Paleolithic Diet: Were Neanderthals Meat Eaters or Vegetarians?

Paleolithic Diet: Were Neanderthals Meat Eaters or Vegetarians?

The proponents of the Paleolithic diet may find that the Neanderthals diet was far from what is today considered a balanced diet. Our early human ancestors that lived in Europe and part of Asia around 600,000 to 350,000 years ago have been shown to be almost exclusively meat eaters. Their diet consisted of big and small game animals. However newer research has shown that the cavemen also consumed seafood and even plants and vegetables.

Meat Eaters

The examination of the Neanderthals skeleton remains and of the stone-tipped and wooden spears findings reveal a Neanderthal diet consisting almost entirely of animals. The Paleolithic diet explained in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences consists of land animals, such as mammoth, deer and horse. The protein in their diet coming from plants was insignificant.

Newer findings confirmed the Neanderthals as meat eaters adding bear, wild boar, ibex and rabbit in the menu. BBC News science correspondent reported that the findings in eastern Gibraltar revealed the Neanderthals as capable of living off the sea as well. The cavemen would also eat dead dolphins that were washed on the beach and hunt monk seals. They also ate bone marrow and shellfish (mussels) which they would cook in a fire.

Neanderthals Ate Vegetables

A US study is the first to confirm that the Neanderthal diet was more varied than previously thought. The research which has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that the Neanderthals ate vegetables as well. They even cooked them. BBC News science correspondent reports.

Professor Alison Brooks from George Washington University casts doubts on previous chemical studies on Neanderthal bones. These studies assumed that the high levels of protein found came exclusively from meat. “But… it’s possible that some of the protein in [the Neanderthals] diet was coming from plants,” she told the BBC.

Pollen grains have been found in Neanderthal sites before but scientists were not sure whether the cavemen ate plants or where sleeping on them. The US study put the vegetables back in the Paleolithic diet: researchers found fossilised grains of vegetable material not just in Neanderthal sites but in the cavemen’s teeth. Starch grains were collected of which some belonged to barley, water lilies and sorghum, a kind of grass, The Guardian reports on December, 27 (“Neanderthals may have feasted on meat and two veg diet”). There was also evidence of cooking.

Paleolithic Diet

So what was on the menu in the Paleolithic diet as it emerges from scientific studies? Large amounts of meat that comes from land animals, big and small game, such as mammoth, bear, ibex, deer and wild boar; sea animals, such as dolphin and seal and shellfish, such as mussels. Vegetables have also been shown to be present in the cavemen diet. The findings suggest that the Neanderthals diet was more sophisticated than previously thought and that these cavemen consumed foods similar to early modern diets.

Categories: Diet, Health, Nutrition