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The Agricultural Revolution as Environmental Catastrophe: Implications for Health and Lifestyle in the Holocene

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The Agricultural Revolution as Environmental Catastrophe: Implications for Health and Lifestyle in the Holocene

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Abstract

One of the most fundamental developments in the history of our species—and one having among the most profound impacts on landscapes and the people occupying them—was the domestication of plants and animals. In addition to altering landscapes around the globe from the terminal Pleistocene and early Holocene, the shift from foraging to farming resulted in negative and multiple consequences for human health. Study of human skeletal remains from archaeological contexts shows that the introduction of grains and other cultigens and the increase in their dietary focus resulted in a decline in health and alterations in activity and lifestyle. Although agriculture provided the economic basis for the rise of states and development of civilizations, the change in diet and acquisition of food resulted in a decline in quality of life for most human populations in the last 10,000 years.

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... A model that considers the complex interactions of different biosocial factors is beneficial in helping paleopathologists to comprehend the relationship of variables that ultimately influence each other. For example, increased sedentism and population density are intertwined with the emergence of agriculture in a number of regions in the world, all of which have contributed to an epidemiological transition (Armelagos and Cohen 1984;Larsen 2006). Biosocial models have previously been applied to regionally specific (King et al. 2017) and broader contexts (Goodman 1998) in paleopathological research. ...
... Potential differential effects of human population interaction between mobile and sedentary populations. Armelagos and Cohen 1984;Armelagos et al. 1991;Larsen 2006 Rate of Natural Population Increase (RNPI) ...
... Increased malnutrition due to cereal agriculture may increase susceptibility to newly introduced infectious diseases. Armelagos and Cohen 1984;Larsen 2006;Steckel 2005 --1 -0 -+1 increase (RNPI) is an estimate of population growth considering birth and death rates. RNPI can be estimated in human skeletal assemblages based on the rate of fertility observed (after McFadden and Oxenham 2018). ...
Article
The processes of human mobility have been well demonstrated to influence the spread of infectious disease globally in the present and the past. However, to date, paleoepidemiological research has focused more on factors of residential mobility and population density as drivers for epidemiological shifts in prehistoric infectious disease patterns. A strong body of epidemiological literature exists for the dynamics of infectious disease spread through networks of mobility and interaction. We review the epidemiological theory of infectious disease spread and propose frameworks for application of this theory to bioarchaeology. We outline problems with current definitions of prehistoric mobility and propose a framework shift with focus on population interactions as nodes for disease transmission. To conceptualize this new framework, we produced a theoretical model that considers the interplay between climate suitability, population density, residential mobility, and human interaction levels to influence infectious disease patterns in prehistoric assemblages. We then tested observable effects of this model in paleoepidemiological data from Asia (n = 343). Relative risk ratio analysis and correlations were used to test the impact of population interaction, residential mobility, population density, climate, and subsistence on the prevalence and diversity of infectious diseases. Our statistical results showed higher levels of population interaction led to significantly higher prevalence of infectious disease in sedentary populations and a significant increase in pathogen diversity in mobile populations. We recommend that population interaction be included as an important component of infectious disease analysis of prehistoric population health alongside other biosocial factors, such as sedentism and population density. Daar is goed gedemonstreer dat die prosesse van menslike mobiliteit die verspreiding van aansteeklike siektes wêreldwyd in die hede en in die verlede beïnvloed. Maar tot op hede het paleo-epidemiologiese navorsing egter meer gefokus op faktore van residensiële mobiliteit en bevolkingsdigtheid as dryfvere vir epidemiologiese verskuiwings in die prehistoriese infeksiesiektepatrone. Sterk epidemiologiese literatuur bestaan vir die dinamika van aansteeklike siektes wat versprei word deur netwerke van mobiliteit en interaksie. Ons ondersoek die epidemiologiese teorie van die verspreiding van aansteeklike siektes en stel raamwerke voor vir die toepassing van hierdie teorie op die bioargeologie. Ons skets probleme met huidige definisies van prehistoriese mobiliteit en stel ‘n raamwerk verskuiwing voor met die fokus op bevolkings-interaksies as nodusse vir oordrag van siektes. Om hierdie nuwe raamwerk te konseptualiseer, het ons ‘n teoretiese model vervaardig wat die wisselwerking tussen klimaatsgeskiktheid, bevolkingsdigtheid, residensiële mobiliteit en menslike interaksievlakke oorweeg om die infeksiesiektepatrone in prehistoriese samestellings te beïnvloed. Daarna het ons die waarneembare effekte van hierdie model getoets in paleo-epidemiologiese data uit Asië (n = 343). Relatiewe risiko-verhoudingsanalise en korrelasies is gebruik om die impak van bevolkings-interaksie, residensiële mobiliteit, bevolkingsdigtheid, klimaat en bestaan op die voorkoms en diversiteit van aansteeklike siektes te toets. Ons statistiese resultate het gedemonstreer dat hoër vlakke van bevolkings-interaksie gelei het tot aansienlik hoër voorkoms van aansteeklike siektes in sittende bevolkings en ‘n beduidende toename in patogeen diversiteit in mobiele bevolkings. Ons beveel aan dat bevolkings-interaksie ingesluit word as ‘n belangrike komponent van die aantstekingsiekte-ontleding van die prehistoriese bevolkingsgesondheid, tesame met ander biososiale faktore soos sedentisme en bevolkingsdigtheid.
... (Vaupel and Yashin 1985;Wood et al. 1992; Milner and Boldsen 2017) As domestication and agriculture became key components of Near Eastern biocultural systems, long-term changes in population variability in stress exposure would have had concomitant effects on heterogeneity in frailty. In turn, changes in the distribution of frailty would have had cascading impacts on life-long health conditions, well-being and age-specific mortality risks (Cohen and Armelagos 1984;Bocquet-Appel 2002;Larsen 2006;Guerrero et al. 2008;Gage and DeWitte 2009;Goring-Morris and Belfer-Cohen 2011;Chamel 2014;Larsen et al. 2019). The analysis of statistical associations between early-life stress and life-stage-specific mortality can yield new insights into well-being and demography in the transition to agriculture. ...
... Agriculture immediately brought with it multiple, increasingly prevalent sources of morbidity (Cohen and Armelagos 1984). Compared to earlier hunter-gatherer populations in the same region, the first-adopters of farming often exhibited archaeologically preserved skeletal lesions-markers of serious or recurrent stress and inflammation-regardless of life-stage at death (Larsen 1995;Pinhasi and Stock 2011). There are profound, still-debated paleodemographic challenges in interpreting archaeological life-stage-at-death distributions (Bocquet-Appel and Masset 1982;Sattenspiel and Harpending 1983;Paine and Harpending 1996;Bocquet-Appel 2002;Bocquet-Appel and Naji 2006;Bocquet-Appel and Bar-Yosef 2008;Gage and DeWitte 2009). ...
