Study: Neanderthals weren’t just meat eaters

A study by US researchers reveals that Neanderthals cooked and ate plants and vegetables.

The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found grains of cooked plant material in the teeth of Neanderthals.

The study is the first to confirm that the Neanderthal diet was not confined to meat and was more sophisticated than previously thought, according to the BBC.

The popular image of Neanderthals as great meat eaters is one that has up until now been backed by some circumstantial evidence. Chemical analysis of their bones suggested they ate little or no vegetables,” the media outlet reported. “This perceived reliance on meat had been put forward by some as one of the reasons these humans become extinct as large animals such as mammoths declined due to an Ice Age.”

But a new analysis of Neanderthal remains from across the world has found fossilised grains of vegetable material in Neanderthals’ teeth, with some of it cooked.

Professor Alison Brooks, from George Washington University, told BBC News: “We have found pollen grains in Neanderthal sites before but you never know whether they were eating the plant or sleeping on them or what.

“But here we have a case where a little bit of the plant is in the mouth so we know that the Neanderthals were consuming the food.”

The Neanderthals, a powerfully built species, evolved to cope with the climate of Ice Age Europe, according to the BBC. By 20,000 years ago, Neanderthals were extinct.

While their brains were bigger than that of humans, Neanderthals never developed the technology of their Homo sapiens contemporaries.

The study raised several questions, including: why the chemical analysis of Neanderthal bones have been inaccurate. According to Professor Brooks, the tests were measuring proteins levels, which the researchers assumed came from meat.

“We’ve tended to assume that if you have a very high value for protein in the diet that must come from meat. But… it’s possible that some of the protein in their diet was coming from plants,” she told the BBC.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s