Reduced intensity of bone fat exploitation correlates with increased potential access to dairy fats in early Neolithic Europe
Emily V. 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
Tian Chen 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.
Early Life Conditions and Physiological Stress following the Transition to Farming inCentral/Southeast Europe: Skeletal Growth Impairment and 6000 Years of Gradual Recovery
Alinson A. Macintosh et al.
PLOS one, 2016
Results documentsignificantly reduced mean stature, body mass, and crural index in Neolithic agriculturalistsrelative both to Late Mesolithic hunter-gatherer-fishers and to later farming populations.This indication of relative growth impairment in the Neolithic, particularly among women, issupported by existing evidence of high developmental stress, intensive physical activity,and variable access to animal protein in these early agricultural populations. Among subse-quent agriculturalists, temporal increases in mean stature, body mass, and crural indexwere more pronounced among Central European women, driving declines in the magnitudeof sexual dimorphism through time. Overall, results suggest that the transition to agriculturein Central/Southeast Europe was challenging for early farming populations, but was fol-lowed by gradual amelioration across thousands of years, particularly among Central Euro-pean women. This sex difference may be indicative, in part, of greater temporal variation inthe social status afforded to young girls, in their access to resources during growth, and/orin their health status than was experienced by men.
Reproductive trade-offs in extant hunter-gatherers suggest adaptive mechanism for the Neolithic expansion
Abigail E. Page et al.
The Neolithic demographic transition remains a paradox, becauseit is associated with both higher rates of population growth andincreased morbidity and mortality rates. Here we reconcile theconflicting evidence by proposing that the spread of agricultureinvolved a life history quality–quantity trade-off whereby motherstraded offspring survival for increased fertility, achieving greaterreproductive success despite deteriorating health
A recent bottleneck of Y chromosome diversity coincides with a global change in culture
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
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 in-creasing 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
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
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
Timothy M. Ryana & Colin N. 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
Janusz Piontek, Vàclav Vancata
Interdisciplinaria archeologica, 2012
Stature and robusticity during the agricultural transition: Evidence from the bioarchaeological record
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
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
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
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 onlyindicates which plants were used for feeding purposes but may also highlight our ancestors’ abilityto manipulate food.
Macro-Process of Past Plant Subsistence from the Upper Paleolithic to Middle Neolithic in China: A Quantitative Analysis of Multi-Archaeobotanical Data
Can Wang et al.
PLOS One, 2016
Ourresults show that intentional exploitation for certain targeted plants, particularly grassseeds, may be traced back to about 30,000 years ago during the Upper Paleolithic. Subse-quently, the gathering of wild plants dominated the subsistence system; however, this prac-tice gradually diminished in dominance until about 6~5 ka cal BP during the MiddleNeolithic. At this point, farming based on the domestication of cereals became the majorsubsistence practice. Interestingly, differences in plant use strategies were detectedbetween north and south China, with respect to (1) the proportion of certain plant taxa inassemblages, (2) the domestication rate of cereals, and (3) the type of plant subsistencepracticed after the establishment of full farming. In conclusion, the transition from foragingto rice and millet agriculture in China was a slow and long-term process spanning 10s of1000s of years, which may be analogous to the developmental paths of wheat and barleyfarming 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).
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 cereal grains (grasses) were rarely or never consumed except as starvation foods.
Earliest evidence for caries and exploitation of starchy plant foods in Pleistocene hunter-gatherers from Morocco
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
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
Stephen 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)
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
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)
Biancamaria 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
Dolores R. Riperno 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.