... We argue that our results confirm a fundamental aspect of neolithization in the Near East. The adoption of domestication technologies, the development of agricultural economies and land-resource management practices, and the settlement of larger, more organizationally complex villages occurred despite long-term costs to community-level biological wellbeing (Larsen 2006;Larsen et al. 2019). However, this hallmark neolithization process-which extended from the late Upper Paleolithic through the PPNC/PN period-occurred via gradual, if geographically patchy, anthropogenic depression of wild ungulate populations (Munro et al. 2018), development of caprine domestication and herd management (Zeder 2012;Munro et al. 2018), landscape-scale transformation of vegetation regimes (Asouti and Kabukcu 2014;Asouti et al. 2015), expansion of small-scale agricultural fields (Asouti 2013; Asouti and Fuller 2013), and successive investment in settlements with durable, increasingly complex architecture, private storage and food-processing equipment (Goring-Morris and Belfer-Cohen 2008; Kuijt 2008;Wright 2014;Ibáñez et al. 2018). ...
Article
ABSTRACT This study investigates the causal relationships among early-life health conditions, mortality across the lifespan, and population growth during neolithization in the Levant. We analyze a comprehensive sample of 558 human skeletons, associated with mortuary features from 24 Levantine sites spanning the transition to agriculture, from the Early Natufian period to the Pre-Pottery Neolithic C (Southern Levant) and Pottery Neolithic periods (Northern Levant), mainly covering 13,000-6,000 BC. We find that early-life stress—as preserved in linear enamel hypoplasias (LEH) that we recorded in the study sample—not only increased dramatically in prevalence with the adoption of agriculture and village life. Early-life stress was also strongly associated with mortality in the juvenile, adolescent, and younger-adult life stages (ca. 5-29 years). This statistical link is independent of analysis of raw life-stage-at-death distributions, which may be heavily biased by ancient age or sex-skewed funerary recruitment practices. According to our results, biological well-being deteriorated with the adoption of agriculture and village life between ca. 9,000-6000 BC. We find that the transition to agriculture raised risks for premature mortality across the Levant. We suggest that in the regional transition to agriculture, mortality and fertility rose together in a fragile dynamic, the balance of which may have shifted in the 7th millennium BC, as a rapid rise in early-life stress exposures reduced average well-being. RÉSUMÉ Cette étude examine les relations de cause à effet entre l’état de santé des jeunes enfants, le taux de mortalité et la croissance de la population pendant la néolithisation du Levant. Nous analysons un échantillon de 558 individus découverts en contexte funéraire provenant de 24 sites qui couvrent la transition néolithique, du début du Natoufien au Néolithique précéramique C (Levant sud) / début du Néolithique céramique (Levant nord), soit entre 13000 à 6000 cal. BC. Nous constatons que le stress biologique en début de vie, identifié à travers les hypoplasies linéaires de l'émail dentaire (LEH) que nous avons enregistré sur l’ensemble du corpus, a augmenté de façon spectaculaire en termes de fréquence avec l'adoption de l'agriculture et de la vie villageoise. Nous constatons également que ces marqueurs de stress précoces sont fortement liés à la mortalité des enfants, des adolescents et des jeunes adultes (environ 5-29 ans). Cette corrélation statistique est indépendante de l'analyse des distributions par âge au décès, qui peut être fortement biaisée par le recrutement funéraire des défunts sur des critères liés à l’âge au décès et au sexe. Selon nos résultats, l’état de santé s’est détérioré avec l'adoption de l'agriculture et le développement de la vie communautaire entre 9000 et 6000 cal. BC. Nous constatons que la transition vers l’agriculture a entraîné une augmentation de la mortalité précoce dans tout le Levant. Nous suggérons que lors de cette transition régionale vers l’agriculture la mortalité et de la fertilité se sont développées en suivant une dynamique fragile, dont l’équilibre s’est rompu au VIIe millénaire av. J.-C. avec un développement fulgurant des stress biologiques en début de vie, et une réduction de l’état sanitaire général.
... A model that considers the complex interactions of different biosocial factors is beneficial in helping paleopathologists to comprehend the relationship of variables that ultimately influence each other. For example, increased sedentism and population density are intertwined with the emergence of agriculture in a number of regions in the world, all of which have contributed to an epidemiological transition (Armelagos and Cohen 1984;Larsen 2006). Biosocial models have previously been applied to regionally specific (King et al. 2017) and broader contexts (Goodman 1998) in paleopathological research. ...
... Potential differential effects of human population interaction between mobile and sedentary populations. Armelagos and Cohen 1984;Armelagos et al. 1991;Larsen 2006 Rate of Natural Population Increase (RNPI) ...
... Higher population density increases the potential for contact between individuals. Hu et al. 2013;Larsen 2006; Climate Non-tropical and tropical ...
Article
Full-text available
The processes of human mobility have been well demonstrated to influence the spread of infectious disease globally in the present and the past. However, to date, paleoepidemiological research has focused more on factors of residential mobility and population density as drivers for epidemiological shifts in prehistoric infectious disease patterns. A strong body of epidemiological literature exists for the dynamics of infectious disease spread through networks of mobility and interaction. We review the epidemiological theory of infectious disease spread and propose frameworks for application of this theory to bioarchaeology. We outline problems with current definitions of prehistoric mobility and propose a framework shift with focus on population interactions as nodes for disease transmission. To conceptualize this new framework, we produced a theoretical model that considers the interplay between climate suitability, population density, residential mobility, and human interaction levels to influence infectious disease patterns in prehistoric assemblages. We then tested observable effects of this model in paleoepidemiological data from Asia (n = 343). Relative risk ratio analysis and correlations were used to test the impact of population interaction, residential mobility, population density, climate, and subsistence on the prevalence and diversity of infectious diseases. Our statistical results showed higher levels of population interaction led to significantly higher prevalence of infectious disease in sedentary populations and a significant increase in pathogen diversity in mobile populations. We recommend that population interaction be included as an important component of infectious disease analysis of prehistoric population health alongside other biosocial factors, such as sedentism and population density. Daar is goed gedemonstreer dat die prosesse van menslike mobiliteit die verspreiding van aansteeklike siektes wêreldwyd in die hede en in die verlede beïnvloed. Maar tot op hede het paleo-epidemiologiese navorsing egter meer gefokus op faktore van residensiële mobiliteit en bevolkingsdigtheid as dryfvere vir epidemiologiese verskuiwings in die prehistoriese infeksiesiektepatrone. Sterk epidemiologiese literatuur bestaan vir die dinamika van aansteeklike siektes wat versprei word deur netwerke van mobiliteit en interaksie. Ons ondersoek die epidemiologiese teorie van die verspreiding van aansteeklike siektes en stel raamwerke voor vir die toepassing van hierdie teorie op die bio-argeologie. Ons skets probleme met huidige definisies van prehistoriese mobiliteit en stel ‘n raamwerk verskuiwing voor met die fokus op bevolkings-interaksies as nodusse vir oordrag van siektes. Om hierdie nuwe raamwerk te konseptualiseer, het ons ‘n teoretiese model vervaardig wat die wisselwerking tussen klimaatsgeskiktheid, bevolkingsdigtheid, residensiële mobiliteit en menslike interaksievlakke oorweeg om die infeksiesiektepatrone in prehistoriese samestellings te beïnvloed. Daarna het ons die waarneembare effekte van hierdie model getoets in paleo-epidemiologiese data uit Asië (n = 343). Relatiewe risiko-verhoudingsanalise en korrelasies is gebruik om die impak van bevolkings-interaksie, residensiële mobiliteit, bevolkingsdigtheid, klimaat en bestaan op die voorkoms en diversiteit van aansteeklike siektes te toets. Ons statistiese resultate het gedemonstreer dat hoër vlakke van bevolkings-interaksie gelei het tot aansienlik hoër voorkoms van aansteeklike siektes in sittende bevolkings en ‘n beduidende toename in patogeen diversiteit in mobiele bevolkings. Ons beveel aan dat bevolkings-interaksie ingesluit word as ‘n belangrike komponent van die aantstekingsiekte-ontleding van die prehistoriese bevolkingsgesondheid, tesame met ander biososiale faktore soos sedentisme en bevolkingsdigtheid.
