What We Can Learn From Bones: Paleodiets, Early Hominins, and Mole Rats

I have been fighting with the idea for this post for the last couple of weeks ever since I read this paper on the human amylase gene. Part of the reason for the delay in writing about the amylase paper is that I have come down with what I suspect is lateral epicondylitis and typing seems to aggravate it. Worse yet, the more I thought about the subject the longer and more complicated the post became. At this point I have decided to break it into a series of posts.


There are a number of ways that paleoanthropologists can learn about the diet of our hominin ancestors. In a previous post I looked at some basic research on teeth. In that post I pointed out what we can learn from enamel thickness and from microwear analysis. Specifically, I pointed out that enamel thickness can tell us something about how hard or soft the food being chewed was, and what kind of masticatory stress was being placed on the teeth. I also looked at what pitting and striations could tells us about diet. In the next post I will look at this in a little more detail. I will also look at what we can learn about paleodiets from archaeology.

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6 Responses

  1. How did you sprain your wrist? Is it getting better?

  2. Physical Anthropologists Know The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Dentition.

  3. Alan – Thanks for your concern. Lateral epicondylitis is actually an elbow condition (AKA tennis elbow). I suspect I got it from repetitive motion at work combined with some heavy lifting. Stretching exercises, not stressing it so much, ice, and ibuprofen seem to be working and it is starting to feel better.

  4. Once again I learn. At least I was right about the general identity of the limb.
    Patient: Doc, it hurts when I do this.
    Physician: Then stop doing that.
    But seriously, let me advise varying your routine, taking time for stretching exercises while typing, and practice flexing your muscles. Some folks swear by the last. And speaking of the last, there’s a scene in S. M. Stirling’s The Sunrise Lands where the twins (Rudi Mackenzie’s half sisters)—a pair of Dunedain rangers—use a form of the last as originally taught by U. S. Army special forces and adopted by the founder of the Dunedain, Astrid.

  5. That is one of the papers I was planning on discussing, as soon as I actually sit down and write the darn post. I’m just in full fledged procrastinate mode at the moment.

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