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Dr. Hamissou Researches Diet of Prehistoric Man in Alabama

31 January, 2004 — Prehistoric man in Alabama fared well on hickory nuts, acorns, and wild game, according to JSU biologist Mijitaba Hamissou. “This information helps us understand sociology. With it, we can better understand ourselves, our history, and how to better our civilization,” he said.

Dr. Hamissou, from Niger, recently helped JSU’s Archeological Research Lab in their quest to learn more about foods eaten by inhabitants of Fort Payne between 10,500 BC and 1,000 AD. Professor Hamissou enlisted the research help of senior Heather McCoy. Ms. McCoy said she decided to pursue a second major in the field because she enjoyed the project. She is considering a career in paleobotony, the study of plant fossils and ancient vegetation.

Dr. Hamissou said it was the lowly hickory nut that provided the bulk of carbohydrates for inhabitants, who ate them raw, boiled them for oil, ground them for dried food, and burned their shells for heat. Acorns were also eaten but were more labor intensive because they had to be processed to leach out the bitter tannin.

Dr. Hamissou said the skeletal remains of deer, elk, and small animals were found around fire hearths, indicating the area’s earliest inhabitants appreciated low-carb feasts. “They were healthy and strong,” said Dr. Hamissou. “They ate these rich foods to fatten up and protect themselves from too much heat loss during the winter months.”

Dr. Hamissou in recent years has focused on how stressed plants cope with the effects of animals, insects, man, pollution, and the environment. He says the study of plant stress is vital because it reveals how to make plants healthier.

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