Detection of plant-derived compounds in XIXth c. Dutch dental calculus
Multiproxy analysis exploring patterns of diet and disease in dental calculus and skeletal remains from a 19th century Dutch population
Recommendation: posted 01 November 2023, validated 03 November 2023
Le Meillour, L. (2023) Detection of plant-derived compounds in XIXth c. Dutch dental calculus. Peer Community in Archaeology, 100389. 10.24072/pci.archaeo.100389
The advent of biomolecular methods has certainly increased our overall comprehension of archaeological societies. One of the materials of choice to perform ancient DNA or proteomics analyses is dental calculus[1,2], a mineralised biofilm formed during the life of one individual. Research conducted in the past few decades has demonstrated the potential of dental calculus to retrieve information about past societies health[3–6], diet[7–11], and more recently, as a putative proxy for isotopic analyses.
Based on a proof-of-concept previously published by their team, Bartholdy and collaborators’ paper presents the identification of compounds and their secondary metabolites derived from consumed plants in individuals from a XIXth century rural Dutch archaeological deposit. Sørensen indeed demonstrated that drug intake is recorded in dental calculus, which are mineralised biofilms that can encapsulate drug compounds long after the latter are no longer detectable in blood. The liquid-chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS)-based method developed showed the potential for archaeological applications.
Bartholdy et al. utilised the developed LC-MS/MS method to 41 buried individuals, most of them bearing pipe notches on their teeth, from the cemetery of the 19th rural settlement of Middenbeemster, the Netherlands. Along with dental calculus sampling and analysis, they undertook the skeletal and dental examination of all of the specimens in order to assess sex, age-at-death, and pathology on the two tissues. The results obtained on the dental calculus of the sampled individuals show probable consumption of tea, coffee and tobacco indicated by the detection of the various plant compounds and associated metabolites (caffeine, nicotine and salicylic acid, amongst others).
The authors were able to place their results in perspective and propose several interpretations concerning the ingestion of plant-derived products, their survival in dental calculus and the importance of their findings for our overall comprehension of health and habits of the XIXth c. Dutch population. The paper is well-written and accessible to a non-specialist audience, maximising the impact of their study. I personally really enjoyed handling this manuscript that is not only a good piece of scientific literature but also a pleasant read, the reason why I warmly recommend this paper to be accessible through PCI Archaeology.
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12. Salazar-García, D. C., Warinner, C., Eerkens, J. W. and Henry, A. G. (2023) The Potential of Dental Calculus as a Novel Source of Biological Isotopic Data. in Exploring Human Behavior Through Isotope Analysis: Applications in Archaeological Research (eds. Beasley, M. M. & Somerville, A. D.) 125–152. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-32268-6_6
13. Sørensen, L. K., Hasselstrøm, J. B., Larsen, L. S. and Bindslev, D. A. (2021) Entrapment of drugs in dental calculus - Detection validation based on test results from post-mortem investigations. Forensic Sci. Int. 319, 110647. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.forsciint.2020.110647
14. Bartholdy, Bjørn Peare, Hasselstrøm, Jørgen B., Sørensen, Lambert K., Casna, Maia, Hoogland, Menno, Historisch Genootschap Beemster and Henry, Amanda G. (2023) Multiproxy analysis exploring patterns of diet and disease in dental calculus and skeletal remains from a 19th century Dutch population, Zenodo, 7649150, ver. 5 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Archaeology. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7649150
The recommender in charge of the evaluation of the article and the reviewers declared that they have no conflict of interest (as defined in the code of conduct of PCI) with the authors or with the content of the article. The authors declared that they comply with the PCI rule of having no financial conflicts of interest in relation to the content of the article.
ERC Horizon 2020 STG–677576
Reviewed by anonymous reviewer 2, 31 Oct 2023
Evaluation round #1
DOI or URL of the preprint: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.8199885
Version of the preprint: 3
Author's Reply, 27 Oct 2023
Decision by Louise Le Meillour, posted 12 Sep 2023, validated 12 Sep 2023
I have received comments from three reviewers on your manuscript and think that, after minor revisions, your preprint should be recommended.
When resubmitting your manuscript, please carefully consider all issues mentioned in the reviewers' comments, outline every change made point by point, and provide suitable rebuttals for any comments not addressed.
I look forward to receiving your revised manuscript as soon as possible,