Dairying, diseases and the evolution of lactase persistence in Europe [Abstract]
Evershed et al.
We propose that lactase non-persistent individuals consumed milk when it became available but, under conditions of famine and/or increased pathogen exposure, this was disadvantageous, driving LP selection in prehistoric Europe. Comparison of model likelihoods indicates that population fluctuations, settlement density and wild animal exploitation—proxies for these drivers—provide better explanations of LP selection than the extent of milk exploitation.
Fermented Dairy Foods along the Southwest Asian–European Neolithic Trajectory [Texte]
Rosenstock et al.
Current Anthropology, 2021
Animal milk use started between ca. 9000 and 6500 BCE at the onset of the Neolithic in Southwest Asia, and it subsequently accompanied the spread of farming into Europe from 6800/6700 BCE onward. Against the background of lambing seasons, climate, and technology, it is likely that prehistoric adults consumed not fresh milk but variants of lactose-reduced fermented milks and cheeses. While this is well in line with genetic lactose intolerance prevailing in the Neolithic, the strong selective force behind the regional emergence of genetic lactase persistence in later prehistory is still unknown.
Subsistence and health in Middle Neolithic (9000–7000 BP) southern China: new evidence from the Dingsishan site [PDF]
Zhu et al.
Early Holocene populations in southern China and Southeast Asia are generally considered to have continued practising hunting and gathering, while millet and rice cultivation developed to the north and east. Dingsishan, the oldest Holocene open-air site in
South-east Asia, however, had yet to provide direct evidence for human health and subsistence strategies. The authors present isotopic and demographic analyses of Dingsishan individuals from 9000–7000 BP, indicating that the inhabitants relied on fresh-
water resources, particularly in the third period (c. 7000 BP). Comparison with contemporaneous farming populations also reveals a seemingly higher average life expectancy for the fisher-hunter-gatherers at Dingsishan.
Inactualités de la révolution néolithique. Rousseau, l’Anthropocène et les nouveaux riches de la préhistoire [Texte]
Dans le style propre aux best-sellers internationaux ou dans la prose académique la plus sobre, il devient ainsi possible d’interroger des champs aussi divers que notre rapport à l’animal (Shepard 1998 ; Morizot 2016 ; Burgat 2017), l’organisation de la vie économique et politique (Flannery & Marcus 2012 ; Morris 2015 ; Demoule 2017) ou la position ontologique qu’est supposé y tenir l’individu (Wilson 1988 ; Sloterdijk 2010  ; Harari 2014). Face à ces grandes questions, les auteurs adoptent volontiers des positions antagonistes, voire polémiques, mais tous se rejoignent dans le récit d’une « chute » (Stépanoff 2019). Difficile en effet de ne pas lire dans cette similitude une sorte de péché originel adapté au besoin d’une théodicée séculière. La domestication s’apparente en tout cas à une faute, dont on continuerait à payer le prix en même temps qu’elle générerait son propre horizon d’absolution (Labrusse 2019). Aux diverses sensibilités contemporaines d’en percevoir respectivement l’écho dans le post-humanisme ou dans l’animisme, dans le véganisme ou le libéralisme.
Why and when was lactase persistence selected for? Insights from Central Asian herders and ancient DNA [Texte]
Segurel et al.
Investigating the temporal dynamic of the −13.910:C>T Eurasian mutation associated with LP, we found that, after its emergence in Ukraine 5,960 before present (BP), the T allele spread between 4,000 BP and 3,500 BP throughout Eurasia, from Spain to Kazakhstan. The timing and geographical progression of the mutation coincides well with the migration of steppe populations across and outside of Europe. After 3,000 BP, the mutation strongly increased in frequency in Europe, but not in Asia. We propose that Central Asian herders have adapted to milk consumption culturally, by fermentation, and/or by colonic adaptation, rather than genetically.
Low Prevalence of Lactase Persistence in Bronze Age Europe Indicates Ongoing Strong Selection over the Last 3,000 Years [Texte]
Burger et al.
