Role of wild plant foods among late Holocene hunter-gatherers from Central and North Patagonia (South America): An approach from dental evidence

Authors

  • Valeria Bernal,

    Corresponding author
    1. CONICET, División Antropología, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Museo, Universidad Nacional de La Plata, La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina
    • División Antropología, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Museo, Museo de La Plata, Paseo del Bosque s/n, La Plata (1900), Argentina
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  • Paula Novellino,

    1. CONICET, Laboratorio de Bioarqueología, Museo de Historia Natural de San Rafael, San Rafael, Mendoza, Argentina
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  • Paula N. Gonzalez,

    1. CONICET, División Antropología, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Museo, Universidad Nacional de La Plata, La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina
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  • S. Ivan Perez

    1. CONICET, División Antropología, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Museo, Universidad Nacional de La Plata, La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina
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Abstract

This study evaluates the role of plant foods in the subsistence of hunter-gatherers that inhabited the Central East, Northwest, and Northeast Patagonia (Argentina) during the late Holocene (ca. 3,000–500 years BP). The goal of the present study is to assess the temporal variation of dental caries ratio and wear rate in skeletal samples to ascertain if the biological information supports the dietary shift toward greater consumption of wild plant foods around 1,500 years BP, suggested by other types of evidence. The authors registered caries, antemortem and postmortem tooth loss, and tooth wear from eight samples belonging to hunter-gatherers from Patagonia for which chronological sequences from early late Holocene (ca. 3,000–1,500 years BP) up to final late Holocene (ca. 1,500–500 years BP) are available. The results indicate that caries percentages in Patagonian samples fall within the range established for hunter-gatherers but there are significant geographical differences. In addition, caries ratio does not change significantly through time, so the amount of carbohydrates consumed seems to have remained fairly constant since 3,000 years BP. In contrast, there is a marked temporal trend toward the reduction of wear rates in the three areas, suggesting a faster rate in early late Holocene than in final late Holocene. These results would reflect a change to less hard and/or abrasive diets in the final late Holocene, probably owing to differences in food processing methods employed. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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