The teeth had not been exposed to the elements since death, they also harbored another thing not discovered before in early hominins—areas of preserved tartar buildup around the edges of the teeth.
A 2 million-year-old mishap that befell two early members of the human family tree has provided the most robust evidence to date of what at least one pair of hominids ate.
A team of researchers including Peter Ungar, Distinguished Professor of anthropology at the University of Arkansas, reports its findings June 27 in the journal Nature.
Almost 2 million years ago, an elderly female and young male of the species Australopithecus sediba fell into a sinkhole, where their remains were quickly buried in sediment. In 2010, anthropologist Lee Berger of the Institute for Human Evolution at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and his colleagues described the remains of this newly characterized creature. Now a team of scientists has studied the teeth of these specimens, which proved to have unique properties because of how the hominins died.
“We have a very unusual type of preservation,” Ungar said. “The state of the teeth was pristine.”