New research published in the Feb. 11, 2013, issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences offers new insight into how and when culture in Europe changed from Mesolithic hunter-gatherers to Neolithic farmers by examining the strontium content of ancient people’s teeth.
T. Douglas Price, a University of Wisconsin-Madison archaeologist, and Cardiff University's Dusan Boric, measured strontium isotopes in the teeth of 153 humans from Neolithic burials in an area known as the Danube Gorges in modern Romania and Serbia.
The Danube Gorges area offered ancient peoples a passable river route into Europe and provided a plentiful source of food for hunter-gatherers and farmers.
The researchers found the earliest evidence that Neolithic farmers migrated into Europe about 8,000 years ago according to the strontium content of the ancient’s teeth. Strontium is very stable over time and teeth from ancient remains are the longest lasting bones due to tooth enamel.
This discovery also indicates a never before known pathway of entry of early Neolithic farmers into Europe by a route across the Black Sea or up the east coast of Bulgaria to the Danube.
The large number of women involved in the remains indicates the entire conversion of Europe to a farming and animal domestication form of existence probably took about two hundred years. Sex can be determined from the relative shape, size, and mineral content of teeth.