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Here, we report for the first time the direct effect of dietary abrasiveness as evidenced by the buccal microwear patterns on the teeth of the Sima del Elefante-TE9 and Gran Dolina-TD6 Atapuerca hominins (1.2–0.8 million years ago − Myr) as compared with other Lower and Middle Pleistocene populations.A unique buccal microwear pattern that is found in Homo antecessor (0.96–0.8 Myr), a well-known cannibal species, indicates dietary practices that are consistent with the consumption of hard and brittle foods."This new timeline has significant implications in helping us to understand this period of human evolution," Hardy said."Cooked food provides greater energy, and cooking may be linked to the rapid increases in brain size that occurred from 800,000 years ago onwards."In addition, the new timeline fits with research suggesting that cooking with fire is linked to the development of salivary amylase, which breaks down starch, Hardy said."Here, we have been able to demonstrate that these earliest Europeans understood and exploited their forested environment to obtain a balanced diet 1.2 million years ago, by eating a range of different foods and combining starchy plant food with meat," added Hardy, who is also a research professor at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona in Spain.It's not entirely clear when human ancestors first used fire for cooking.
Hominin dietary specialization is crucial to understanding the evolutionary changes of craniofacial biomechanics and the interaction of food processing methods’ effects on teeth.The dietary strategies of the European Lower Pleistocene hominins from Atapuerca (Burgos, Spain) have been inferred solely from faunal assemblages that were found in the same levels where the human remains were unearthed.The TE9 Unit at the Sima del Elefante site (1.2 Myr) has yielded a broad range of medium and large-sized mammals and even tortoises that show anthropogenic modifications, which indicate that they were part of the hominin diet have provided valuable information of Middle Pleistocene species.Area de Prehistoria, Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV), Avinguda de Catalunya 35, 43002 Tarragona, Spain; IPHES, Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social, C/ Marcel.lí Domingo s/n, Campus Sescelades URV (Edifici W3), 43007 Tarragona, Spain.Area de Prehistoria, Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV), Avinguda de Catalunya 35, 43002 Tarragona, Spain; IPHES, Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social, C/ Marcel.lí Domingo s/n, Campus Sescelades URV (Edifici W3), 43007 Tarragona, Spain. This paper presents the lithic assemblages documented at Sima del Elefante (TE) and their importance in the context of the Early and Middle Pleistocene human occupation of Europe.