Fossilized teeth show early human migration to rainforests

By - Bad Breath Expert

SUMMARY: Using tooth fossils found in Sri Lanka, scientists have determined that humans migrated to rainforests earlier than previously believed.

Posted: March 17, 2015

The fossilized teeth of 26 people have illuminated a new understanding of early human migration from hunting and gathering in an open habitat to a more centralized one.

In a study published March 12, 2015, in the journal Science, researchers concluded that humans inhabited rainforests earlier than previously believed. The study was the collaborative work of researchers from Oxford's Research Laboratory for Archaeology, scientists from the University of Bradford and scientists from Sri Lanka.

The examined teeth, preserved for 20,000 years, were collected from various archaeological sites in Sri Lanka. Scientists used mass spectrometry to analyze the tooth enamel, in which they found evidence of a diet consisting mostly of rainforest animals and plants. Starchy plants, freshwater snails, deer, squirrels, monkeys and other mammals were among the things these early humans would have eaten. 

It is somewhat of a surprise to scientists that humans would have adapted so soon to rainforest environments, which are difficult to navigate. Open habitats, on the other hand, are far easier to forage.

Prior to the study, there was little reason to believe that a migration to a densely vegetated home occurred any earlier than 10,000 years ago, as previous direct evidence dated the migration to rainforests.

The task would have seemed too insurmountable for hunter-gatherers, argued some. But proving human persistence, analysis of the teeth concluded they did just that.

Other research demonstrates a case for rainforest adaptation as early as 38,000 years ago but cannot be confirmed without more evidence, according to NBC. For now, there is conclusive proof that it happened at least 20,000 years ago, and anthropological work continues.

This adds a whole new dimension to the importance of tooth care - imagine what our preserved teeth might tell archaeologists of the future.

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