Human Evolution @ UCL


Palaeoanthropologists find evidence that Homo naledi indulged in a diet of tough foods

30 May 2017

A variety of mechanical processes can result in antemortem dental chipping.

U.W. 101–525 (Homo naledi) upper right first molar, three chips on mesial surface; In this study, chipping data in the teeth of Homo naledi are compared with those of other pertinent dental samples to give insight into their etiology.

Results indicate that the teeth of H. naledi were exposed to acute trauma on a regular basis. Because interproximal areas are more affected than buccal and posterior teeth more than anterior, it is unlikely that nonmasticatory cultural behavior was the cause. A diet containing hard and resistant food, or contaminants such as grit, is more likely. The small chip size, and steep occlusal wear and cupped dentine on some molars are supportive of the latter possibility. This pattern of chipping suggests that H. naledi differed considerably-in terms of diet, environment, and/or specialized masticatory processing-relative to other African fossil hominins.

Behavioral inferences from the high levels of dental chipping in Homo naledi

Ian Towle, Joel D. Irish, Isabelle De Groote

DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.23250