... The skeletal effects of the agricultural transition have been described mainly in the teeth, mandible, skull, and long bones (Cohen and Armelagos 1984;Larsen 1995Larsen , 2006Macintosh, Pinhasi, and Stock 2016). This representation could be due either to a bias in research designs toward the study of those skeletal structures or to their being more affected due to their function and its relationship with diet and subsistence practices. ...
... This representation could be due either to a bias in research designs toward the study of those skeletal structures or to their being more affected due to their function and its relationship with diet and subsistence practices. The main morphological changes described as resulting from a shift to cultivated foods can be summarized as a decrease in overall skeletal size, concomitant with allometric and shape changes that can be interpreted as a trend toward gracilization (i.e., less robust morphology) (Carlson and Van Gerven 1977;Larsen 2006). Additionally, across the studied populations, there are often morphological changes associated with the deterioration of health status, either as a consequence of a more sedentary life and/or of a less diverse diet (Diamond 1987;Ulijaszek 1991;Larsen 1995Larsen , 2006. ...
... The main morphological changes described as resulting from a shift to cultivated foods can be summarized as a decrease in overall skeletal size, concomitant with allometric and shape changes that can be interpreted as a trend toward gracilization (i.e., less robust morphology) (Carlson and Van Gerven 1977;Larsen 2006). Additionally, across the studied populations, there are often morphological changes associated with the deterioration of health status, either as a consequence of a more sedentary life and/or of a less diverse diet (Diamond 1987;Ulijaszek 1991;Larsen 1995Larsen , 2006. In the following section we compile the evidence for morphological changes in the mandible, cranium, dentition, and long bones from studies with a wide geographic range. ...
... Association of corn-based agriculture with an increment of caries lesions has been reported [37][38][39][40][41]. Products rich in carbohydrates (sucrose and starches) of domesticated plants with agriculture, combined with food preparation sophistication, have contributed to dental caries. ...
... Overcrowding creates areas for plaque accumulation and calculus formation, increasing the risk of periodontal disease [44,45]. These human features are associated with periodontal disease progression and prevalence, which contributes to elevated levels of morbidity in our species [40,41,44,45]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Objectives: To review dento-facial evolution based on fossil data, comparative anatomy, developmental biology and genetics. Modern human evolution reveals profound insight into the technical and biological challenges faced by clinicians in daily practice of dentistry. Materials and Methods: An analysis and review of the literature is presented to further explain the evolutionary forces that have shaped hominins. Results: Modern human evolutionary morphological and biological adaptations allowed improvement of cognitive ability, facial expression, smile and language. However, the increased cranial capacity correlates inversely with a decrease in size of the maxillary and mandibular bones, weakening of the muscles and facial shortening, contributing to dento-facial complications. Moreover, the distinctive differences in origin and development of the dento-facial components have further contributed to these maladies. In addition, human lifestyle transition from nomadic to sedentary increased the incidence of oral diseases. Conclusions: Knowledge of human evolutionary patterns can improve the quality of response by clinicians to biological challenges. The limitations in current treatment modalities can be explained, in part, due to the complexity of the life forms that resulted from evolution. Although there are no rules to predict how evolutionary forces will shape modern humans, the evolution of the dento-facial complex reveals profound insight into our connection to other forms of life and nature.
... Despite contrasts in mandibular shape being likely related to differences in population history in the samples, masticatory mechanics has also probably impacted mandibular morphology to some extent. The Mesolithic hunter-gatherer diet has been consistently said to be mechanically more demanding than the post-Mesolithic agro-pastoralist diet (Cohen, 1989;Larsen, 1997Larsen, , 2006Stock & Pinhasi, 2011). This is because the latter included more processed food items that made the overall diet softer and so less demanding (Cohen, 1989;Larsen, 1997Larsen, , 2006Stock & Pinhasi, 2011). ...
... The Mesolithic hunter-gatherer diet has been consistently said to be mechanically more demanding than the post-Mesolithic agro-pastoralist diet (Cohen, 1989;Larsen, 1997Larsen, , 2006Stock & Pinhasi, 2011). This is because the latter included more processed food items that made the overall diet softer and so less demanding (Cohen, 1989;Larsen, 1997Larsen, , 2006Stock & Pinhasi, 2011). Previous experimental studies using non-human mammal models have shown that differences in the material properties of diet impact skull morphology (Beecher & Corruccini, 1981;Bouvier & Hylander, 1984;He & Kiliaridis, 2003;Kiliaridis, Engström, & Thilander, 1985;Menegaz & Ravosa, 2017;Menegaz, Sublett, Figueroa, Hoffman, & Ravosa, 2009;Ravosa, Kunwar, Stock, & Stack, 2007;Ravosa et al., 2008a,b), and so differences in skull form between hunter-gatherers and agro-pastoralists are frequently linked to differences in the masticatory demands due to dietary differences (Galland et al., 2016;Katz et al., 2017;May et al., 2018;Pokhojaev et al., 2019;von Cramon-Taubadel, 2011). ...
Article
Human skeletal remains are routinely used to examine cultural and biological aspects of past populations. Yet, archaeological specimens are frequently fragmented/incomplete and so excluded from analyses. This leads to decreased sample sizes and to potentially biased results. Digital methods are now frequently used to restore/estimate the original morphology of fragmented/incomplete specimens. Such methods include 3D digitisation and Geometric Morphometrics (GM). The latter is also a solidly established method now to examine morphology. In this study, we use GM-based methods to estimate the original morphology of incomplete Mesolithic and Chalcolithic mandibles originating from present Portugal and perform ensuing morphological analyses. Because mandibular morphology is known to relate to population history and diet, we hypothesised the two samples would differ. Thirty-seven specimens (12 complete and 25 incomplete) were CT-scanned and landmarked. Originally complete specimens were used as reference to estimate the location of absent anatomical landmarks in incomplete specimens. As predicted, our results show shape differences between the two samples which are likely due to the compounded effect of contrasting population histories and diets.
