Pleistocene dental calculus: Recovering information on Paleolithic food items, medicines, paleoenvironment and microbes

Karen Hardy, Stephen Buckley, Les Copeland

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

© 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Dental calculus is now widely used to recover information on items ingested in the past. It is particularly valuable in the earlier Paleolithic, where recovered data may represent the only evidence for plant use. Several recovery methods are used and each one produces different results. Biomolecular markers and genetic material recovered from dental calculus is providing new data on identifiable dietary and medicinal items and human microbial communities. The recovery of microfossils, in particular, starch granules, has triggered a new awareness of the role of plants in the diet throughout the Paleolithic. However, the minute amount of material recovered has little relationship with food eaten during a person's life, while salivary amylase breaks down cooked starch. Therefore, broader dietary interpretations and detection of cooked food are problematic. The study of ancient dental calculus holds great potential to recover information about past lives, within realistic parameters.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)234-246
JournalEvolutionary Anthropology
Volume27
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2018

Keywords

  • cooking
  • diet
  • paleoenvironment
  • Paleolithic
  • plants
  • starch granules

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