ScienceDaily — While we may brush and floss tirelessly and our dentists may regularly scrape and pick at our teeth to minimize the formation of plaque known as tartar or dental calculus, anthropologists may be rejoicing at the fact that past civilizations were not so careful with their dental hygiene.
University of Nevada, Reno researchers G. Richard Scott and Simon R. Poulson discovered that very small particles of plaque removed from the teeth of ancient populations may provide good clues about their diets. Scott is chair and associate professor of anthropology in the College of Liberal Arts. Poulson is research professor of geological sciences in the Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering.
Scott obtained samples of dental calculus from 58 skeletons buried in the Cathedral of Santa Maria in northern Spain dating from the 11th to 19th centuries to conduct research on the diet of this ancient population. Read more.
New assessments by researchers using the latest high-tech tools to study the diets of early hominids are challenging long-held assumptions about what our ancestors ate, says a study by the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Arkansas.
By analyzing microscopic pits and scratches on hominid teeth, as well as stable isotopes of carbon found in teeth, researchers are getting a very different picture of the diet habitats of early hominids than that painted by the physical structure of the skull, jawbones and teeth. While some early hominids sported powerful jaws and large molars — including Paranthropus boisei, dubbed “Nutcracker Man” — they may have cracked nuts rarely if at all, said CU-Boulder anthropology Professor Matt Sponheimer, study co-author.
Such findings are forcing anthropologists to rethink long-held assumptions about early hominids, aided by technological tools that were unknown just a few years ago. A paper on the subject by Sponheimer and co-author Peter Ungar, a distinguished professor at the University of Arkansas, was published in the Oct. 14 issue of Science. Read more.