... Skeletal and dental data can provide useful information for exploring the biological effects of past economic and cultural changes (e.g., Larsen, 1995Larsen, , 2006Pinhasi et al., 2008;van Gerven et al., 1995), and information on dental caries is especially valuable for estimating the consumption of sugar by populations. Caries is a chronic infectious disease in which dental tissues are demineralized through the bacterial fermentation of carbohydrates in the oral cavity. ...
... A markedly higher rate of caries was observed in nonadults from two Nasrid sites than in those from Bronze Age and medieval Northern sites, consistent with the much greater availability of sugar during the Nasrid kingdom, due to the cultivation of sugarcane, and its absence before the 10th century. These results contribute a new example of the effects of socioeconomic and cultural changes on human biology and physiology (Hawks et al., 2007;Larsen, 1995Larsen, , 2006. However, further research is needed to take account of other risk factors for caries that might have played a role, such as enamel defects. ...
Article
Full-text available
The introduction of sugarcane in Europe by the Arabs in the 10th century AD brought about a drastic change in gastronomy and oral health. In Southern Spain (Al-Andalus), sugarcane was mainly consumed by the elite, although its consumption became relatively widespread during the Nasrid Kingdom. The aim of this study was to explore the effect of the introduction of sugar on human diet and oral health by comparing patterns of caries in deciduous teeth between nonadult skeletal samples from two Nasrid populations (La Torrecilla and Talará) and a comparative set representing various Iberian populations without access to sugarcane (from Bronze to Medieval Ages). We analyzed 770 teeth from 115 nonadults divided into three groups: infants under 2 years of age, nonadults presenting only deciduous teeth, and nonadults presenting mixed deciduous and permanent dentition. The frequency of caries is high in the Nasrid individuals and very low in the comparative sample. This finding is in agreement with contemporaneous written sources on the utilization of sugarcane in the diet, and as a pacifier for infants during weaning. Differences in the frequency of caries between the Nasrid samples (higher in Talará) are likely related to the socioeconomic differences between these populations.
... As a result, transitional periods in climate often also correspond to changes in diet which are reflected in a community's nutritional intake. These climatic changes are an important facet in understanding how the Western Desert has changed over millennia and how that change has had an effect on human populations (Larsen 2006;Brass 2019). The presence of the settlement in the Early Holocene with burials reflected a particular use-phase of the area that was most likely associated with a climatic shift which allowed for people to live in the region. ...
... Patterns of attrition are associated with age and are good markers for the type of diet that individuals consumed (Larsen 2006). Changes in climate would have caused fluctuations in the availability of plants and animals and as a result would have contributed to changes in subsistence methods. ...
Book
This volume comprises a summary of research work carried out to date in the Bargat El-Shab region. The authors present the results of the research project led by the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology Polish Academy of Sciences from 2016 to 2020, financed by the National Science Centre, Poland (grant no. 2015/17/B/HS3/01315), entitled: Awaiting the rain. Economy, Culture Beliefs Pastorials of Today’s Western Desert of Egypt. The publication also falls back on the results of earlier studies conducted between 2005 and 2012 within the scope of the Combined Prehistoric Expedition
... This could only have happened in the pres-ence of food and water security. This in turn led to the birth of cities and culture along the Fertile Crescent and elsewhere, 12,13 concentrating initially on growth, homeostasis, reproduction, conquest, and defense. 14 The development of pottery for storage, and the wheel, led to commerce between the first urban civilizations. ...
... Although the predominant view of prehistory among those subscribing to linear history and human progress is negative, when the negatives of modern over prehistoric life are examined they focus typically on the physiological or social differences that occurred with the development of settled societies and mono-agricultural fields. For example, many have noted that as civilization evolved it brought about impairment after impairment in human health (e.g., shorter stature, epidemic disease, dental decay, diabetes) (Cohen & Armelagos, 2013;Larsen, 2006;Wells, 2010); increased aggression, territoriality, and warfare (Johnson & Earle, 1987); and deteriorating status and wellbeing of women (Whyte, 1978). But then, when for some malady caused by civilization a remedy is invented, it is hailed as a sign that civilization is better than anything in the past. ...
... The image in the circle shows the local environment, including the Bermejales swamp, with the mountain range of Tejeda and Almijara in the background (photograph by Jiménez-Brobeil); (b) plan of the cemetery of La Torrecilla, with the photograph of a burial on the right (photograph by Du Souich, 1975) and the two radiocarbon-dated burials highlighted in green Bogin, 1999). These findings explain the long-standing interest of anthropologists in stature estimates (usually obtained from long bone measurements) when testing the possible effects on the life quality of past populations exerted by socioeconomic changes and/or differences in diet and health derived from wealth inequalities (Cohen & Armelagos, 1984;Cohen & Crane-Kramer, 2007;Larsen, 2006;Mieklejohn & Babb, 2011;Mummert et al., 2011;Robb et al., 2001). ...
Article
Objectives Gender differentiation can influence the diet, physical activity, and health of human populations. Multifaceted approaches are therefore necessary when exploring the biological consequences of gender‐related social norms in the past. Here, we explore the links between diet, physiological stress, physical activity, and gender differentiation in the Medieval Islamic population of La Torrecilla (Granada, Spain, 13th–15th century AD), by analyzing stable isotope patterns, stature, and long bone diaphyseal measurements. Materials and Methods The sample includes 96 individuals (48 females, 48 males) classified as young and middle adults (20–34 and 35–50 years of age respectively). Diet was reconstructed through the analysis of δ¹³C and δ¹⁵N. Stature, humeral and femoral diaphyseal shape and product of diaphyseal diameters served as proxies of physiological stress and physical activity. Results Isotopic ratios suggest a substantial dietary contribution of C4 plants (e.g., sorghum, millet), a variable access to animal proteins, and no differences between the sexes. Sexual dimorphism in stature derives from a markedly low female stature. Long bone diaphyseal properties suggest that men performed various physically stressful activities, whereas women were involved in less physically demanding activities (possibly related to household work). Discussion Gender differentiation in La Torrecilla was expressed by a possibly differential parental investment in male versus female offspring and by culturally sanctioned gender differences in the performance of physical tasks. Diet was qualitatively homogenous between the sexes, although we cannot rule out quantitative differences. Our results shed new light on the effects of gender‐related social norms on human development and lifestyle.
... 160,161 Cereal and starch consumption is correlated with an increase in periodontal disease, a condition associated with low levels of circulating LPS (endotoxemia) and Gram-negative bacterial species (e.g., Porphyromonas gingivalis, Campylobacter rectus) known to persistently breach oral mucosal barriers, migrate to other tissues, and mediate other diseases. [162][163][164][165] Other agricultural products have likely affected human immunological activities as well. Cow milk, for example, disrupts iron absorption in humans, causes gut microbleeding in human infants and is rich (when raw) in microbiota including Gram-negative genera bearing hexa-acylated LPS, likely altering immunological function and increasing human exposure to novel mcroorganisms. ...
