Biological anthropologists have discovered a new way of examining the fragile teeth of children who lived between the 11th and 15th centuries without damaging them.
By using 3D microscopic imaging, researchers from the universities of Kent (UK) and Indianapolis (USA) have been able to safely reconstruct the diet of children who would have lived next door to Canterbury Cathedral when Chaucer was writing his famous Tales.
The 3D technology -- known as dental microwear texture analysis -- involved measuring microscopic changes in the surface topography of the teeth.This is the first time that this technology has been applied to children's teeth.
By using this technology Kent's Dr Patrick Mahoney, biological anthropologist, (School of Anthropology and Conservation), and colleagues, who included a historian, were able to learn more about how diet varied among children from poor and wealthy families in medieval Canterbury. Dietary reconstructions from ancient teeth are often destructive, but this technology offers a new way to access this information without damaging fragile teeth.
Dr Mahoney is a leading expert on dental development of modern human children. He expects that applications of this technique will pioneer a new era in anthropological studies, opening up the dietary secrets of ancient children, and our fossil ancestors.
The findings, which were funded by a British Academy-Leverhulme Trust research grant, were presented in the February edition of Journal of Archaeological Science.
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Notes to editors
The University of Kent School of Anthropology and Conservation curates one of the largest collections of medieval human skeletons in the UK. Established in 1965, the University of Kent -- the UK's European university -- now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.
It has been ranked: third for overall student satisfaction in the 2014 National Student Survey; 16th in the Guardian University Guide 2016; 23rd in the Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2016; and 22nd in the Complete University Guide 2015.
In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, Kent is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook and 66th in its table of the most international universities in the world. The THE also ranked the University as 20th in its 'Table of Tables' 2016.
Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.
Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium.
In 2014, Kent received its second Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.