Current Biology, 2020
Lactase persistence (LP), the continued expression of lactase into adulthood, is the most strongly selected single gene trait over the last 10,000 years in multiple human populations. It has been posited that the primary allele causing LP among Eurasians, rs4988235-A , only rose to appreciable frequencies during the Bronze and Iron Ages [2, 3], long after humans started consuming milk from domesticated animals. This rapid rise has been attributed to an influx of people from the Pontic-Caspian steppe that began around 5,000 years ago [4, 5]. We investigate the spatiotemporal spread of LP through an analysis of 14 warriors from the Tollense Bronze Age battlefield in northern Germany (∼3,200 before present, BP), the oldest large-scale conflict site north of the Alps. Genetic data indicate that these individuals represent a single unstructured Central/Northern European population. We complemented these data with genotypes of 18 individuals from the Bronze Age site Mokrin in Serbia (∼4,100 to ∼3,700 BP) and 37 individuals from Eastern Europe and the Pontic-Caspian Steppe region, predating both Bronze Age sites (∼5,980 to ∼3,980 BP). We infer low LP in all three regions, i.e., in northern Germany and South-eastern and Eastern Europe, suggesting that the surge of rs4988235 in Central and Northern Europe was unlikely caused by Steppe expansions. We estimate a selection coefficient of 0.06 and conclude that the selection was ongoing in various parts of Europe over the last 3,000 years.
Latitudinal gradient in dairy production with the introduction of farming in Atlantic Europe [Texte]
Cubas et al.
Nature communications, 2020
Using molecular and isotopic analysis of lipids from pottery, here we investigate the foods prepared by the earliest farming communities of the European Atlantic seaboard. Surprisingly, we find an absence of aquatic foods, including in ceramics from coastal sites, except in the Western Baltic where this tradition continued from indigenous ceramic using hunter-gatherer-fishers. The frequency of dairy products in pottery increased as farming was progressively introduced along a northerly latitudinal gradient. This finding implies that early farming communities needed time to adapt their economic practices before expanding into more northerly areas. Latitudinal differences in the scale of dairy production might also have influenced the evolution of adult lactase persistence across Europe.
Archaeobotanical evidence reveals the origins of bread 14,400 years ago in northeastern Jordan [PDF]
Arranz-Otaegui et al.
Our finds provide empirical data to demonstrate that the prepa-
ration and consumption of bread-like products predated the emer-
gence of agriculture by at least 4,000 years. The interdisciplinary
analyses indicate the use of some of the “founder crops” of south-
west Asian agriculture (e.g., Triticum boeoticum, wild einkorn) and
root foods (e.g., Bolboschoenus glaucus, club-rush tubers) to pro-
duce flat bread-like products. The available archaeobotanical evi-
dence for the Natufian period indicates that cereal exploitation
was not common during this time, and it is most likely that
cereal-based meals like bread become staples only when agricul-
ture was firmly established.
Reduced intensity of bone fat exploitation correlates with increased potential access to dairy fats in early Neolithic Europe [Abstract]
Johnson et al.
Journal of archeological science, 2018
We investigated faunal material from eleven early Neolithic sites in central Europe for bone fracture and fragmentation patterns to ascertain the intensity of bone marrow and grease exploitation. These data indicate that bone grease processing was practised rarely if at all during the early Neolithic, likely made unnecessary by ample access to crop carbohydrates. Bone marrow was exploited at all sites, but with varying intensity that exhibited a significant negative correlation with the proportion of milk-producing domestic ruminants. This observation is consistent with the hypothesis that fats obtained from dairy products reduced requirements for intensive marrow exploitation.
Cultural hitchhiking and competition between patrilineal kin groups explain the post-NeolithicY-chromosome bottleneck [PDF]
Zeng et al.
