The life history pattern of recent humans is uniquely derived in many of its aspects including an extended post-reproductive lifespan combined with short interbirth intervals. A number of theories have been proposed to explain the evolution of this unusual pattern. However most have been difficult to test due to the fragmentary nature of the hominin fossil record and the lack of methods capable of inferring such later life history events. In search of a method we tested the hypothesis that the physiologically impactful events of parturition and menopause are recorded in dental cementum microstructure. We performed histomorphological analyses of 47 teeth from 15 individuals with known life history events and were able to detect reproductive events and menopause in all females. Furthermore, we found that other stressful events such as systemic illnesses and incarceration are also detectable. Finally, through the development of a novel analytical method we were able to time all such events with high accuracy (R-squared = 0.92).
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