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Neanderthals ate roasted vegetables

Analysis performed on Neanderthal teeth show the hominims ate roasted vegetables.

Neanderthals have long been viewed as meat-eaters. The vision of them as inflexible carnivores has even been used to suggest that they went extinct around 25,000 years ago as a result of food scarcity, whereas omnivorous humans were able to survive. But evidence is mounting that plants were important to Neanderthal diets — and now a study reveals that those plants were roasted, and may have been used medicinally.

The finding comes from the El Sidrón Cave in northern Spain, where the roughly 50,000-year-old skeletal remains of at least 13 Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) have been discovered. Many of these individuals had calcified layers of plaque on their teeth. Karen Hardy, an anthropologist at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain, wondered whether it might be possible to use this plaque to take a closer look at the Neanderthal menu.

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Story: Matt Kaplan, Nature | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

One thought on “Neanderthals ate roasted vegetables

  1. Excellent article Sevaan! I believe that the meat-only-diet defaulting stemmed from cultural myths centered on the first impression of their shorter and more robust frames. Surely only meat protein could produce that, our 1920’s pop science told us. Most meat only offers 5 to 9 of the 18 amino acids we need to build strong robust frames. Plants offer all 18. Given that the divergence of Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA is only on the order of 210-235 base pairs from Sapiens, we should have followed the hierarchical null hypothesis and presumed for H(o) that plants were both a food as well as a medicinal, in the Neanderthal diet. Could we not put 2 and 2 together that a culture which practiced ritual burials for 300,000 years and suffered the vagaries of wandering foodstock herds, surely at some point would have at least tried plant consumption – and given their similar genomic makeup – found it to be beneficial? I think taking this long to arrive at that idea, is well….sort of Neanderthal-ish…..on our part.

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