Nature communications, 2018
In human populations, changes in genetic variation are driven not only by genetic processes,but can also arise from cultural or social changes. An abrupt population bottleneck specifictohuman males has been inferred across several Old World (Africa, Europe, Asia) populations5000–7000 BP. Here, bringing together anthropological theory, recent population genomicstudies and mathematical models, we propose a sociocultural hypothesis, involving the for-mation of patrilineal kin groups and intergroup competition among these groups. Our analysisshows that this sociocultural hypothesis can explain the inference of a population bottleneck.We also show that our hypothesis is consistent with currentfindings from the archae-ogenetics of Old World Eurasia, and is important for conceptions of cultural and socialevolution in prehistory.
Prehistoric women’s manual labor exceeded that of athletes through the first 5500 years of farming in Central Europe [PDF]
Macintosh et al.
Science Advances, 2017
This study compares humeral and tibial cross-sectional rigidity, shape, and interlimb loading among prehistoric Central European
women agriculturalists and living European women of known behavior (athletes and controls). Prehistoric female tibial rigidity at all time periods was highly variable, but differed little from living sedentary women on average, and was significantly lower than that of living runners and football players. However, humeral rigidity exceeded that of living athletes for the first ~5500 years of farming, with loading intensity biased heavily toward the upper limb. Interlimb strength proportions among Neolithic, Bronze Age, and Iron Age women were most similar to those of living semi-elite rowers. These results suggest that, in contrast to men, rigorous manual labor was a more important component of prehistoric women’s behavior than was terrestrial mobility through thousands of years of European agriculture, at levels far exceeding those of modern women.
Early Life Conditions and Physiological Stress following the Transition to Farming inCentral/Southeast Europe: Skeletal Growth Impairment and 6000 Years of Gradual Recovery [PDF]
Macintosh et al.
PLOS One, 2016
Results document significantly reduced mean stature, body mass, and crural index in Neolithic agriculturalists relative both to Late Mesolithic hunter-gatherer-fishers and to later farming populations.This indication of relative growth impairment in the Neolithic, particularly among women, is supported by existing evidence of high developmental stress, intensive physical activity, and variable access to animal protein in these early agricultural populations. Among subsequent agriculturalists, temporal increases in mean stature, body mass, and crural index were more pronounced among Central European women, driving declines in the magnitude of sexual dimorphism through time. Overall, results suggest that the transition to agriculture in Central/Southeast Europe was challenging for early farming populations, but was fol-lowed by gradual amelioration across thousands of years, particularly among Central European women. This sex difference may be indicative, in part, of greater temporal variation in the social status afforded to young girls, in their access to resources during growth, and/or in their health status than was experienced by men.
Reproductive trade-offs in extant hunter-gatherers suggest adaptive mechanism for the Neolithic expansion [PDF]
Page et al.
The Neolithic demographic transition remains a paradox, because it is associated with both higher rates of population growth and increased morbidity and mortality rates. Here we reconcile the conflicting evidence by proposing that the spread of agriculture involved a life history quality–quantity trade-off whereby mothers traded offspring survival for increased fertility, achieving greater reproductive success despite deteriorating health.
A recent bottleneck of Y chromosome diversity coincides with a global change in culture [PDF]
Karmin et al.
Genome research, 2015
It is commonly thought that human genetic diversity in non-African populations was shaped primarily by an out-of-Africa dispersal 50-100 thousand yr ago (kya). Here, we present a study of 456 geographically diverse high-coverage Y chromosome sequences, including 299 newly reported samples. Applying ancient DNA calibration, we date the Y-chromosomal most recent common ancestor (MRCA) in Africa at 254 (95% CI 192-307) kya and detect a cluster of major non-African founder haplogroups in a narrow time interval at 47-52 kya, consistent with a rapid initial colonization model of Eurasia and Oceania after the out-of-Africa bottleneck. In contrast to demographic reconstructions based on mtDNA, we infer a second strong bottleneck in Y-chromosome lineages dating to the last 10 ky. We hypothesize that this bottleneck is caused by cultural changes affecting variance of reproductive success among males.
Gradual decline in mobility with the adoption of food production in Europe [PDF]
Ruff et al.