Article
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Among mammals, humans are exquisitely sensitive to lipopolysaccharide (LPS), an environmentally pervasive bacterial cell membrane component. Very small doses of LPS trigger powerful immune responses in humans and can even initiate symptoms of sep-sis. Close evolutionary relatives such as African and Asian monkeys require doses that are an order of magnitude higher to do the same. Why humans have evolved such an energetically expensive antimicrobial strategy is a question that biological anthropologists are positioned to help address. Here we compare LPS sensitivity in primate/mam-malian models and propose that human high sensitivity to LPS is adaptive, linked to multiple immune tactics against pathogens, and part of multi-faceted anti-microbial strategy that strongly overlaps with that of other mammals. We support a notion that LPS sensitivity in humans has been driven by microorganisms that constitutively live on us, and has been informed by human behavioral changes over our species' evolution (e.g., meat eating, agricultural practices, and smoking). K E Y W O R D S human evolution, innate immunity, lipopolysaccharide, LPS sensitivity, sepsis
... O cenário é de intensificação nos processos de mudança, de transição; e, resguardadas as idiossincrasias locais, envolve uma associação de acontecimentos possíveis que é recorrente em diferentes contextos de mudança ao redor do mundo, como a expansão nas relações com outras populações, o desenvolvimento de uma hierarquia social mais claramente observável no registro arqueológico, o aumento da violência, o adensamento populacional, a mudança na dieta, a quebra de tradições, as inovações materiais/ideológicas, e as alterações ambientais. Esse conjunto de acontecimentos, por vezes, está relacionado a contextos de transição para a agricultura(Larsen 2006), mas, no caso do sítio Armação do Sul, a dieta permaneceu essencialmente marinha, mesmo com a possibilidade de um consumo pequeno de milho -que, fosse o caso, provavelmente teria sido utilizado como forma de distinção entre alguns indivíduos do sexo masculino. A população associada ao sítio Armação do Sul viveu, em seus próprios termos, seus próprios tempos de mudança.Analisando as práticas mortuárias em diferentes contextos de transição, Childe (1945) tem um insight interessante, retomado posteriormente por Parker Pearson(2006[1982]), e que nesse momento me parece muito conveniente, indo diretamente ao encontro daquilo que estou tentando expor. ...
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O registro arqueológico associado aos sítios conchíferos do litoral catarinense aponta para uma intensificação nos processos de mudança a partir de 2000 anos AP, marcada por acontecimentos diversos como a diminuição no número de sítios, a diminuição no uso de conchas em sua formação, o aparecimento da cerâmica, o aumento da violência e a alteração do padrão de residência pós-marital. Com o objetivo de compreender melhor esses processos de mudança e entendendo o sítio Armação do Sul (Florianópolis/SC) como elemento chave para essa compreensão, foram realizadas análises isotópicas de estrôncio (87Sr/86Sr), carbono (δ13C) e nitrogênio (δ15N) nos indivíduos que nele se encontram sepultados, juntamente com a análise das práticas mortuárias associadas a esses sepultamentos e o estabelecimento de uma cronologia que associa informação estratigráfica com datações radiocarbônicas obtidas para diversos esqueletos. A partir de uma perspectiva de longa duração centrada na prática e do reconhecimento da multidimensionalidade inerente aos processos de mudança, os dados gerados foram entendidos contextualmente na curta, média e longa duração, e em escala de sítio (Armação do Sul), local (litoral central) e regional (litoral catarinense), em busca de uma tensão positiva entre indivíduo e estrutura, mudança e estabilidade, sincronia e diacronia. Ao fim, concluiu-se que os processos de mudança se desenrolaram diferentemente em porções litorâneas distintas do litoral catarinense e que, no caso do sítio Armação do Sul, as mudanças observadas estão relacionadas a um quadro de acontecimentos inter-relacionados que envolveu: maior circulação e incorporação de indivíduos de diferentes partes do litoral central; mudança na dieta dos indivíduos do sexo masculino em direção ao consumo de recursos C4 ou à diminuição no consumo de recursos marinhos de alto nível trófico; desenvolvimento de uma hierarquia social mais claramente observável no registro arqueológico e, possivelmente, hereditária; aumento da violência; inovações em alguns elementos que compõem as práticas mortuárias; mudança no sedimento que compõe o sítio; adensamento populacional ou maior quantidade de indivíduos sendo sepultados no mesmo local; transição para um padrão de residência virilocal; e alterações paleoclimáticas e paleogeográficas. Foram ainda feitas algumas breves contribuições para um melhor entendimento das peculiaridades do panorama arqueológico do litoral central, com o auxílio de conceitos oriundos da teoria de sistemas adaptativos complexos e sob a perspectiva dos regimes de historicidade. The archaeological record associated with shell mounds in the Santa Catarina coast points to an intensification in the processes of change starting at 2000 years BP, marked by various events such as the decrease in the number of sites, the reduction in the use of shells in their formation, the appearance of ceramics, increased violence and alterations of the pattern of post-marital residence. In order to better comprehend these processes of change and understanding the Armação do Sul site (Florianópolis/SC) as a key element to said comprehension, we have performed isotopic analyses based on strontium (87Sr/86Sr), carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) in the individuals that are buried there, along with the analysis of the mortuary practices associated with those burials, and the establishment of a chronology that associates stratigraphic information with radiocarbon dating obtained for several skeletons. From a long-term perspective focused on practice and recognition of the multidimensionality inherent to change processes, the resulting data were observed contextually in short, medium and long terms, and in site (Armação do Sul), local (central coast) and regional (Santa Catarina coast) scales, in search for a positive tension between individual and structure, change and stability, synchrony and diachrony. Finally, we have concluded that the change processes unfolded differently in distinct coastal portions in the Santa Catarina coast and that, in the case of the Armação do Sul site, observed changes are related to a setting of interrelated events which involved: increased circulation and incorporation of individuals from different parts of the central coast; change in the diet of male individuals towards consumption of C4 resources or the decrease in the consumption of marine resources of high trophic level; development of a social hierarchy more clearly observable in the archaeological records and, possibly, hereditary; increased violence; innovations in some elements which compose the mortuary practices; change in the depositional pattern; increase in the population density or in the number of individuals buried in the same place; transition to a pattern of virilocal residence; and climate and geographic alterations. We have also made some briefs contributions towards a better understanding of the peculiarities of the archaeological panorama in the central coast, with the aid of concepts from the theory of complex adaptive systems and within a perspective of the regimes of historicity.
... The Late Epipaleolithic (Natufian) period in the Levant was characterized by significant changes in diet and subsistence, settlement patterns, and social life associated with the transition from huntergatherer to agricultural societies (Bar-Yosef, 1998;Munro & Grosman, 2018). The transition to food producing societies is generally considered to have caused a decline in the health status of human populations (Larsen, 2006). However, previous work focusing on the Levant provided no evidence for changes in overall health associated with this transition in final Pleistocene and early Holocene populations (Eshed, Gopher, & Hershkovitz, 2006;Eshed, Gopher, Pinhasi, & Hershkovitz, 2010;Hershkovitz & Gopher, 2008). ...
