What did Ancient Britons eat?

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CAMILLA SPELLER, UNIVERSITY OF YORK

By analysing remains trapped in the teeth of skeletons, scientists have found that Ancient Britons were eating dairy products, peas, cabbage and oats.

The new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, is based on 100 archaeological samples from across England. The team analysed dental plaque found on the teeth of skeletons from the Iron Age to post-Medieval times. They found evidence of milk proteins, cereals and plants, as well as an enzyme that aids digestion.

Lead researcher Dr Camilla Speller, from the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, said the technique can distinguish between different crops and show whether people were consuming dairy products like milk or cheese. Proteins found in ancient dental plaque have already revealed that humans were drinking milk as far back as 6,500 BC.

Co-researcher Dr Jessica Hendy from the Department of Archaeology at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, added: “While there is still a lot we don’t know, this is exciting because it shows that archaeological dental calculus harbours dietary information, including food products that ordinarily do not survive in archaeological sites.”

Text     Alun Harvey

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