Background. The archaeological incidence of ancient human faecal material provides a rare opportunity to explore the taxonomic composition and metabolic capacity of the ancestral human intestinal microbiome (IM). Here, we report the results of the shotgun metagenomic analyses of an ancient South African palaeo-faecal specimen.
Methods. Following the recovery of a single desiccated palaeo-faecal specimen from Bushman Rock Shelter in Limpopo Province, South Africa, we applied a multi-proxy analytical protocol to the sample. The extraction of ancient DNA from the specimen and its subsequent shotgun metagenomic sequencing facilitated the taxonomic and metabolic characterisation of this ancient human IM.
Results. Our results indicate that the distal IM of the Neolithic ‘Middle Iron Age’ (c. AD 1460) Bantu-speaking individual exhibits features indicative of a largely mixed forager-agro-pastoralist diet. Subsequent comparison with the IMs of the Tyrolean Iceman (Ötzi) and contemporary Hadza hunter-gatherers, Malawian agro-pastoralists and Italians reveals that this IM precedes recent adaptation to ‘Western’ diets, including the consumption of coffee, tea, chocolate, citrus and soy, and the use of antibiotics, analgesics and also exposure to various toxic environmental pollutants.
Conclusions. Our analyses reveal some of the causes and means by which current human IMs are likely to have responded to recent dietary changes, prescription medications and environmental pollutants, providing rare insight into human IM evolution following the advent of the Neolithic c. 12,000 years ago.
Rifkin, Riaan F.Vikram, SurendraRamond, Jean-Baptiste Rey-Iglesia, AlbaBrand, Tina B.Porraz, GuillaumeVal, AuroreHall, GrantWoodborne, StephanLe Bailly, MatthieuPotgieter, MarnieUnderdown, Simon J.
Koopman, Jessica E.Cowan, Don A.Van de Peer, YvesWillerslev, EskeHansen, Anders J.
Department of Social Sciences
Year of publication: 2020Date of RADAR deposit: 2020-06-22