Microbes are microorganisms that can either be a healing or hindering factor in the fitness of the organism they inhabit. One of the more researched specimens is “Otzi the Iceman”, a Neanderthal from the Neolithic age (5350-5100 B.P.) who was found in an Italian alpine glacier whose examination has lead to further finding’s about prehistoric man. Microbes from prehistoric human samples, such as Otzi, have allowed scientists, through various different studies of microbes, to find further information concerning human migration, medical, and dental fields.
Populations of microbes found in human remains can give us hints to the evolution of the prehistoric humans that they embodied (Wirth et al. 2005) and there have been multiple microbial candidates for research in the migration of early humans. Researchers have utilized the human papillomavirus (HPV) as a viral candidate for microbial tracking of ancient populations. HPV was a viable candidate due to its rate of mutation. The HPV-18 variant of the virus can be used to accurately date prehistoric samples due to its similarities with closely related variants found in modern Amazonian and Japanese patients, which allow us to estimate the mutation rate more accurately (Wirth et al. 2005). Another useful mycobacterium for understanding origins of prehistoric man is Heliobacter pylori, a bacterium that can survive within the stomach for decades at a time (Falush et al. 2003). Genetic differences within the populations of H. pylori have been divided into geographic subdivisions (Falush et al. 2003) which can allow us to spot similarities between populations from different geographical locations and infer possible migration patterns of ancient humans.
There were many techniques and substances used as cures and remedies that played a pivotal role in the survival of prehistoric man. The discovery of Otzi allowed scientists to perform anatomical, histological and molecular investigations (Cano et al. 2000) on the organs of a person from the Neolithic age for the first time, and, upon studying the Iceman’s gut, scientists discovered that mosses acidity was used to fight infections. Heliobacter pylori, which was previously mentioned in our article, was found in the Iceman’s system and was hypothesized to be the cause of the heart and gum disease he was found to be suffering from (Handwerk 2016). Today’s discoveries have shown that micro-organisms play a central part in maintaining our health when stress, poor eating habits, antimicrobial drugs, illness, and environmental disruptions make us vulnerable. These health issues cause a variety of systematic and common maladies such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, irritable bowel disease and colon cancer.
Recently Warinner et al. have analyzed that “the human oral, gut, skin… microbiota play critical roles in maintaining host health” by heavily aiding in digestion, immune responses, and through competing out harmful bacteria when they try to take root in the body (2015). Many researchers believe that to analyze ancient man’s diet and the resulting oral bacteria would be a step forward in developing more effective treatments and preventative measures in dental care. Treatments for a whole range of medical issues, including rotting teeth and gums, could include specific mixtures of probiotics. A simple method to revitalize and rebalance the human microbiome is to “cut out all of those processed carbs and start eating like our ancestors” (WashingtonsBlog, 2013). Scientists and doctors must now look to the biology of the past and present to address the root of the problem.
Looking at how humans interact with “commensal organisms, pathogens and hosts impact human evolution” (Harkins and Stone, 2014) is a major part in understanding the field of ancient pathogen genomics. In addition, the utilization of microbial samples (such as H. pylori and HPV) can also improve our understanding of the migration history of prehistoric man. Analysis of gut microbiomes have also led to theories of medical practices of prehistoric humans. Consequently, the average human diet has changed drastically from prehistoric to modern times due to the industrialization and globalization of modern society (Warinner et al. 2015). Through the examination of ancient human microbes, scientists have discovered factors in medical, migration and dental fields that have played a crucial role in the survival of prehistoric man