’