Apart from being crucial for human growth and development, micronutrients can affect birthing hormones and fertility itself. For these reasons, the study of paleodiet is of vital importance. However, this calls for a change in the approach and a greater focus on micronutritive aspects of prehistoric foodstuffs.
Nutritional value of food: evidence from animal bones: all existing results ofarchaeozoological analyses of faunal remains from c. 30 Early Holocene sites in the Central Balkans, along with additional analysis of animal remains from key Mesolithic and Early Neolithic sites in Serbia will be integrated in a single database. This database, cross-referenced with the USDA (Nutrient Database for Standard Reference), will be utilized in order to reconstruct the macronutritive values of animal species used in human diet. The database will also enable the quantification of various animal products through time and space in the Central Balkans. Using reference databases (World Health Organization), the micronutritive values will be estimated for about 15 most commonly exploited animal species: five domestic (cattle, sheep, goat, pig, dog), three wild (red deer, wild boar, roe deer), five fish (beluga sturgeon, Russian sturgeon, catfish, carp, huchen), and two molluscs (Unio, Helix). In addition, special emphasis will be placed on quantification of aquatic resources in human diet, which have not been adequately addressed in previous research on the causes of NDT, even though their micronutritive potential could have played a major role in health and fertility of prehistoric peoples. In order to determine the micronutritive potential of aquatic resources, trace element analysis will be conducted on remains of most commonly hunted fishes. Trace element content will be assessed jointly for 11 elements crucial for human growth and development.
Archaeobotanical micro-remains: the shift towards diet rich in carbohydrates is often cited as one of the key causes of NDT. However, the data on the introduction and availability of carbohydrates in the Early Neolithic is scarce, which makes it difficult to estimate their role in human diet. The goal to employ micro-archaeobotanical remains in order to understand the outset of plant cultivation and consumption, and the role and the effects of domesticated plants in human diet. Direct insight into the status of plants as food is offered by the evidence of food consumption preserved in human dental calculus as unique deposit which tends to contain pollen grains, silicified plant cells – phytoliths, and starch grains – i.e. plant microfossils which represent a direct record of plants an individual has processed. Dental calculus will be sampled from the surfaces of maxillary and/or mandibular teeth. Also, an analysis of plant microremains (starch grains, phytoliths and pollen) in residues potentially preserved on artefacts used in plant food handling will be conducted. Chipped and ground stone artefacts interpreted as tools used for harvesting (of wild grasses and/or cultivated cereals) and grinding (of nuts, roots, tubers, grain), as well as tools made of bone and wood and likely used in food preparation and consumption (e.g. spoons and spatulas) will be of specific interest. Well preserved stone/bone/wood tools with a secure archaeological context will be selected for the analysis.