Together these results strongly implicate declining mobility asthe specific behavioral factor underlying these changes. Mobility levels first declined at the onset of food production, but the transition to a more sedentary lifestyle was gradual, extending through later agricultural intensification. This finding only partially supports models that tie increased sedentism to a relatively abrupt Neolithic Demographic Transition in Europe. The lack of subsequent change in relative bone strength indicates that increasing mechanization and urbanization had only relatively small effects on skeletal robusticity, suggesting that moderate changes in activity level are not sufficient stimuli for bone deposition or resorption.
Incongruity between Affinity Patterns Based on Mandibular and Lower Dental Dimensions following the Transition to Agriculture in the Near East, Anatolia and Europe [Texte]
Pinhasi et al.
Plos One, 2015
Although later farming groups have, on average, smaller teeth and mandibles, shape analyses show that the mandibles of farmers are not simply size-reduced versions of earlier hunter-gatherer mandibles. Instead, it appears that mandibular form underwent a complex series of shape changes commensurate with the transition to agriculture that are not reflected in affinity patterns based on dental dimensions. In the case of hunter-gatherers there is a correlation between inter-individual mandibular and dental distances, suggesting an equilibrium between these two closely associated morphological units. However, in the case of semi-sedentary hunter-gatherers and farming groups, no such correlation was found, suggesting that the incongruity between dental and mandibular form began with the shift towards sedentism and agricultural subsistence practices in the core region of the Near East and Anatolia.
Recent origin of low trabecular bone density in modern humans [PDF]
Chirchir et al.
Results show that only recent modern humans have low trabecular density throughout the limb joints. Extinct hominins, including pre-Holocene Homo sapiens, retain the high levels seen in nonhuman primates. Thus, the low trabecular density of the recent modern human skeleton evolved late in our evolutionary history, potentially resulting from increased sedentism and reliance on technological and cultural innovations.
Gracility of the modern Homo sapiens skeleton is the result of decreased biomechanical loading [Texte]
Ryana & Shaw
Analyses of mass-corrected trabecular bone variables reveal that the forager populations had significantly higher bone volume fraction, thicker trabeculae, and consequently lower relative bone surface area compared with the two agriculturalist groups. There were no significant differences between the agriculturalist and forager populations for trabecular spacing, number, or degree of anisotropy. These results reveal a correspondence between human behavior and bone structure in the proximal femur, indicating that more highly mobile human populations have trabecular bone structure similar to what would be expected for wild nonhuman primates of the same body mass. These results strongly emphasize the importance of physical activity and exercise for bone health and the attenuation of age-related bone loss.
Transition to agriculture in central europe: Body size and Body shape amongst the First Farmers [PDF]
Piontek & Vancata
Interdisciplinaria archeologica, 2012
Stature and robusticity during the agricultural transition: Evidence from the bioarchaeological record [Abstract]
Amanda Mummert et al.
Economics & human biology, 2011
[…]empirical studies of societies shifting subsistence from foraging to primary food production have found evidence for deteriorating health from an increase in infectious and dental disease and a rise in nutritional deficiencies. In Paleopathology at the Origins of Agriculture (Cohen and Armelagos, 1984), this trend towards declining health was observed for 19 of 21 societies undergoing the agricultural transformation. The counterintuitive increase in nutritional diseases resulted from seasonal hunger, reliance on single crops deficient in essential nutrients, crop blights, social inequalities, and trade.
Stature of early europeans [PDF]
Pre-glacial maximum Upper Palaeolithic males (before 16,000 BC) were tall and slim (mean height 179cm, estimated average body weight 67 kg), while the females were comparably small and robust(mean height 158 cm, estimated average body weight 54 kg). Late Upper Palaeolithic males (8000-6600 BC) were of medium stature and robusticity (mean height 166 cm, estimated average bodyweight 62 kg). Stature further decreased to below 165 cm with estimated average body weight of 64kg in Neolithic males of the Linear Band Pottery Culture, and to 150 cm with estimated averagebody weight of 49 kg in Neolithic females. The body stature of European males remained within therange of 165 to 170 cm up to the end of the 19th century.
