The Science of Nature

, 104:2 | Cite as

Diet and environment 1.2 million years ago revealed through analysis of dental calculus from Europe’s oldest hominin at Sima del Elefante, Spain

  • Karen Hardy
  • Anita Radini
  • Stephen Buckley
  • Ruth Blasco
  • Les Copeland
  • Francesc Burjachs
  • Josep Girbal
  • Riker Yll
  • Eudald Carbonell
  • Jose María Bermúdez de Castro
Short Communication

Abstract

Sima del Elefante, Atapuerca, Spain contains one of the earliest hominin fragments yet known in Europe, dating to 1.2 Ma. Dental calculus from a hominin molar was removed, degraded and analysed to recover entrapped remains. Evidence for plant use at this time is very limited and this study has revealed the earliest direct evidence for foods consumed in the genus Homo. This comprises starchy carbohydrates from two plants, including a species of grass from the Triticeae or Bromideae tribe, meat and plant fibres. All food was eaten raw, and there is no evidence for processing of the starch granules which are intact and undamaged. Additional biographical detail includes fragments of non-edible wood found adjacent to an interproximal groove suggesting oral hygiene activities, while plant fibres may be linked to raw material processing. Environmental evidence comprises spores, insect fragments and conifer pollen grains which are consistent with a forested environment.

Keywords

Human evolution Sima del Elefante Atapuerca Dental calculus Diet Microfossils Paleoenvironment 

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen Hardy
    • 1
    • 2
  • Anita Radini
    • 3
  • Stephen Buckley
    • 3
  • Ruth Blasco
    • 4
  • Les Copeland
    • 5
  • Francesc Burjachs
    • 1
    • 6
    • 7
  • Josep Girbal
    • 8
  • Riker Yll
    • 8
  • Eudald Carbonell
    • 6
    • 7
  • Jose María Bermúdez de Castro
    • 4
  1. 1.ICREABarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Departament de PrehistòriaFacultat de Filosofia i Lletres, Universitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Department of ArchaeologyUniversity of YorkYorkUK
  4. 4.Centro Nacional de Investigacion sobre la Evolución HumanaBurgosSpain
  5. 5.School of Life and Environmental SciencesUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  6. 6.IPHES, Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució SocialTarragonaSpain
  7. 7.URV, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Area de PrehistoriaTarragonaSpain
  8. 8.Universitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain

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