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Creation Science Fiction™

Exposing The Lies One Layer At A Time

What Did Neandertals Eat?

It wasn't all mammoth legs or bronto burgers, that's for sure.  New studies into the diet of our ancient cousins suggest a varied diet depending on where they lived, just like we have seen with our species. In many regions and at different times, meat would have been plentiful like in Ice Age Europe, so of course they would have exploited large game. There is even evidence that Neandertal ancestors may have followed migrating herds of the ancestor of the Woolly Mammoth out of Africa and co-evolved many of their adaptions to colder weather alongside that food source. What we now know is many populations of these early humans took advantage of whatever local food source was available and that sometimes they rarely ate meat at all.

Studies done at the El Sidron site in northern Spain show that Neandertals also understood medicinal properties of plants. 

"Researchers from Spain, the UK and Australia combined pyrolysis gas-chromatography-mass spectrometry with morphological analysis of plant microfossils to identify material trapped in dental calculus (calcified dental plaque) from five Neanderthals from the north Spanish site of El Sidrón.  

Their results, published in Naturwissenschaften – The Science of Nature, provide another twist to the story - the first molecular evidence for medicinal plants being used by a Neanderthal individual.

The researchers say the starch granules and carbohydrate markers in the samples, plus evidence for plant compounds such as azulenes and coumarins, as well as possible evidence for nuts, grasses and even green vegetables, argue for a broader use of ingested plants than is often suggested by stable isotope analysis."

One of the more interesting things about the El Sidron site is not only the lack of evidence for eating meat at all, but they found evidence that plant foods were cooked before being eaten.

"The researchers say evidence for cooked carbohydrates is confirmed by both the cracked/roasted starch granules observed microscopically and the molecular evidence for cooking and exposure to wood smoke or smoked food in the form of a range of chemical markers including methyl esters, phenols, and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons found in dental calculus."

Research also shows that while many populations of Neandertals did rely mostly on consuming meat, it was not more than some much more recent populations of Native Americans in the Great Basin area. Just like our species, they relied on what was provided by their environment, and if it worked there was little reason to change.  

Studies of Neandertal coprolites (poop) also confirm a varied diet in certain areas. Samples dated 50,000 years ago show they were likely eating a mixed diet that included berries, nuts, and tubers. This complicates and perhaps helps dismiss the idea that a decline in megafauna due to over hunting or climate change led to their extinction as it appears some groups were eating an extremely varied diet while large numbers of giant beasts were still around. With every new discovery we lean more about our extinct evolutionary cousins. 



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