Dietary inferences from dental microwear patterns in Chalcolithic populations from the Iberian Peninsula: the case of El Portalón de Cueva Mayor (Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain) and El Alto de la Huesera (Álava, Spain)

Abstract

Dietary habits are inferred through dental microwear analysis in humans from two Chalcolithic sites located on the Iberian Northern Plateau: El Portalón de Cueva Mayor and El Alto de la Huesera. The pattern of dental microwear was established on the buccal surfaces of permanent and deciduous molars, on the bottom of facet 9 on the occlusal surface of lower molars and on the incisal surfaces of deciduous incisors. Our findings suggest that during the Chalcolithic, the diet of populations from the Northern Plateau is less abrasive than that at the Mediterranean coast, due mainly to high meat consumption. The differences in diet are related to environmental factors, which are more appropriate for animal husbandry on the Northern Plateau. The consumption of meat is not equivalent in sub-adult and adult individuals from our samples located on the Northern Plateau. Younger individuals show a harder diet with less meat intake than older ones.

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Acknowledgements

We thank our colleagues from the Laboratorio de Evolución Humana and the El Portalón research team for their help during field seasons and for their useful comments and critical review of the manuscript. We also thank Prof. J. Fernández-Eraso and Drs. J. A. Mujika and Fernández-Crespo for the facilities to collect the samples of Alto de la Huesera. Special thanks to three anonymous reviewers which notably improve this work.

Funding

The authors received financial support from the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, Spain (project CGL2015-65387-C3-2-P, MINECO-FEDER). Excavations in El Portalón are funded by the Junta de Castilla y León and Fundación Atapuerca.

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Correspondence to Rebeca García-González.

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García-González, R., Sánchez-Puente, Z., Arsuaga, J.L. et al. Dietary inferences from dental microwear patterns in Chalcolithic populations from the Iberian Peninsula: the case of El Portalón de Cueva Mayor (Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain) and El Alto de la Huesera (Álava, Spain). Archaeol Anthropol Sci 11, 3811–3823 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-018-0711-x

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Keywords

  • Chalcolithic diet
  • Northern Plateau
  • Age-related dietary habits