Biological Changes in Human Populations with Agriculture [Abstract]
Clark Spencer Larsen
Annual review of anthropology, 1995
Contrary to earlier models, the adoption of agriculture involved an overall decline in oral and general health. This decline is indicated by elevated prevalence of various skeletal and dental pathological conditions and alterations in skeletal and dental growth patterns in prehistoric farmers compared with foragers. In addition, changes in food composition and preparation technology contributed to craniofacial and dental alterations, and activity levels and mobility decline resulted in a general decrease in skeletal robusticity. These findings indicate that the shift from food collection to food production occasioned significant and widespread biological changes in human populations during the last 10,000 years.
The contribution of starch grain and phytolith analyses in reconstructing ancient diets [PDF]
Marta Mariotti Lippi
Flora mediterranea, 2018
Starch grains and phytoliths are often found trapped in dental calculus or on the surface of lithicgrinding tools. In the last decades, their analysis provided new information about the dietary habitsof ancient populations, a topic that has recently become the object of numerous researches byarchaeobotanists, archaeozoologists and anthropologists. The study of these micro-remains not only indicates which plants were used for feeding purposes but may also highlight our ancestors’ ability to manipulate food.
Macro-Process of Past Plant Subsistence from the Upper Paleolithic to Middle Neolithic in China: A Quantitative Analysis of Multi-Archaeobotanical Data [PDF]
Can Wang et al.
PLOS One, 2016
Our results show that intentional exploitation for certain targeted plants, particularly grass seeds, may be traced back to about 30,000 years ago during the Upper Paleolithic. Subsequently, the gathering of wild plants dominated the subsistence system; however, this practice gradually diminished in dominance until about 6~5 ka cal BP during the Middle Neolithic. At this point, farming based on the domestication of cereals became the major subsistence practice. Interestingly, differences in plant use strategies were detected between north and south China, with respect to (1) the proportion of certain plant taxa in assemblages, (2) the domestication rate of cereals, and (3) the type of plant subsistence practiced after the establishment of full farming. In conclusion, the transition from foraging to rice and millet agriculture in China was a slow and long-term process spanning 10s of 1000s of years, which may be analogous to the developmental paths of wheat and barley farming in west Asia.
Multistep food plant processing at Grotta Paglicci (Southern Italy) around 32,600 cal B.P.
The Early Gravettian inhabitants of Grotta Paglicci (sublayer 23 A) are currently the most ancient hunter–gatherers able to process plants to obtain flour. They also developed targeted technologies for complex processing of the plant portions before grinding. The present study testifies for the first time, to our knowledge, the performance of a thermal pretreatment that could have been crucial in a period characterized by a climate colder than the current one. The starch record on the Paglicci grinding stone is currently the most ancient evidence of the processing of Avena (oat).
Critique de cette publication par Lorain Cordain : (désormais introuvable)
optimal foraging theory suggests that gathering tiny grass seeds (cereal grains) of low caloric density that require grinding, wood collection and fire production to make the food edible is energetically inefficient. In other words, lots of energy must be spent to make a low energy food (oats, cereal grains) edible. All animals must derive more energy from the food that they consume compared to the energy they expend to acquire the food (Optimal Foraging Theory). The ethnographic hunter gatherer data which our group has compiled indicates that .
Earliest evidence for caries and exploitation of starchy plant foods in Pleistocene hunter-gatherers from Morocco [Texte et PDF]
We present early evidence linking a high prevalence of caries to a reliance on highly cariogenic wild plant foods in Pleistocene hunter-gatherers from North Africa. This evidence predates other high caries populations and the first signs of food production by several thousand years. We infer that increased reliance on wild plants rich in fermentable carbohydrates caused an early shift toward a disease-associated oral microbiota. Systematic harvesting and processing of wild food resources supported a more sedentary lifestyle during the Iberomaurusian than previously recognized. This research challenges commonly held assumptions that high rates of caries are indicative of agricultural societies.
Plant foods and the dietary ecology of Neanderthals and early modern humans [PDF]
Amanda G. Henry et al.
Journal of human evolution, 2014
Our results suggest that both species consumed a similarly wide array of plant foods, including foods that are often considered low-ranked, like underground storage organs and grass seeds.
