5. Conclusions

5.1 Summary

Dental microwear analysis of Mesolithic population samples from Oronsay, Aveline's Hole, Totty Pot, Téviec and Hoëdic have directly evidenced the consumption of abrasive foods among these populations. Furthermore, the teeth of individuals from Mesolithic sites have dental microwear patterns that differ from Neolithic populations in the same general regions. Dental microwear is related to diet, implying that the Mesolithic and Neolithic groups studied here had somewhat different diets or food preparation habits, although the different microwearear patterns may in part also be interpreted in terms of local environmental differences. The degree of individual variability of dental microwear observed at Aveline's Hole and Téviec suggests that diet among these populations was not particularly monotonous.

5.2 Implications for Mesolithic studies

These observations are important because evidence of diet among Mesolithic populations is limited to finds of occurrences of food items in archaeological contexts, and studies of broad dietary habits though palaeopathology and stable isotope analysis. Dental microwear helps to bridge the gap between individual food items and the direct evidence of these on human remains, even though the results are somewhat ambiguous at present. Dental microwear can also be seen as one of a number of techniques that are now being employed by researchers in an attempt to understand variability within the Mesolithic palaeodiet (e.g. Laurie this volume).

5.3 What next?

Work is ongoing with Mesolithic material from Denmark and Portugal that should reveal whether the trends noted during the course of the present study are observable on individuals from other Mesolithic burial places. Experimental studies on tooth enamel are also on-going, and these should help investigate in detail the relationship between the abrasive fraction of certain food items and dental microwear patterns.


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Last updated: Tues Oct 2 2007