Isotopic evidence of high reliance on plant food among Later Stone Age hunter-gatherers at Taforalt, Morocco

Bibliographic Collection: 
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Moubtahij, Zineb; McCormack, Jeremy; Bourgon, Nicolas; Trost, Manuel; Sinet-Mathiot, Virginie; Fuller, Benjamin T.; Smith, Geoff M.; Temming, Heiko; Steinbrenner, Sven; Hublin, Jean-Jacques; Bouzouggar, Abdeljalil; Turner, Elaine; Jaouen, Klervia
Year of Publication: 2024
Journal: Nature Ecology & Evolution
Date Published: 2024/04/29
Publication Language: eng
ISBN Number: 2397-334X

The transition from hunting-gathering to agriculture stands as one of the most important dietary revolutions in human history. Yet, due to a scarcity of well-preserved human remains from Pleistocene sites, little is known about the dietary practices of pre-agricultural human groups. Here we present the isotopic evidence of pronounced plant reliance among Late Stone Age hunter-gatherers from North Africa (15,000–13,000 cal BP), predating the advent of agriculture by several millennia. Employing a comprehensive multi-isotopic approach, we conducted zinc (δ66Zn) and strontium (87Sr/86Sr) analysis on dental enamel, bulk carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) and sulfur (δ34S) isotope analysis on dentin and bone collagen, and single amino acid analysis on human and faunal remains from Taforalt (Morocco). Our results unequivocally demonstrate a substantial plant-based component in the diets of these hunter-gatherers. This distinct dietary pattern challenges the prevailing notion of high reliance on animal proteins among pre-agricultural human groups. It also raises intriguing questions surrounding the absence of agricultural development in North Africa during the early Holocene. This study underscores the importance of investigating dietary practices during the transition to agriculture and provides insights into the complexities of human subsistence strategies across different regions.

Short Title: Nature Ecology & Evolution