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Objectives: To study pre- and early postnatal tooth formation and to analyze the effects of physiological disturbances on enamel and dentin formation in deciduous teeth of infants from the Late Epipaleolithic (Natufian) site Shubayqa 1. Materials and methods: Ten deciduous teeth from six infants (ages at death between 21 and 239 days) were analyzed by light and scanning electron microscopy. Results: Marked prism cross-striations and an abnormal wavy course of the prisms were recorded in pre- and postnatal enamel of all analyzed teeth. Single or multiple accentuated incremental lines were observed in prenatal enamel of nine teeth and in postnatal enamel of eight teeth. Accentuated Andresen lines and broader zones exhibiting an enhanced calcospheritic pattern were recorded in the pre- and postnatally formed dentin of nine teeth. Discussion: The structural abnormalities in the pre- and postnatally formed enamel of the infants are considered indicative of chronic stress that negatively affected the activity of secretory ameloblasts. The structural aberrations in pre- and postnatal dentin denote that odontoblasts were also affected by this stress. The presence of single or multiple accentuated incremental lines in pre- and postnatal enamel is interpreted as reflecting (short-term) impacts of higher intensity superimposed on the chronic stress. Our findings suggest compromised maternal health affecting the late fetus and compromised health in newborns. Although limited by the small number of analyzed individuals, the present study contributes to the knowledge of maternal and early infant health conditions in Late Epipaleolithic populations. KEYWORDS accentuated incremental lines, dental development, infant skeletons, maternal stress, Natufian, neonatal line
... Suffice it to say that if there were selection pressures against big jaws, the limited number of generations (as few as 15) in which shrinkage has been observed in population samples (Luther 1993, Larsen 1995, 2006 would not be long enough for a genetic-evolutionary explanation. Anecdotally, shrinkage has been observed in one generation (Waugh 1937) or within a single individual (see figures 1 and 2). ...
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... Have the massive increases in energy consumption that accompanied the agricultural and industrial revolutions brought about comparable improvements for human well-being? Evidence suggests that for much of the past 10,000 years agriculture led to a declining quality of life for most human populations, compared to their forager predecessors (Larsen, 2006). But recent centuries have seen a rapid reversal of this trend, with improvements in health indicators across the board. ...
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It is increasingly clear that averting ecological breakdown will require drastic changes to contemporary human society and the global economy embedded within it. On the other hand, the basic material needs of billions of people across the planet remain unmet. Here, we develop a simple, bottom-up model to estimate a practical minimal threshold for the final energy consumption required to provide decent material livings to the entire global population. We find that global final energy consumption in 2050 could be reduced to the levels of the 1960s, despite a population three times larger. However, such a world requires a massive rollout of advanced technologies across all sectors, as well as radical demand-side changes to reduce consumption – regardless of income – to levels of sufficiency. Sufficiency is, however, far more materially generous in our model than what those opposed to strong reductions in consumption often assume.
... Oblique or angled occlusal attrition may suggest highly processed food that could be the result of the incorporation of particles from pottery or grinding stones into the food during food preparation (Smith 1984;Irish 2010). is wear pattern could also be indicative of an agriculturalist society; however, evidence of agriculture in this region still needs to be confirmed and most likely the inhabiting groups had a subsistence method that was based on intensive collecting (Irish 2010;Larsen 2006;Wasylikowa et al. 1997). At Bargat El-Shab, the dentition from the two settlement individuals (E-05-1/2 Grave 1 and E-05-1/3 Grave 1) (Figure 8), showed a similar pattern of oblique attrition patterns like at Gebel Ramlah. ...
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The three human skeletons discovered at Bargat El-Shab provide a small glimpse into the lifeways of the individuals that were present at Western Desert of Egypt during the Early Holocene (El-Jerar Phase 8050-7300 bp) and Late Neolithic Bunat El-Ansam Phase (5300-5500 bp).
... Specifically, demographic reconstructions from archaeological and population genetic records suggest that the agricultural transition led to increased individual fitness and population growth (6,(10)(11)(12), likely due in part to new food production and storage capabilities. Yet, bioarchaeological analyses of human skeletal remains from this cultural period suggest simultaneous declines in individual physiological well-being and health, putatively from 1) nutritional deficiency and/or 2) increased pathogen loads as a function of greater human population densities, sedentary lifestyles, and proximity to livestock (9,(13)(14)(15)(16)(17)(18). ...
... The navigational nose hypothesis explains this as a correlate of space use. The development of Neolithic agricultural economies increased sendentism, population density and infectious disease [77,78]. Narrower (leptorrhine) nasal morphology is associated with enhanced olfactory discrimination [79]. ...
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... In order to characterise the changes in the incidence of diseases and causes of death over time, a model was developed that captured such upheavals; they are now known as epidemiological transitions. The model describes the relationships between patterns of disease on the one hand and social, economic, ecological, and demographic conditions on the other [115]. The Holocene, or more precisely the Neolithic, marked the beginning of the first epidemiological transition. ...
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Anyone who wants to understand the biological nature of humans and their special characteristics must look far back into evolutionary history. Today’s way of life is drastically different from that of our ancestors. For almost 99% of human history, gathering and hunting have been the basis of nutrition. It was not until about 12,000 years ago that humans began domesticating plants and animals. Bioarchaeologically and biochemically, this can be traced back to our earliest roots. Modern living conditions and the quality of human life are better today than ever before. However, neither physically nor psychosocially have we made this adjustment and we are paying a high health price for it. The studies presented allow us to reconstruct food supply, lifestyles, and dietary habits: from the earliest primates, through hunter-gatherers of the Paleolithic, farming communities since the beginning of the Anthropocene, to the Industrial Age and the present. The comprehensive data pool allows extraction of all findings of medical relevance. Our recent lifestyle and diet are essentially determined by our culture rather than by our millions of years of ancestry. Culture is permanently in a dominant position compared to natural evolution. Thereby culture does not form a contrast to nature but represents its result. There is no doubt that we are biologically adapted to culture, but it is questionable how much culture humans can cope with.
... Specifically, demographic reconstructions from archaeological and population genetic records suggest that the agricultural transition led to increased individual fitness and population growth (6,(10)(11)(12), likely due in part to new food production and storage capabilities. Yet, bioarchaeological analyses of human skeletal remains from this cultural period suggest simultaneous declines in individual physiological well-being and health, putatively from 1) nutritional deficiency and/or 2) increased pathogen loads as a function of greater human population densities, sedentary lifestyles, and proximity to livestock (9,(13)(14)(15)(16)(17)(18). ...
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Significance Subsistence shifts from hunting and gathering to agriculture over the last 12,000 y have impacted human culture, biology, and health. Although past human health cannot be assessed directly, adult stature variation and skeletal indicators of nonspecific stress can serve as proxies for health during growth and development. By integrating paleogenomic genotype and osteological stature data on a per-individual basis for 167 prehistoric Europeans, we observe relatively shorter than expected statures among early farmers after correcting for individual genetic contributions to stature. Poorer nutrition and/or increased disease burdens for early agriculturalists may partly underscore this result. Our integrated osteological–genetic model has exciting potential for studies of past human health and expansion into various other contexts.
