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More than what we eat: Investigating an alternative pathway for intact starch granules in dental calculus using Experimental Archaeology

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JournalQuaternary International
DateAccepted/In press - 4 Mar 2022
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Starch granules and other plant tissues are commonly found as part of the microdebris assemblage analysed within dental calculus. These are often interpreted as evidence of past diets. However, many of the starch granules extracted from dental calculus are intact, and do not show evidence of alterations as a result of being processed for consumption. This research examines if plant material can accidently enter the mouth while being processed for a meal, with a focus on starch granules. Grinding experiments were performed on three types of cereal grains (wheat, oat and millet). We compare the presence of intact and altered starch granules in mouthwash samples (in place of dental calculus samples) from individuals involved in grinding and also from samples in the environment surrounding the grinding activity. This experiment is a proof of concept aimed to expand experimental research in the field of dental calculus analysis and to encourage the exploration of pathways beyond direct and deliberate consumption.

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