La Sapienza - Università di Roma

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STUDying our ancestors' diet


The European Commission has approved the transferal of an ERC Starting Grant Project entitled “Hidden Foods” from Cambridge University to Sapienza University.

Emanuela Cristiani from the Sapienza Department of Oral and Maxillo Facial Sciences, will be the principal investigator for this project that aims to unveil the diets of our ancestors.

The project will develop a suite of analytical methodologies to provide systemic and incontrovertible evidence on the importance of naturally occurring plants for the diets of our prehistoric ancestors and the consequences of carbohydrate consumption by European hunter-gatherers.

Gathering plant remains is an extremely difficult task due to their organic nature. To address this challenge Project Hidden Foods will integrate a variety of different methodologies (identification of trace remains on stone tools, experimental archaeological methodologies, micro-biome metagenomics, oral pathology, the study of the micro-fossils conserved in tartar and material culture, and the study of plant parenchyma) to analyse direct and indirect evidence on the consumption of plants in the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Eras in Italy and the Balkans, using ground stones, macro-botanic remains and human remains.