These words, attributed to 19th-century naturalist George Cuvier, couldn’t be more correct. The pearly whites we use every day over and over and over again are clues not just to our own individual lives but also to our evolutionary history.
Teeth lock into their physical structure remarkable detail about the creatures whose mouths they’re in, whether our own or those of our ancient ancestors. Fossil teeth are tiny time capsules that provide insights into human evolution, including our diverse diets, extended childhoods and other unique features of our species. In my book, “What Teeth Reveal about Human Evolution,” I explore what anthropologists like me have learned about the past from teeth – and what our own teeth may tell future anthropologists about us.