Funny caveman cartoonIt looks like hunting has always been the best bet for humans. According to recent research, human dental health was way better off before we started farming our food.

Say what?

It’s true. Scientists analyzed the lower parts of jaws and teeth from skeletons thought to be from between 28,000–6,000 years ago. What they found was that there was a “clear separation between European hunter-gatherers, Near Eastern/Anatolian semi-sedentary hunter-gatherers and transitional farmers, and European farmers, based on the form and structure of their jawbones.”

“Our findings show that the hunter gatherer populations have an almost ‘perfect harmony’ between their lower jaws and teeth,” said one researcher, “but this harmony begins to fade when you examine the lower jaws and teeth of the earliest farmers.”

“The lower jaws of the world’s earliest farmers… are not simply smaller versions of those of the predecessor hunter-gatherers… the lower jaw underwent a complex series of shape changes commensurate with the transition to agriculture,” added the researchers.

But why did this happen?

According to the report, “the diet of the hunter-gatherer was based on ‘hard’ foods like wild uncooked vegetables and meat, while the staple diet of the sedentary farmer is based on ‘soft’ cooked or processed foods like cereals and legumes. With soft cooked foods, there is less of a requirement for chewing, which in turn lessens the size of the jaws, but without a corresponding reduction in the dimensions of the teeth, there is no adequate space in the jaws and this often results in malocclusion and dental crowding.”

Apparently, this dental condition has been described as the “malady of civilization” by scientists in the past. So what’s this mean? Presumably it means that hunters are awesome. Okay, maybe it doesn’t mean that. In short, humans and hunting have been linked for a long, long time and this ancient practice has influenced the way even our bodies have changed throughout the centuries.