Skulls are the bony structure of the head of many creatures with support the softer tissue of the face. Within the skull bone teeth are found. Both Skulls and teeth have held a lot of symbolic importance and value throughout time. When it comes to determining a person’s identity or age post mortem the teeth of the skull are very important and if a dental record can be obtained even more information about the person can be realized. Not only in death are teeth considered a distinguishing part of someone’s identity! In fact many people today are making aesthetic changes to their teeth as adults for cosmetic and health reasons.

At an adult braces Las Vegas conference several colleagues and myself attended, the importance of one’s teeth as part of an overall professional package really perked my attention when a sponsor of the event, Hansen Orthodontics offered their 1 day “Smile Makeover” package. I had never heard of a “Smile Makeover” and didn’t realize how many specific procedures can truly help someone with their career. Being able to get one’s teeth nice and shiny white can be the difference in an interview of landing the job aside from the health benefits. I wonder how many forensic specialists get flummoxed identifying people who have old dental records, but had adult braces on the sly without anyone knowing. My colleagues and I took up the offer of a Hansen Orthodontic quick 3 hour “smile makeover.” I may even come back in a year or so after my time in the Solomon Islands to get adult braces fitted.

Believe it or not but the skulls mentioned below would have to be older than 1728 to have not have had the more “modern” braces we have today. A French dentist Pierre Fauchard, who is regarded as the father of modern orthodontics published a book in 1728 putting braces on the map. Enough about modern dentistry and back to the skulls found on Skull Island decorating the Simbo Shrine…

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Skulls adorn spots such as this sacred Simbo shrine and several other shrines and houses of the Solomon Islands (circa 1900).

However, on many of the Solomon Islands, one may find the human skull given particular attention. The skulls of deceased persons, especially those who held importance to the community, were usually kept while the rest of the body was buried or abandoned to the sea and/or the elements. Additionally, skulls as trophies of battle were not uncommon; Solomon natives included headhunting tribes and cannibals — who were practicing their craft at least as recently as the early Twentieth Century.

Canoe figureheads sometimes displayed a skull, grasped in stylized carved hands, when the boat returned victorious from a battle. Small shrines or effigies on land might display a single skull, or a small collection of skulls. Such altars dot the Islands, sacred places at which the rites of sacrifice and worship were practiced.

More dramatically, entire structures were built to house up to dozens, even hundreds of skulls; some of these may still be found today and are common attractions for anthropological study or tourism. Kundu Hite (“Skull Island”) is the most dramatic and scared spot, but skull-studded sites can be found on Simbo and several other islands in the Solomons.

 

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