Scientists can be thankful that ancient Peruvians didn’t brush their teeth. That lack of personal hygiene is allowing researchers to know the diet of people in the area thousands of years ago.
Dental plaque has been scraped from the teeth of people who lived in what is now Peru 9,200 years ago. That plaque is giving scientists a glimpse into traces of cultivated crops that were farmed by the ancient people.
Squash and beans appear to have been in their diet as well as peanuts and fruit.
The scientists have been studying 39 teeth found in Peru’s Nanchoc Valley. They are dated to 9,200 to 5,500 years ago.
The Associated Press reports:
Some teeth were dirtier than others. We found starch grains on most of the teeth. About a third of the teeth contained large numbers of starch grains,” Dolores Piperno, a staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the National Museum of Natural History said in a statement.
Piperno and Tom Dillehay of Vanderbilt University wrote a report on their findings that appears in Monday’s online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers hope that their findings will be able to show differences in diets of early modern men and Neanderthals.
The diet of those under research show that they were able to cultivate crops and were stable for some time. They also cooked some of the grains that they ate.