... This could only have happened in the pres-ence of food and water security. This in turn led to the birth of cities and culture along the Fertile Crescent and elsewhere, 12,13 concentrating initially on growth, homeostasis, reproduction, conquest, and defense. 14 The development of pottery for storage, and the wheel, led to commerce between the first urban civilizations. ...
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Food security and nutrition were major drivers of cultural evolution by enabling sociotypic development and communal living after the Neolithic agricultural revolution some 12,000 years ago. The sociotype unites concepts from the sciences and the humanities; in concert with the genotype it determines an individual’s phenotype (observable traits and behavior), and together they advance societal culture. As such, the sociotype relates to an individual’s dynamic interactions with the surrounding social environment through¬out life and comprises three domains: the Individual, Relationships, and Context. Nutrition affects each domain, respectively, by ensuring the following dimensions of food security: utilization (metabolic fuel and health); accessibility (physical and economic); and availability (the right to nutritious food for all citi¬zens). The sociotype is influenced by multiple factors, including diet–gene interactions, allostasis, micro¬biota, oxytocin, and culturally through mate selection, family bonds, social communication, political ideol¬ogies, and values. Food security, sociotypes, and culture form a complex adaptive system to enable coping with the circumstances of life in health and disease, to achieve sustainable development, and to eradicate hunger. The current geopolitical unrest highlights the absolutely critical role of this system for global security, yet many challenges remain in implementing this paradigm for society. Therefore, sustainable food security must be considered a fundamental human right and responsibility for safeguarding the survival and progress of the sociotypes of humankind (Homo cultures) worldwide.
... Somewhat counterintuitively, farming did not generally improve the human condition at the time; health declined because of increases in infectious disease and reductions in dietary quality. Shorter spacing of births allowed by sedentism in some late foraging groups and then agriculturalists nonetheless resulted in rapid population expansion (Armelagos and Cohen 2013, Larsen 1995, 2006, Gibbons 2009, Dow and Reed 2015. ...
... Others have also documented the downside of agriculture. See for example Larsen (2006). 9 Capitalism as a 'system within a system' is elucidated in Krall (2022). ...
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There now exists a duality between humans and Earth that is delineated and defined by the economic structure and dynamic of human material life. In the face of the 6th mass extinction we are forced to understand the formation, power, and unwavering forward march of this economic system (economic superorganism), and the duality it creates between humans and Earth. This is an economic system that began about 10–12 thousand years ago with the advent of grain agriculture and has now reached its apogee with global capitalism. Conservation can serve as a lever of change in a world governed by this forward march, but it will only be effective if it remains clear on the challenge of the long arc of history and the presence of duality.
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Kheria Sabars are an indigenous community living in the rural areas of Purulia, West Bengal, India. This work aims to study dietary intake and its relation to nutritional status among adult Kheria Sabar males aged 18-60. The study entails the recording of anthropometric variables like height (cm) and weight (kg) as per the standard protocol and calculating body mass index (BMI). Dietary intake was recorded on the basis of the 24-h dietary recall method. The intake of different nutrients was computed and compared with the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for Indians by the Indian Council of Medical Research Expert Committee. Results revealed a paradox where undernutrition was prevalent (44.28%) despite balanced nutrient intake. This paradox creates scope for further exploratory research among other communities living in similar habitats.
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During the Bronze Age (ca. 1800‐500 BC), cremation became the dominant burial practice in Finland. These Bronze Age (BA) cremations have been excavated from burial cairns in Finland for more than 150 years. This work provides new information on human osteology from this previously understudied area in northeastern Europe. The results cover the earliest period in Finnish prehistory for which large‐scale human osteological assemblages are available. In this article, we present a comprehensive human osteological study on the curated bone collections of the National Museum of Finland and other provincial museums, and provide new radiocarbon datings of the cairns. The results show that the cairns were most often used for single burials, without accompanying animals or artefacts. Double and multiple burials became more common in the Iron Age. Porotic hyperostosis was a common finding. Signs of osteoarthritis are more common in the central Satakunta region, where Iron Age burial practices first emerged already during the Late Bronze Age. These observed changes can be connected to changes in subsistence strategies that also enabled permanent settlements
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The nature of domestication is often misunderstood. Most definitions of the process are anthropocentric and center on human intentionality, which minimizes the role of unconscious selection and also excludes non-human domesticators. An overarching, biologically grounded definition of domestication is discussed, which emphasizes its core nature as a coevolutionary process that arises from a specialized mutualism, in which one species controls the fitness of another in order to gain resources and/or services. This inclusive definition encompasses both human-associated domestication of crop plants and livestock as well as other non-human domesticators, such as insects. It also calls into question the idea that humans are themselves domesticated, given that evolution of human traits did not arise through the control of fitness by another species.
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The image of the prehistoric hominin is well known: brutish and hairy, the men hunt with impressive weapons, while women tend to children or kneel over a hide. In this article I consider didactic illustrations and re-creations of human relatives in the context of science and art. I argue that these images are laden with symbolic sociopolitical meanings and are heavily biased by not only the newest scientific findings but also ideas about gender roles and civilization/civility in popular culture. Artistic representation in educational materials tends to reflect popular conceptions of ancestral life, more than data-dependent interpretations. For example, there is a bias against artistic depictions of women, children or the elderly and activities typically associated with them. Men and male activities – particularly hunting – are overrepresented. Hairy bodies, stooped posture, acute facial angles, savagery and a lack of material culture function as a symbol of incivility or animality. They are used to code an individual as being sufficiently inhuman to create a comfortable separation between viewer and ‘caveman’, which ultimately reflects our ambiguous relationship to human evolution.
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Background: The dual crises of climate change and chronic, or non-communicable, disease (NCD) have emerged worldwide as the global economy has industrialized over the past two centuries. Aims: In this synthesis I examine humans' dependence on external (non-metabolic) energy expenditure (e.g., fire, fossil fuels) as a common, root cause in these modern crises. Materials and methods: Using fossil, archeological, and historical evidence I show that the human lineage has been dependent on external energy sources since the control of fire in the Paleolithic. This reliance has grown with the development of agriculture, the use of wind- and water-power, and the most recently with industrialization and the transition to fossil fuels. To place industrialization in context I develop a Rule of 50, whereby individuals in industrialized economies consume roughly 50-times more external energy and manufacture roughly 50-times more material than do hunter-gatherers. Results: Industrialization and mechanization, powered by fossil fuels, have promoted centralization and processing in food production, reduced physical activity, and increased air pollution (including greenhouse gas emissions). These developments have led in turn to NCD and climate change. Discussion and conclusion: Climate change and NCD are connected both to one another and to our species' deep evolutionary dependence on external energy. Transitioning to carbon-free energy is essential to reduce the existential risks of climate change, but will likely have only modest effects on NCD. With the impending exhaustion of oil, coal, and natural gas reserves, developing replacements for fossil fuels is also critical to maintaining our species' external energy portfolio.
