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Dental calculus reveals unique insights into food items, cooking and plant processing in prehistoric Central Sudan.

Buckley, Stephen and Usai, Donatella and Jakob, Tina and Radini, Anita and Hardy, Karen (2014) 'Dental calculus reveals unique insights into food items, cooking and plant processing in prehistoric Central Sudan.', PLoS ONE., 9 (7). e100808.

Abstract

Accessing information on plant consumption before the adoption of agriculture is challenging. However, there is growing evidence for use of locally available wild plants from an increasing number of pre-agrarian sites, suggesting broad ecological knowledge. The extraction of chemical compounds and microfossils from dental calculus removed from ancient teeth offers an entirely new perspective on dietary reconstruction, as it provides empirical results on material that is already in the mouth. Here we present a suite of results from the multi-period Central Sudanese site of Al Khiday. 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.

Item Type:Article
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Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution.
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Status:Peer-reviewed
Publisher Web site:http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0100808
Publisher statement:© 2014 Buckley et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Date accepted:19 May 2014
Date deposited:21 August 2014
Date of first online publication:16 July 2014
Date first made open access:No date available

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