A research team led by Ryukyu Sawafuji, a researcher at Ryukyu University, has collaborated with Niigata University of Health and Welfare, Institute of Physical and Chemical Research, Waseda University, and the University of Tokyo to extract and analyze DNA from tooth stones attached to ancient human bones during the Edo period. The food and lifestyle at that time were clarified at the individual level.

 Various analytical methods for knowing human food in the past have been developed, but unlike animal bones, plants consisting only of parenchyma such as leaves, stems, and roots are decomposed in the soil and cannot maintain their shape. ..Therefore, in order to restore the actual state of food in the past at the item level, it was necessary to develop and apply a new method.

 This time, the research team focused on DNA analysis of tartar attached to ancient human bones.Tartar contains a small amount of DNA from animals, plants, and fungi derived from food waste.In addition, plants contained in tartar can be investigated by collating with the database.

 In the latter half of the Edo period, the research team extracted and sequenced DNA from tartar attached to the bones of 13 human (tradesman) individuals excavated from Fukagawa (present-day Tokyo), and restored the food at that time.As a result, rice DNA was obtained from more than half (13 out of 8) individuals.In addition, we identified plants of 7 families and 10 genera in total, such as Perilla, Allium, and Radishes.However, due to the characteristics of the research method, DNA from animals other than humans could not be detected.

 We also detected the DNA of plants that are thought to be derived from the lifestyle at that time, such as the DNA of plants belonging to the genus Tobacco.In addition, a component of toothpaste at that time (a resin obtained from a plant of the Dipterocarpaceae family called "Borneocarpaceae") was also detected.

 This time, we applied a method called "DNA metabarcoding method" to tartar for the first time, and we were able to directly restore the eating habits and culture of the Edo period from tartar.By applying this method to materials of various archaeological sites such as prehistoric times, it is expected that new aspects of past eating habits and culture will be elucidated.

Paper information:[PLOS ONE] Ancient DNA analysis of food remains in human dental calculus from the Edo period, Japan

Tokyo University

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The University of Tokyo was established in 1877 (Meiji 10) by integrating the Tokyo Kaisei School and the Tokyo Medical School.Since its establishment, it has developed education and research in a unique way in the world as a leading university in Japan and an academic center for the fusion of East and West cultures.As a result, many human resources have been produced in a wide range of fields, and many research achievements […]

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Niigata University of Health and Welfare
University of the Ryukyus

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It is the only national university in Okinawa prefecture and is the southernmost and westernmost university in Japan.We will ensure the quality of education and develop human resources who can play an active role and contribute to the world by utilizing advanced expertise and problem-seeking ability based on a wide range of education.Fostering wisdom and setting an example for society by fully drawing out diverse personalities and talents and opening up a new era […]

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