Dental Calculus Reveals Unique Insights into Food Items, Cooking and Plant Processing in Prehistoric Central Sudan [Texte]
Buckley et al.
PLOS One, 2014
We demonstrate the ingestion in both pre-agricultural and agricultural periods of Cyperus rotundus tubers. This plant is a good source of carbohydrates and has many useful medicinal and aromatic qualities, though today it is considered to be the world’s most costly weed. Its ability to inhibit Streptococcus mutans may have contributed to the unexpectedly low level of caries found in the agricultural population. Other evidence extracted from the dental calculus includes smoke inhalation, dry (roasting) and wet (heating in water) cooking, a second plant possibly from the Triticaceae tribe and plant fibres suggestive of raw material preparation through chewing.
Microfossils in calculus demonstrate consumption of plants and cooked foods in Neanderthal diets (Shanidar III, Iraq; Spy I and II, Belgium) [Texte]
Henry et al.
Here we report direct evidence for Neanderthal consumption of a variety of plant foods, in the form of phytoliths and starch grains recovered from dental calculus of Neanderthal skeletons from Shanidar Cave, Iraq, and Spy Cave, Belgium. Some of the plants are typical of recent modern human diets, including date palms (Phoenix spp.), legumes, and grass seeds (Triticeae), whereas others are known to be edible but are not heavily used today. Many of the grass seed starches showed damage that is a distinctive marker of cooking.
Thirty thousand-year-old evidence of plant food processing [Texte]
Anna Revedin et al.
European Paleolithic subsistence is assumed to have been largely based on animal protein and fat, whereas evidence for plant consumption is rare. We present evidence of starch grains from various wild plants on the surfaces of grinding tools at the sites of Bilancino II (Italy), Kostenki 16–Uglyanka (Russia), and Pavlov VI (Czech Republic). The samples originate from a variety of geographical and environmental contexts, ranging from northeastern Europe to the central Mediterranean, and dated to the Mid-Upper Paleolithic (Gravettian and Gorodtsovian). The three sites suggest that vegetal food processing, and possibly the production of flour, was a common practice, widespread across Europe from at least ~30,000 y ago. It is likely that high energy content plant foods were available and were used as components of the food economy of these mobile hunter–gatherers.
Grinding flour in Upper PalaeolithicEurope (25 000 years bp) [PDF]
Aranguren et al.
The authors have identified starch grains belonging to wild plants on the surface of a stone from theGravettian hunter-gatherer campsite of Bilancino (Florence, Italy), dated to around 25 000 bp.The stone can be seen as a grindstone and the starch has been extracted from locally growingedible plants. This evidence can be claimed as implying the making of flour – and presumablysome kind of bread – some 15 millennia before the local ‘agricultural revolution’.
Processing of wild cereal grains in the Upper Palaeolithic revealed by starch grain analysis [PDF]
Piperno et al.
Here we report the earliest direct evidence for human processing of grass seeds, including barley and possibly wheat, in the form of starch grains recovered from a ground stone artefact from the Upper Palaeolithic site of Ohalo II in Israel. Associated evidence for an oven-like hearth was also found at this site, suggesting that dough made from grain flour was baked. Our data indicate that routine processing of a selected group of wild cereals, combined with effective methods of cooking ground seeds, were practiced at least 12,000 years before their domestication in southwest Asia.
Epipalaeolithic (19,000 BP) cereal and fruit diet at Ohalo II, Sea of Galilee, Israel [Abstract]
Kislev et al. (Nadel)
Review of palaeobotany and Palynology, 1992
Charred plant remains, 19,000 years old, were uncovered at Ohalo II on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Israel. The wild barley and other edible grasses and fruits found suggest, by their ripening seasons, that the site was occupied at least during spring and autumn. The species found provide insights into the subsistence strategy of the earliest known hunter-gatherer community of the Levantine Epipaleolithic period. In addition, the remains of barley rachis nodes provide new evidence distinguishing between domesticated and wild types in ancient archaeobotanical material.