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The weird habit of licking the end of a paintbrush has revealed new evidence about the life of an artist more than 900 years after her death.
Scientists found tiny blue paint flecks had accumulated on the teeth of a medieval German nun.
Particles - Lapis - Lazuli - Pigment - End
The particles of the rare lapis lazuli pigment likely collected as she touched the end of her brush with her tongue.
The researchers say it shows women were more involved in the illumination of sacred texts than previously thought.
Team - Health - Diets - Middle - Ages
The team had initially been initially been investigating health and diets in the Middle Ages. They set out to examine the bones of corpses at a medieval monastery in Dalheim, Germany.
The scientists analysed dental calculus - essentially dental plaque that has become fossilised on your teeth during your lifetime.
Image - Caption - Guda - Century - Nun
Image caption Guda, a twelfth century nun and illuminator. Credited as one of the first women in Europe to create a signed self-portrait, she holds a Latin inscription reading “Guda, peccatrix mulier scripsit et pinxit hunc librum,” translated as “Guda, a sinful woman, wrote and painted this book.”
When they examined the teeth of one subject, called B78, it ultimately revealed far more than what she had eaten.
Radiocarbon - Dating - Woman - Years - Authors
According to radiocarbon dating, the woman had lived between 997 and 1162AD and was between 45-60 years old when she died. According to the authors, the woman was average in almost every aspect - except for what was stuck to her teeth.
When the researchers dissolved samples of her dental calculus, they couldn't believe their eyes. Hundreds of tiny blue particles became visible.
Calculus - Part - Body - Author - Dr
"Dental calculus is really cool, it is the only part of your body that fossilises while you are still alive," senior author Dr Christina Warriner, from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, told BBC News.
"During this process it incorporates all...
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