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5 May 2015
Extra molar identified for the first time in an Atapuerca hominid

A fourth molar tooth has been identified in the remains of an individual - about 40 years old, and probably male - recovered from a collective burial in north central Spain known as Cueva de El Mirador, dated to around 4,760 and 4,200 years ago. Humans typically have three molars on each side, top and bottom, but between 1 in 1,000 and 34 in 1,000 present-day persons will have a fourth.
     This is the first time a scientific journal has published the existence of this phenomenon in ancient populations, and the first case identified in Atapuerca - a UNESCO World Heritage Centre which includes the earliest and most abundant evidence of humans in Europe. Marina Lozano, one of the authors of the article, says: "In the case of archaeological populations there are very few studied and published examples of supernumerary teeth. Therefore, it is a novelty".
     This individual suffered severe dental wear, a variety of oral diseases, arthritis of the jaw joint, and has tooth-picking marks in an upper molar. Lozano concludes: "This diagnosis confirms that oral health from the Neolithic became worse in agriculture and livestock populations."
     During this period the diet changes, including more cereals - foods that have more starches and carbohydrates.

Edited from Iphes News (22 April 2015)

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