How much do your teeth reveal about your diet?

Posted by er134 at Jul 17, 2014 09:48 AM |
Tooth plaque analysis provides unique insights into our prehistoric ancestors’ diet
How much do your teeth reveal about your diet?

One of the three richest Late Meroitic graves identified at the cemetery, that of a young male. Credit: Donatella Usai/Centro Studi Sudanesi and Sub-Sahariani (CSSeS)

An international team of researchers, including Archaeobotanist Anita Radini from our University of Leicester Archaeological Service (ULAS), has found new evidence that our prehistoric ancestors had a detailed understanding of plants long before the development of agriculture.

By extracting chemical compounds and microfossils from dental calculus (calcified dental plaque) from ancient teeth, the researchers were able to provide an entirely new perspective on our ancestors’ diets. Their research suggests that purple nut sedge (Cyperus rotundus) – today regarded as a nuisance weed – formed an important part of the prehistoric diet.

Crucially, the research, published in PLOS ONE suggests that prehistoric people living in Central Sudan may have understood both the nutritional and medicinal qualities of this and other plants and may have contributed to the unexpectedly low level of cavaties found in the agricultural population.

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