As a child, Holland Maness spent many summers vacationing at Edisto Beach with her family.
While walking along the shore, her father taught his children to develop an eye and appreciation for artifacts that might easily be overlooked.
"At first, he would toss things out for us to easily find, and that's how we started collecting sharks' teeth," said Maness, a Martinez orthodontist.
He told us, "If it's black and doesn't break then hold on to it, because we might have something worthwhile," she said. "It was a lot like treasure hunting."
Nearly 40 years later, Holland still heeds the advice of her father and has an extensive collection that has grown far beyond the sharks' teeth she first learned to unearth. Much of it is displayed in the office that houses her practice on Furys Ferry Road.
Among the 75 pieces, excluding the sharks' teeth, Holland has a number of rare finds.
"The artifacts are all from the Ice Ages. Each piece is at least 10,000 years old, but could be as old as 1- to 3-million years," she said.
Dr. Albert Sanders, a curator at the Charleston Museum, identified the pieces.
One of her rare pieces includes a peccary tusk.
"This animal no longer lives in North America and is often mistaken for a pig," Maness explained. These swine-like animals differ from pigs in that their upper canines, or tusks, point downward. In true pigs, the tusks curve upward.
Another tusk in Holland's collection, at least a portion of it, is some ivory from an elephant.
"The cross-hatching on its tooth makes it very distinct," she said.
Like the peccaries, another animal that has migrated away from North America is the tapir.
"Today, it is largely found in Central and South America, but it is in danger," Maness said.
"It is fascinating to piece together history through the dental remains of these animals. The teeth are so distinctive among the species," she said.
"It's amazing how you can tell what an animal ate by the condition of its teeth," she said, pointing out that the tooth of an Eques, an early version of the modern horse, had a very flat surface and lent itself well to its vegetarian diet.
Holland also has found a striking visual similarity between a human's mouth and that of a puffer fish. The roof of a puffer fish's mouth is very much like the top of a human's," she said.
Just as she is fascinated by forensics, Maness is equally passionate about the human mouth.
"I came to dentistry later in life, and my family often teases me that all of those shark teeth finally took a bite," she said.
Today, Manness continues to vacation at Edisto Beach.
"It is a wonderful repository for finds," she said.
And she's proud to pass the tradition of collecting to her own children, but she says only one has been bitten by the urge to collect.
In the meantime, she hopes to pique the interest of the kids who are waiting in her office and inspire a new generation of collectors.
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