Diet and environment 1.2 million years ago revealed through analysis of dental calculus from Europe’s oldest hominin at Sima del Elefante, Spain

Karen Hardy, Anita Radini, Stephen Buckley, Ruth Blasco, Les Copeland, Francesc Burjachs, Josep Girbal, Riker Yll, Eudald Carbonell, Jose María Bermúdez de Castro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016. Sima del Elefante, Atapuerca, Spain contains one of the earliest hominin fragments yet known in Europe, dating to 1.2 Ma. Dental calculus from a hominin molar was removed, degraded and analysed to recover entrapped remains. Evidence for plant use at this time is very limited and this study has revealed the earliest direct evidence for foods consumed in the genus Homo. This comprises starchy carbohydrates from two plants, including a species of grass from the Triticeae or Bromideae tribe, meat and plant fibres. All food was eaten raw, and there is no evidence for processing of the starch granules which are intact and undamaged. Additional biographical detail includes fragments of non-edible wood found adjacent to an interproximal groove suggesting oral hygiene activities, while plant fibres may be linked to raw material processing. Environmental evidence comprises spores, insect fragments and conifer pollen grains which are consistent with a forested environment.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
JournalScience of Nature
Volume104
Issue number1-2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017

Keywords

  • Atapuerca
  • Dental calculus
  • Diet
  • Humanevolution
  • Microfossils
  • Paleoenvironment
  • Simadel elefante

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