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Title: Investigating food and diet in Mesolithic and Neolithic Europe : an exploratory approach using dental microwear analysis
Author: McLaughlin, Thomas Rowan
ISNI:       0000 0001 3625 5572
Awarding Body: Queen's University of Belfast
Current Institution: Queen's University Belfast
Date of Award: 2008
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This thesis concerns human diet in the European stone-age, arid how dental microwear analysis can be used to investigate Mesolithic (late hunter-gatherer) dietary. behaviour and provide evidence for the introduction of agricultural foods in the Neolithic (early agricultural) period. Dental microwear analysis is the study of microscopic patterns of tooth wear, which manifest as pits and scratches and are caused by hard particles in food. A review of the available literature revealed that the existing techniques for documenting microwear data required improvement. To this end, a new computer software library was developed. The review of dental microwear literature also highlighted that different studies disagree about how to relate the microwear patterns to the foods that caused them to form. Hence experiments were conducted that attempted to establish which variables responded to the parameters of the wear particles. It is proposed that the width of the microscopic scratches is closely related to the size of the wear particles. Having established this, aspects of diet during the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods were explored. It was found, with some exceptions, that Neolithic individuals have wider scratches than Mesolithic individuals, and this difference is likely due to the processing and consumption of cereals in the Neolithic period. This is a significant result, as other studies into Neolithic diet debate the economic importance of cereals. In the Mesolithic period, within-population variability suggests dietary diversity, some of which may be due to seasonal dietary patterns. Low within-population diversity at certain Neolithic sites suggest that some individuals had similar diets. Future work should aim to document the origin of the abrasive food partic.les themselves, as these phenomena are currently poorly understood.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available