Dietary ROOTS: Domestication, Diet, and Diseases

Humans are unique for their immense diversity in dietary intake, which has facilitated human adaptation to most environmental niches. This dietary flexibility is a major achievement of human culture. It is the result of a combination of the ability to develop new technologies that facilitate food production, diverse and highly evolved culinary traditions, and social rules that further shape human omnivore biology. Determining the origins of foodstuffs and uncovering how cultural practices and connectivities shape dietary intake is key to diagnosing the relationship between dietary changes, animal, human and plant phenotypes, and diseases.

By integrating archaeological and biomolecular techniques, Dietary ROOTS investigates how ancient subsistence practices were reciprocally influenced by both environmental and social factors (e.g. climate, land-use, social hierarchies, and worldviews). It also identifies the role that different degrees of connectivities played. The Subcluster links these palaeodietary findings with the development of nutritional and metabolic diseases identifiable in the genomic, proteomic, metabolomic, and osteological record. Dietary ROOTS will achieve this via three primary research themes:

  1. Food traits: The co-evolutionary dynamics between subsistence practices, economic goals, social demands, and trait selection in plants and animals by humans during domestication;
  2. Food culture: The interrelationship between the development of food processing techniques, food products, and the socio-cultural sphere;
  3. Diseases: The impact of food on the development of nutritional and metabolic diseases.

The main research questions addressed by Dietary ROOTS are: what were the co-evolutionary dynamics between daily subsistence practices, economic goals, social demands, and trait selection in plants and animals? What was the impact of social-cultural factors on the development of food procurement and processing techniques and food culture? What role did trait selection in food sources and food culture play in the evolution of metabolic and nutritional diseases?



Fieldwork + Activities


Participating Institutions