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Dietary reconstruction is used to make inferences about the subsistence strategies of ancient human populations, but it may also serve as a proxy to characterise their diverse cultural and technological manifestations. Dental microwear and stable isotope analyses have been shown to be successful techniques for paleodietary reconstruction of ancient populations but, despite yielding complementary dietary information, these techniques have rarely been combined within the same study. Here we present for the first time a comprehensive approach to interpreting ancient lifeways through the results of buccal and occlusal microwear, and δ ¹³ C and δ ¹⁵ N isotope analyses applied to the same individuals of prehistoric populations of Hungary from the Middle Neolithic to the Late Bronze Age periods. This study aimed to (a) assess if the combination of techniques yields a more precise assessment of past dietary and subsistence practices, and (b) contribute to our understanding of the dietary patterns of the prehistoric Hungarian populations. Overall, no correlations between microwear and δ ¹³ C and δ ¹⁵ N isotope variables were observed, except for a relationship between nitrogen and the vertical and horizontal index. However, we found that diachronic differences are influenced by the variation within the period. Particularly, we found differences in microwear and isotope variables between Middle Neolithic sites, indicating that there were different dietary practices among those populations. Additionally, microwear results suggest no changes in the abrasiveness of the diet, neither food processing methods, despite higher C 4 plant resource consumption shown by carbon isotopic signal. Thus, we demonstrate that the integration of dental microwear and carbon and nitrogen stable isotope methodologies can provide complementary information for making inferences about paleodietary habits.
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Human culture, biology, and health were shaped dramatically by the onset of agriculture ~12,000 years before present (BP). Subsistence shifts from hunting and gathering to agriculture are hypothesized to have resulted in increased individual fitness and population growth as evidenced by archaeological and population genomic data alongside a simultaneous decline in physiological health as inferred from paleopathological analyses and stature reconstructions of skeletal remains. A key component of the health decline inference is that relatively shorter statures observed for early farmers may (at least partly) reflect higher childhood disease burdens and poorer nutrition. However, while such stresses can indeed result in growth stunting, height is also highly heritable, and substantial inter-individual variation in the height genetic component within a population is typical. Moreover, extensive migration and gene flow were characteristics of multiple agricultural transitions worldwide. Here, we consider both osteological and ancient DNA data from the same prehistoric individuals to comprehensively study the trajectory of human stature variation as a proxy for health across a transition to agriculture. Specifically, we compared "predicted" genetic contributions to height from paleogenomic data and "achieved" adult osteological height estimated from long bone measurements on a per-individual basis for n=160 ancient Europeans from sites spanning the Upper Paleolithic to the Iron Age (~38,000-2,400 BP). We found that individuals from the Neolithic were shorter than expected (given their individual polygenic height scores) by an average of -4.47 cm relative to individuals from the Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic (P=0.016). The average osteological vs. expected stature then increased relative to the Neolithic over the Copper (+2.67 cm, P=0.052), Bronze (+3.33 cm, P=0.032), and Iron Ages (+3.95 cm, P=0.094). These results were partly attenuated when we accounted for genome-wide genetic ancestry variation in our sample (which we note is partly duplicative with the individual polygenic score information). For example, in this secondary analysis Neolithic individuals were -3.48 cm shorter than expected on average relative to individuals from the Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic (P=0.056). We also incorporated observations of paleopathological indicators of non-specific stress that can persist from childhood to adulthood in skeletal remains (linear enamel hypoplasia, cribra orbitalia, and porotic hyperostosis) into our model. Overall, our work highlights the potential of integrating disparate datasets to explore proxies of health in prehistory.
Chapter
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Chapter
It is often taken for granted that notions of health and disease are generally applicable across the biological world, in that they are not restricted to contemporary human beings, and can be unproblematically applied to a variety of organisms both past and present (taking relevant differences between species into account). In the historical sciences it is also common to normatively contrast health states of individuals and populations from different times and places: e.g., to say that due to nutrition or pathogen load, some lived healthier lives than others. However, health concepts in contemporary philosophy of medicine have not been developed with such cross-lineage, non-human, or diachronic uses in mind, and this generates what I call the ‘new normal’ problem. I argue that the new normal problem shows that current naturalistic approaches to health (when based on biological reference classes) are worryingly incomplete. Using examples drawn from evolutionary archaeology and the human fossil record, I outline an alternative, function-based strategy for naturalizing health that might help address the new normal problem. Interestingly, this might also reconstruct a certain uniqueness for humans in the philosophy and science of health, due to the deep history of obligate enculturation and cultural adaptation that archaeology demonstrates.
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We present stable isotope and osteological data from human remains at Paloma, Chilca I, La Yerba III, and Morro I that offer new evidence for diet, lifestyle, and habitual mobility in the first villages that proliferated along the arid Pacific coast of South America (ca. 6000 cal BP). The data not only reaffirm the dietary primacy of marine protein for this period but also show evidence at Paloma of direct access interactions between the coast and highlands, as well as habitual mobility in some parts of society. By locating themselves at the confluence of diverse coastal and terrestrial habitats, the inhabitants of these early villages were able to broaden their use of resources through rounds of seasonal mobility, while simultaneously increasing residential sedentism. Yet they paid little substantial health penalty for their settled lifestyles, as reflected in their osteological markers of stature and stress, compared with their agriculturalist successors even up to five millennia later. Contrasting data for the north coast of Chile indicate locally contingent differences. Considering these data in a wider chronological context contributes to understanding how increasing sedentism and population density laid the foundations here for the emergence of Late Preceramic social complexity.
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Book
Ultrasocial argues that rather than environmental destruction and extreme inequality being due to human nature, they are the result of the adoption of agriculture by our ancestors. Human economy has become an ultrasocial superorganism (similar to an ant or termite colony), with the requirements of superorganism taking precedence over the individuals within it. Human society is now an autonomous, highly integrated network of technologies, institutions, and belief systems dedicated to the expansion of economic production. Recognizing this allows a radically new interpretation of free market and neoliberal ideology which - far from advocating personal freedom - leads to sacrificing the well-being of individuals for the benefit of the global market. Ultrasocial is a fascinating exploration of what this means for the future direction of the humanity: can we forge a better, more egalitarian, and sustainable future by changing this socio-economic - and ultimately destructive - path? Gowdy explores how this might be achieved.
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Ultrasocial argues that rather than environmental destruction and extreme inequality being due to human nature, they are the result of the adoption of agriculture by our ancestors. Human economy has become an ultrasocial superorganism (similar to an ant or termite colony), with the requirements of superorganism taking precedence over the individuals within it. Human society is now an autonomous, highly integrated network of technologies, institutions, and belief systems dedicated to the expansion of economic production. Recognizing this allows a radically new interpretation of free market and neoliberal ideology which - far from advocating personal freedom - leads to sacrificing the well-being of individuals for the benefit of the global market. Ultrasocial is a fascinating exploration of what this means for the future direction of the humanity: can we forge a better, more egalitarian, and sustainable future by changing this socio-economic - and ultimately destructive - path? Gowdy explores how this might be achieved.
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