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Did Neanderthals follow the Paleo diet?

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File:Homo neanderthalensis adult male - head model - Smithsonian Museum of Natural History - 2012-05-17.jpg
Neanderthal 70-80 kya/Tim Evanson, John Gurche

Neanderthals diet: 80% meat, 20% vegetables, according to ScienceDaily:

The paleo-diet is one of the new trends among nutrition-conscious people — but what exactly did the meal plan of our extinct ancestors include? “We have taken a detailed look at the Neanderthals’ diet,” explains Professor Dr. Hervé Bocherens of the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment at the University of Tübingen, and he continues, “In the process, we were able to determine that the extinct relatives of today’s humans primarily fed on large herbivorous mammals such as mammoths and woolly rhinoceroses.”

The two excavation sites in Belgium that were examined offered the international team of scientists led by the biogeologist from Tübingen a vast array of 45,000 to 40,000 year-old bones of mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses, wild horses, reindeer, European bison, cave hyenas, bears and lions as well as the remains of wolves. The immediate vicinity also revealed the bones of several Neanderthals. Based on isotope studies of the collagen in the bones, the researchers were able to demonstrate that the Neanderthals’ diet differed markedly from that of other predatory animals. Collagen is an essential organic component of the connective tissue in bones, teeth, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and the skin.

“Previously, it was assumed that the Neanderthals utilized the same food sources as their animal neighbors,” explains Bocherens, and he adds, “However, our results show that all predators occupy a very specific niche, preferring smaller prey as a rule, such as reindeer, wild horses or steppe bison, while the Neanderthals primarily specialized on the large plant-eaters such as mammoths and woolly rhinoceroses.”

That would make a lot of sense if they knew how to dry the meat and various ways to protect it against scavengers. Then they would not have to hunt nearly so often.

Among others, the scientists from Tübingen hope that their studies will lead to a clearer understanding of what caused the Neanderthals’ extinction around 40,000 years ago. “We are accumulating more and more evidence that diet was not a decisive factor in why the Neanderthals had to make room for modern humans,” says Bocherens in summary. More.

Well no, because we’d all have been eating the same stuff back then.

Note: Scientific American thinks the Paleo diet is half-baked. They have a point. How people ate millennia ago was what they could get. That doesn’t mean it was the best way to eat. Nature isn’t a supermarket. And they certainly didn’t live as long as people do today.

See also: Neanderthal Man: The long-lost relative turns up again, this time with documents

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