Research conducted by a University of Oklahoma anthropology professor has been named one of the top 100 stories of the year by Discover Magazine.
Christina Warinner directed a study of dental plaque from four Medieval skeletons. She published her research in Nature this past February. Discover Magazine was so impressed it’s ranked it the 69th best science story of the year and will feature it in an article in its January/February issue of the top 100 stories of of 2014.
According to OU, Warinner’s study found evidence of ancient DNA from wheat, pork, mutton, and a plant belonging to the mustard family. She also found ancient protein from cattle, sheep, and goat milk.
Photo credit: Malin Holst, courtesy: University of Oklahoma
The picture above shows a human jawbone that dates to the 1st-4th century from York, UK. Dr. Warinner doesn’t know the sex but says the person was in their 20s or 30s when they died. You can clearly see the build-up of dental plaque on the teeth. Dr. Warinner says this particular example tested positive of milk proteins.
Warinner wrote an article for CNN in 2012
explaining what she does and why it’s so important. “By extracting DNA from ancient human bones, we can reconstruct the human genome at different times in the past and look for differences that might be related to adaptations, risk factors, or inherited diseases,” she wrote. Adding, “The aim is to better understand the evolutionary vulnerabilities of the human body so that we can better manage and improve our health in the future.”
Want more with some cool illustrations? Here she is giving a presentation at TED in 2012.