Neanderthal Diet or Cavemen Eating Habits: Were the Neanderthals Meat Eaters?

Neanderthal Diet or Cavemen Eating Habits: Were the Neanderthals Meat Eaters?

The first Neanderthals lived in Europe and parts of Asia around 600,000 to 350,000 years ago.

Debate has been going on for years about the Neanderthals’ relation to modern humans but the current consensus seems to be that the Homo neanderthalensis is a separate species that shares a common ancestor with Homo sapiens. The Neanderthal diet has also been debated and the cavemen’s eating habits even gave rise to a new species of fad diets.

Neanderthal Diet

Were the Neanderthals meat eaters? In their “Neanderthal diet” published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (vol. 97, 13), Michael Richards et al have shown that the Neanderthals’ dietary protein came almost exclusively from animals. This conclusion has been supported by analysis of the fossil skeleton remains; the discovery of stone-tipped and wooden spears and the remains of such spears in the remains of animals; and the trauma found in parts of the caveman’s anatomy pointing to close encounters with animals.

This research suggests that the Neanderthals were meat eaters and that the protein from plants in their diet was insignificant. They were very effective and skilled predators as they were scavengers. By analysing the isotopes or atoms of the Neanderthal bones scientists can glimpse the cavemen’s eating habits. Their favourite meats included land animals such as mammoth, deer and horse. This diet of big game meat was on the menu of the Neanderthals of northern Europe in particular.

Were the Cavemen Meat Eaters?

Newer finds reveal that the Neanderthals were not only meat eaters and that their diet did not exclusively consist of big game. Excavations in seaside sites of eastern Gibraltar reveal different eating habits. As BBC Science correspondent, Jonathan Amos reports in his “Neanderthals enjoyed a broad menu”, the Neanderthal menu consisted of land animals, such as bear, wild boar, deer, ibex and rabbit. However, the Homo neanderthalensis was also capable of living off the sea.

These meat eaters would also eat shellfish, such as mussels, which they would cook in a fire to open them up. Seal and dolphin were also part of the Neanderthal diet. The cavemen would either eat dead dolphins that were washed onto the beach or hunt monk seals which they would club to death, dismember and eat raw. The bones were put in fires to make them brittle so that the marrow inside can be eaten.

The Neanderthal diet consisted of big and small game animals as well as shellfish, seals, dolphins (dead) and marrow. These cavemen eating habits suggest that the Neanderthals could exploit the resources of their environment more efficiently than it was earlier thought.

Categories: Diet, Nutrition, Weight Loss