Plaque from 400,000 year old teeth recovered in Qesem Cave, Israel, has revealed fascinating information about the past. The dental plaque contained charcoal, which is considered evidence for indoor fires, and traces of essential fatty acids and starch suggest plants were also part of the diet. In addition, plant fibers that the investigators believe may be remnants of plants used to clean teeth, were also recovered during the analysis of the ancient teeth.
More exciting news is emerging from China regarding ancient diets. Through starch grain analysis, researchers have identified unexpected plant species that are believed to have been consumed. This would suggest that an indigenous agricultural system was in place prior to the arrival of domesticated rice.
Use-wear and starch-grain analysis is showing a new picture of the origins of agriculture in northern China. The results show that various wild plants were processed with these tools, pushing back the exploitation of plants by 12,000 years, placing this region on par with similar activities in the Middle East.
Many staple foods consumed around the world today are rich in starch (e.g. maize, cassava). It would seem that these foods are not only important for us humans, but apparently played a role in dog domestication as well!
Interesting new data suggests that the domestication of dogs from wolves was made easier by developing the ability to digest carbohydrate-rich foods, which were likely found in garbage dumps among farming communities.
Follow the latest discoveries from the world of archaeology, plants, and people.