Dental News - Ancient tooth from Mesolithic ancestor reveals diet

Search Dental Tribune

Ancient tooth from Mesolithic ancestor reveals diet

New research of a Mesolithic tooth has revealed that their diet was much closer to the contemporary Mediterranean diet than first thought. (Photograph: Sapienza University of Rome)

Thu. 7. June 2018


YORK, UK: In new research, scientists have discovered that the diet of Mesolithic humans was much closer to the contemporary Mediterranean diet than first thought, consisting of plants, terrestrial fresh-water and marine food resources. The researchers believe the discovery provides significant insight into the lifestyle of Adriatic and Mediterranean foragers. However, the finding is the only example of a skeleton that shows evidence of both fish and plants in the diet of early people in that region.

According to the international team of scientists, microfossils in the dental calculus of the young male skeleton revealed fish scale fragments and fish muscle fibres. The analysis also showed microfossils of plants, which until now had not been identified in skeletal remains from this part of the Mediterranean.

Speaking about the discovery, the researchers noted that finding both ancient plant and fish deposits in the teeth further demonstrates the value of dental remains in the understanding of human evolution. Co-author Dr Harry Robson, from the Department of Archaeology at the University of York in the UK, said: “Whilst fishing during the Mesolithic period has been demonstrated by fish remains as well as fishing related technologies in the past, here, for the first time we have direct evidence that humans consumed these resources, or used their teeth for de-scaling activities, which is very unique.”

Lead researcher Dr Emanuela Cristiani, from Sapienza University in Italy, said, “This is an exciting, but surprising finding. We only have three skeletal remains from this period that demonstrate the long-term consumption of marine resources, so when you can identify microfossils of this kind, it can provide a great leap forward in our understanding.”

The study, titled “Dental calculus and isotopes provide direct evidence of fish and plant consumption in Mesolithic Mediterranean”, was published online in Scientific Reports on 25 May 2018. It was conducted as part of the European Research Council Starting Grant project HIDDEN FOODS focusing on the exploitation of plant foods in ancient forager societies of Italy and the Balkans.


One thought on “Ancient tooth from Mesolithic ancestor reveals diet

  1. John Berne says:

    The most interesting part of dental calculus examination is that DNA examination of old and ancient calculus appears to reveal that gram negative anaerobes were not present in the mouth of these humans, and that their presence is a relatively new phenomenon. This would explain why these people died with their teeth largely in place, despite not using tooth brushes or dental floss. They appear not to have experienced periodontal disease as modern man does and the culprit is by and large the gram negative anaerobe.Remove that bug from our oral environment and you by and large remove periodontal disease.

To post a reply please login or register