Why So Many Chinese Have Overbites

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From the NY Times review of the book Consider The Fork by Bee Wilson:

The British, on the other hand, with their abundance of firewood, went in for enormous haunches of beef spit-roasted in front of a roaring hearth. And spit-roasting entailed a universe of now defunct technologies like gravity jacks, which replaced child- or canine-powered turnspits. (There was even a dog of that name with short legs and a long body, specially bred, as Wilson puts it, to “trundle around” in a large wheel connected to the spit with a pulley.) Medieval Britons consumed the final product by clamping the meat between their incisors and tugging or cutting off the hunk that remained in their mouths with the sharp personal eating knife they carried at all times. By the 18th century, they had adopted the fork, and in changing their table manners also changed their physiognomy. Wilson cites the provocative theories of the aptly named anthropologist Charles Loring Brace to show that the overbite we consider a normal part of our anatomy is only about 200 to 250 years old. If we still used the inelegant technique Brace termed the “stuff-and-cut,” we would have an “edge-to-edge” bite like that of chimpanzees. The fossil record shows that the Chinese, who have been cutting up their food very small for centuries, developed an overbite 800 to 1,000 years earlier than Europeans.

 

 

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