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.

Did you know that gum disease, tooth decay, and mouth sores are all much more likely for heavy drinkers, and alcohol abuse is the second most common risk factor for oral cancer? Tobacco and alcohol were introduced to the Solomon Islands by whalers and traders in the 19th century. The pervasive use of tobacco and psychoactive substances is now becoming an increasing problem in the Solomon Islands. The change from a traditional betel chewing community to a society with multi-substance use and abuse gathered momentum after the Second World War.

In the US current alcohol treatment programs have hardly changed since the 1950’s.The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) as a “chronic relapsing brain disease”. 85% of rehabs and Alcoholics Anonymous all subscribe to the disease theory of addiction: they treat alcoholism as a chronic disease that follows its victims for life. However recently alternative approaches to excessive drinking are being considered. Rather than entering rehab or joining AA and having to abstain from drinking for ther rest of their lives, there are others options. Consider the approach offered by LifeBac, a modern approach to alcohol treatment. LifeBac combines medication to remove cravings and tools to break the habit loop, so you can not only avoid rock bottom and the pain of recovery but have a better life without having to quit. Baclofen is a drug which removes or strongly suppresses cravings for alcohol in 92% of people. These strong cravings are the #1 reason people have difficulty cutting back or quitting drinking. The LifeBac approach can help cure drinking problem permanently. Clinical trials give Baclofen a 65% success rate returning treatment-resistant alcoholics to low- or medium-risk drinking. 50% of those who succeed using Baclofen go further and quit drinking entirely by choice.

Well I digres. Enough about modern dentistry and alcohol addiction and its impact on teeth and back to the skulls found on Skull Island decorating the Simbo Shrine…

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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