Ancient Britons' teeth reveal people were 'highly mobile' 4,000 years ago
Archaeologists have created a new database from the teeth of prehistoric humans found at ancient burial sites in Britain and Ireland that tell us a lot about their climate, their diet and even how far they may have travelled. In a paper, led by Dr Maura Pellegrini from the University of Oxford, researchers say that individuals in prehistoric Britain were highly mobile.
|Ancient Britons' teeth were analysed for clues as to where they had grown up |
[Credit: Mandy Jay]
Researchers describe how tests on tooth fragments using an oxygen isotope analysis of tooth enamel provides evidence of where an individual lived when the tooth formed. Oxygen, a naturally occurring element in the environment, is absorbed by plants and animals and fixed in the mineral component of mammalian teeth, with an isotopic composition related to the environment in which that individual spent their childhood. Based on the theory that prehistoric people would have sourced water and food locally, the team were able to geographically map the oxygen isotopic variability in the landscape of Britain and Ireland thereby providing a guide to where individuals sampled had lived as children.
|Woodhenge, one of the locations the variability in the isotope values was found to be particularly |
marked in individuals [Credit: WikiCommons]
Tooth enamel fragments from 261 individual teeth were tested with researchers focusing on the central part of the tooth crown in each case. The teeth sampled from these individuals mineralise from the age of two years up to 8 years old, providing the clues to the environmental conditions, including the water they drank as a child. The possibility that people were outsiders who came into areas where they eventually died was calculated by comparing their values with the 'isoscape' information gleaned from most of the other samples in each area, as it was assumed the latter represented 'local' individuals. As individuals' signatures in the teeth were matched with areas where the majority, or 'local' people, were found, the researchers identified those who had lived in other areas as children.
Source: University of Oxford [October 08, 2016]