Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Last Supper Of The Hominids Establishes Times They Lived At Sites

Date:
July 15, 2009
Source:
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology
Summary:
In the French cave of Arago, scientists has analyzed the dental wear of the fossils of herbivorous animals hunted by Homo heidelbergensis. It is the first time that an analytical method has allowed the establishment of the length of human occupations at archaeological sites. The key is the last food that these hominids consumed.

Molds of a mammoth tooth (left); Image increased 35 times (right).
Credit: Florent Rivals

In the French cave of Arago, an international team of scientists has analyzed the dental wear of the fossils of herbivorous animals hunted by Homo heidelbergensis. It is the first time that an analytical method has allowed the establishment of the length of human occupations at archaeological sites. The key is the last food that these hominids consumed.

For many years, the mobility of the groups of hominids and how long they spent in caves or outdoors has been a subject of discussion among scientists. Now, an international team headed by researchers from the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES) in Tarragona has based its studies on the dental fossils of animals hunted by hominids in order to determine the vegetation in the environment and the way of life of Homo heidelbergensis.

Florent Rivals is the main author and a researcher from the Catalan Institute for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA), attached to the IPHES in Tarragona. "For the first time, a method has been put forward which allows us to establish the relative length of the human occupations at archaeological sites as, up until now, it was difficult to ascertain the difference between, for example, a single long-term occupation and a succession of shorter seasonal occupations in the same place", he explained to SINC.

In the study, recently published in the Journal of Human Evolution, the researchers analyze the dental wear of the ungulates (herbivorous mammals) caused by microscopic particles of opaline silica in plants. These marks appear when eating takes place and erase the previous ones. This is why they are so useful.

Thanks to the "last supper phenomenon", the scientists have been able to analyze the last food consumed by animals such as the Eurasian wild horse (Equus ferus), the mouflon (Ovis ammon antiqua) and the reindeer (Rangifer tarandus). "This method allows us to confirm the seasonal nature of the occupation", Rivals added. According to the team, the microwear of the teeth is sensitive to seasonal changes in the diet.

The application has allowed the researchers to estimate the length of the occupation of the site from the Lower Paleolithic Age in the cave of Arago (France) by the number of marks on the fossils and, therefore, the variation in the diet of several species of herbivores, as "each season presented food resources which were limited and different in the environment", the paleontologist clarified.

High and low periods of occupation

After confirming the hypothesis in present-day animals whose age and date of death was known to the scientists, the researchers demonstrated that, if a group of animals is seen during a specific season (a short-term occupation), the signs of dental wear undergo little variation. But if the occupation lasts several seasons, the dental marks are more diverse.

"If the animals are hunted during long periods of occupation, more variable dental wear would be expected", Rivals declared. In the case of the French cave of Arago, the study of the dental wear confirms that it was occupied in different ways. "With this method, we were able to prove that at the site, which belonged to Homo heidelbergensis, there is evidence of differing mobility, as there were highly mobile groups and others with little mobility", the scientist confirmed.

The Spanish and German researchers have combined this application with multidisciplinary studies of archaeological sites in order to apply it to other settlements of the Mid-Paleolithic Age such as Payre (France), Taubach (Germany) and Abric Romani (Spain).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Rivals et al. A new application of dental wear analyses: estimation of duration of hominid occupations in archaeological localities. Journal of Human Evolution, 2009; 56 (4): 329 DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2008.11.005

Cite This Page:

FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology. "Last Supper Of The Hominids Establishes Times They Lived At Sites." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 July 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090714103526.htm>.
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology. (2009, July 15). Last Supper Of The Hominids Establishes Times They Lived At Sites. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090714103526.htm
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology. "Last Supper Of The Hominids Establishes Times They Lived At Sites." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090714103526.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Museum Traces Fragments of Star-Spangled Banner

Museum Traces Fragments of Star-Spangled Banner

AP (Sep. 12, 2014) — As the Star-Spangled Banner celebrates its bicentennial, Smithsonian curators are still uncovering fragments of the original flag that inspired Francis Scott Key's poem. (Sept. 12) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spinosaurus Could Be First Semi-Aquatic Dinosaur

Spinosaurus Could Be First Semi-Aquatic Dinosaur

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — New research has shown that the Spinosaurus, the largest carnivorous dinosaur, might have been just as well suited for life in the water as on land. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Meet Spinosaurus, the First-Known Water Dinosaur

Meet Spinosaurus, the First-Known Water Dinosaur

AFP (Sep. 11, 2014) — Spinosaurus aegyptiacus was adapted for both land and water, and an exhibit featuring a life-sized model, based on new fossils unearthed in eastern Morocco, opens at the National Geographic Museum in Washington on Friday. Duration: 01:02 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NatGeo Unveils Life-Size 'Spinosaurus'

NatGeo Unveils Life-Size 'Spinosaurus'

AP (Sep. 11, 2014) — Scientists announced new findings about the first ever non-bird dinosaur that could have lived much of its time in the water. National Geographic created a life-size 50-foot model of the prehistoric creature. (Sept. 11) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins