Clues About the Diet Habits of Early Man
Scientists recently analyzed the tartar found on 1.2 million year old human teeth, which provided information about what these early humans ate and how they cooked. With new research tools, they can analyze minute amounts of material found embedded in fossilized tooth tartar. The data showed these early humans ate raw animal meat, insects and uncooked starches from pine pollen and grasses. They even found evidence of a small wood shard, which suggests the use of a toothpick.
This particular finding gives new evidence to support the current theory about the advent of cooking with fire. The samples did not show any charred food particles, nor any micro carbon particles, which would indicate they cooked their food over fire. Most scientists suggest the use of fire for cooking food started between 800,000 and 1.2 million years. This new evidence further reinforces that timeline.
Tobacco Use in Ancient Man
Another study analyzed compounds in dental plaque including nicotine, bacterial DNA, proteins, plant fibers and other starch grains. Archeologists theorized that they could trace the use tobacco use in ancient peoples of the Americas, by looking for trace amounts of nicotine. With the help of the Ohlone Indian tribe, scientists analyzed the plaque found on eight Native Americans, with ages ranging from 300 to 6000 years old. They found nicotine residue in two individuals. This proved that nicotine could be detected on the teeth of ancient man. Archeologists can now use this new technology to trace the use of tobacco and possibly other plant based intoxicants through history.
Scientists can use this trace dental plaque information to help answer other archeologic questions of ancient people’s including diet and what bacteria were found in their mouths. This will lead to understanding the dietary and consumption habits of man through history. With rigorous adherence to timeline and location discoveries, we can understand how certain behaviors and eating habits evolved in different parts of the world, through time. We can learn for example, when fire cooking started in a variety of places and how it may have spread or developed independently. Another example includes when and where tobacco started and how its use spread.