ANCIENT_TETH: An integrative analysis of shifting trends in dental traits in human populations from Neolithic to Iron Age.

Image project

Brief summary of the project

The shift to agriculture was one of the most significant events in human evolution driving major biological and cultural change globally. A key element in all indigenous agricultural transitions is a shift to sedentarism, which is accompanied by changes in subsistence from hunter-gathering to farming. The nature, duration and timing of the onset of agriculture varied across Europe, as well as the technological, cultural and biological evolution following this transition. This shift started in the Great Hungarian Plain (GHP) around 6,000 cal BC, followed by several cultural and technological transitions during the next several millennia. The objective of the present project is to characterize, for the first time, the changes in dental traits of past European populations from the Neolithic to Iron Age, and the factors influencing these transitions, integrating data from several multidisiciplinary and state-of-the-art approaches.

Research questions

ANCIENT TEETH project aims to answer the following questions:

1. Can population replacements observed from Neolithic to Iron Age in GHP through molecular studies be confirmed using the dental morphology proxy for genetics? 

MicroCt_GMA recent study on genome flux and stasis from Early Neolithic to Iron Age in the GHP have shown evidence for clear genome shifts coinciding with the advents of the Bronze and Iron Ages, bracketing a 2,800 year period of Neolithic stasis. Since tooth morphology is subjected to strong genetic control, dental morphology traits are expected to have suffered changes through this five millennium transect. With this in mind, this project will investigate the morphological changes in the enamel dentine junction (EDJ) by using high-resolution μCT data of upper molars and geometric morphometric (GM) methods for the study morphological patterns.

To read more about the first results go here.

 2. Did the above-mentioned population replacements correspond to significant changes in diet?

Figure adapted from Schulting 1998. Source:

It is expected that dietary shifts occurred with the appearance of new technological and cultural changes. Stable isotope analysis is commonly used for interpreting diets and subsistence patterns in prehistoric populations, as it estimates the relative importance of various foods in past diets. In order to answer if significant changes in diet occurred in the Great Hungarian Plain during prehistoric times, stable isotope analysis will be use in order to characterize subsistence and dietary patterns of the people who lived in this particular area from Neolithic to Iron Age and if they are in accordance of the genomic shift occurred in the Great Hungarian Plain.

To read more about the first results go here.

3. Were dietary patterns homogenous within populations or did social stratification, as that resulting from sex, play a differentiating role?


 Despite the limitations of genetic data as a source of information for discerning details of human evolution, they constitute an irreplaceable source of information to appraise the key events that are likely to have had major impacts on patterns of genetic and morphological variation. In this sense, this project will employ ancient DNA approaches to confirm the molecular sex of individuals. The use of this method will overcome the inaccuracy of some morphological methods for sexing juvenile individuals and fragmentary remains, thus allowing testing hypothesis about sex differences in ancient human remains. At the same time, this project will confirm the usefulness of the combination of Genetics and Archaeology fields and will consolidate molecular sexing method as a common practice when studying archaeological remains

Publications and results


26th EAA Virtual Metting. Oral Contribution: Gamarra, B., McCall, A., Del Bove, A., Koós, J., Csengeri, P., Kalli, A., Domboróczki, L., Anders, A., Feeney, R.N.M., Pinhasi, R. Dental morphological analysis of Neolithic to Iron Age populations from the Great Hungarian Plain. A Geometric Morphometrics approach.

PLOS_ONE_HiResGamarra, B., Howcroft, R., McCall, A., Dani, J., Hajdú, Z., Nagy, E.G., Szabó, L.D., Domboróczki, L., Pap, I., Raczky, P., Marcsik, A.,  offmann, Z. K., Hajdu, T., Feeney, R. N. M., Pinhasi, R. (2018). 5000 years of dietary variations of prehistoric farmers in the Great Hungarian Plain. PLoS ONE 13(5): e0197214.

logo (1)23rd Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologist, Maastrich (Netherlands). 2017. Poster: Gamarra, B., Howcroft, R., McCall, A., Dani, J., Domboróczki,L., Pap, I., Raczky, P., Anders, A., Hajdu, T., Pinhasi, R. 5000 years of dietary variations of prehistoric farmers at the Great Hungarian Plain.