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A Healthier Smile in the Past? Dental Caries and Diet in Early Neolithic Farming Communities from Central Germany

Nicklisch, Nicole and Oelze, Vicky M. and Schierz, Oliver and Meller, Harald and Alt, Kurt W.. (2022) A Healthier Smile in the Past? Dental Caries and Diet in Early Neolithic Farming Communities from Central Germany. Nutrients, 14 (9). p. 1831.

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Abstract

Dental health is closely linked to an individual's health and diet. This bioarcheological study presents dental caries and stable isotope data obtained from prehistoric individuals (n = 101) from three Early Neolithic sites (c. 5500-4800 BCE) in central Germany. Dental caries and ante-mortem tooth loss (AMTL) were recorded and related to life history traits such as biological sex and age at death. Further, we correlate evidence on caries to carbon and nitrogen isotope data obtained from 83 individuals to assess the relationship between diet and caries. In 68.3% of the adults, carious lesions were present, with 10.3% of teeth affected. If AMTL is considered, the values increase by about 3%. The prevalence of subadults (18.4%) was significantly lower, with 1.8% carious teeth. The number of carious teeth correlated significantly with age but not sex. The isotopic data indicated an omnivorous terrestrial diet composed of domestic plants and animal derived protein but did not correlate with the prevalence of carious lesions. The combined evidence from caries and isotope analysis suggests a prevalence of starchy foods such as cereals in the diet of these early farmers, which aligns well with observations from other Early Neolithic sites but contrasts to Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age populations in Germany.
Faculties and Departments:05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften > Integrative Biologie > Integrative Prähistorische und Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie (IPNA)
UniBasel Contributors:Alt, Kurt W.
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Publisher:MDPI
ISSN:2072-6643
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
Language:English
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Last Modified:03 May 2022 11:23
Deposited On:03 May 2022 11:23

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