Toothpicks were used long before our times, which was recently confirmed by evidence found by researchers excavating in northern Spain.
Wood fibers were found on a tooth in a 1.2-million-year-old hominin jawbone discovered at the excavation site. The fibers were found in a groove at the bottom of the tooth, suggesting they came from regular tooth picking.
In April 2016, archaeologists at the University of York in the UK found the oldest known example of this type of dental cleaning while investigating teeth of the 49,000-year-old remains of a Neanderthal at the El Sidron cave in Spain.
The researchers also found tartar (hardened plaque) on all the teeth in the jawbone except one. An analysis of the tartar revealed that these ancient people ate a balanced diet of meat and starchy foods, and ate their food raw.
Some of the starch granules found in the tartar suggest that grass seeds may have been part of the hominin’s diet.
The tartar also contained conifer pollen grains, suggesting that the hominin lived near a forest.
The intact starch granules and uncharred fibers found on the teeth show that these hominins did not know how to use fire to cook food. Also, the teeth were worn down and had signs of heavy use, suggesting they were used to grip and chew raw materials, the researchers said.
The study was published in the journal The Science of Nature.