Archive of European Projects

Bio-mechanical organisation of the modern human mandible in transition from foraging to agriculture (BioMan)
Start date: 20 Jul 2015, End date: 19 Jul 2017 PROJECT  FINISHED 

It has been well over a century and a half since the evolution of our species was linked to developments in technology made by our immediate ancestors. However, do we actually know how these evolutionary changes in modern humans occur and how our own material culture drives our biological adaptation? This project will explore one of the most prominent examples of culture impacting on our anatomy from our recent history – the biological changes that human groups went through with the transition from foraging to an agriculturalist life style. It will test the hypothesis that alterations in diet brought about by changes in the mode of subsistence had a direct biological connection with the evolution of facial morphology among early agricultural populations via changes in mechanical forces acting on our mandible during mastication. Unlike any of the previous studies in the field, we will carry out tests on representatives of archaeological groups that were themselves involved in the process of developing and adapting to early agriculture. In so doing, we will be able to test whether and measure the extent to which modern humans have been affected by evolutionary processes imposed by our material culture, as is widely believed.The project will combine knowledge and techniques from a number of scientific fields: archaeology of pre-historic human populations, human biology, human evolution, bio-mechanics, Finite Element Analysis of material and shape properties and Geometric Morphometrics. We will use samples of human remains from archaeological contexts, which will include Upper Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic and, in some cases, later human remains from three geographical locations: Russia and Ukraine, Romania and Israel. The host laboratory will provide for the state-of-the-art methodology and software required for this project’s success, whereas the candidate fellow will provide for the material access and will bring the knowledge on anthropology and archaeology
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