Ancient Skeletons Suggest Foraging Was Healthier Than Agriculture

Ancient Skeletons Suggest Foraging Was Healthier Than Agriculture

Ancient Skeletons Suggest Foraging Was Healthier Than Agriculture

October 13, 2016

More than four millennia ago in the Titicaca Basin between Peru and Bolivia, ancient foragers consumed a varied diet and engaged in an extremely mobile lifestyle. A recent study of the skeletons of these people suggests that their lifestyle was far healthier than what is seen in later agriculturalists.

Writing in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology this week, bioarchaeologistSara Juengst of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and her colleagues detail their analysis of 14 skeletons dating to the Late Preceramic (3000-1500 BC) period from a site called Muruqullu on the northern tip of the Copacabana Peninsula, Bolivia.

The 14 people included both males and females, children and adults. Unlike the collections found from agriculturalist groups, though, this one was different because evidence of disease was quite rare. There was no indication of nutritional deficiencies on the bones that would imply dietary inadequacy. In fact, the long length of the leg bones suggests quite the opposite: the tall stature of these Late Preceramic foragers points to good health starting in childhood.

“Good nutritional health” of this population, Juengst and colleagues write, “was likely the result of a varied diet — a combination of lacustrine resources such as fish, frogs and tortora reeds, gathered plant resources such as quinoa and potatoes, and use of wild and domesticated large animals.”

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