Upon first glance, the Christ of Patience statue doesn’t look any different from other statues of its time. The statue features a seated Christ gazing sadly off into the distance, awaiting his crucifixion.
But a recent discovery reveals the statue has been hiding a strange secret for the last 300 years: human teeth.
Yes, within the contemplative face of Jesus Christ, the artist has embedded real, human teeth. While the use of animal teeth and human hair was pretty commonplace for sculptures of that time, the use of real human teeth is surprising.
It’s interesting that the artist would choose to add this special touch, considering the statue’s mouth is barely open, and one would have to peer carefully inside to even see the real teeth. The teeth are in excellent condition, with even the roots present.
The discovery was made by accident. The statue was x-rayed as part of the restoration work performed by the Escuela Nacional de Restauración, Conservación y Museografía at the Instituto Nacional de Antropología E Historia (INAH) in Mexico, headed by restorer Fanny Unikel Santocini. The anthropologist on the team noticed something unusual: human teeth.
“We said, ‘Ah, it’s not possible!'” Unikel says, “She said, ‘I am absolutely sure about this.'”
It is unclear whether the teeth came from one person or many, or if the donor was living or dead. It is possible that a particularly devout parishioner, or several, may have donated the teeth. Another more unsettling possibility is that someone extracted the teeth from an unwilling victim.
The goal is now to simply learn as much as they can about the mysterious source of the teeth. Though they can’t remove the teeth from the statue, the researchers hope to study them more carefully to determine the age and sex of the teeth’s owners.