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Neanderthals Ate Their Veggies 151

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the except-for-brussel-sprouts dept.
sciencehabit (1205606) writes Scientists excavating an archaeological site in southern Spain have finally gotten the real poop on Neanderthals, finding that the Caveman Diet for these quintessential carnivores included substantial helpings of vegetables. Using the oldest published samples of human fecal matter, archaeologists have found the first direct evidence that Neanderthals in Europe cooked and ate plants about 50,000 years ago.
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Neanderthals Ate Their Veggies

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    • by Anonymous Coward

      Bros don't crossfit, hipsters do.

      • Stupid knows no borders.

        • There's nothing inherently stupid about crossfit if serious soreness and kicking your own ass is what your after.
          • Using the oldest published samples of human fecal matter

            Is that what the cool kids are saying now? "Mom, I'm going to go publish for a while, don't worry, I'll spray some Glade"

            Footnote: A quick perusal of Amazon's self-published material indicates the likely answer is yes...

    • by sjwt (161428)

      Well the article does state 'The tests revealed that the poop “clearly” contained high proportions of cholesterol and coprostanol from eating meat'.
      Add in that they are unwilling to do a percentage analysis says either there methods are not refined enough to do so or the results are not impressive enough to grab the headline.

      • by Reziac (43301) *

        Or there's a bit of vegetarian agenda being pushed here (not for the first time with such research).

  • I have seen them order the roast duck with the magno salsa.
  • by kruach aum (1934852) on Thursday June 26, 2014 @07:57AM (#47323487)

    Omnivores eating things that are edible? I thought extraordinary claims required extraordinary proof.

    • by Thanshin (1188877) on Thursday June 26, 2014 @07:59AM (#47323509)

      Omnivores eating things that are edible? I thought extraordinary claims required extraordinary proof.

      In this case, extraordinary claims did require extraordinary poop.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Poopycock!

        Every animal when faced with hunger, will try to eat anything that looks remotely edible to it. The belief that neanderthals wouldn't be eating vegetables regularly is ridiculous.

      • by Shakrai (717556)

        In this case, extraordinary claims did require extraordinary poop.

        Queue image of Jeff Goldblum, taking off his sunglasses, then saying "That is one big pile of shit."

    • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

      Omnivores eating things that are edible? I thought extraordinary claims required extraordinary proof.

      Ohh, I hope it was gluten free.

    • Re:Seems strange. (Score:5, Informative)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday June 26, 2014 @08:12AM (#47323593) Journal
      It's nice to see that somebody found some coproliths (isn't it nice that there's a scientific synonym for 'shit rocks'?) and managed to get more detailed data (tooth structure and clever isotopic work can distinguish carnivores from onmivores or herbivores; but actual digested material might even allow you to identify plant types, depending on preservation, presence of seeds, etc.); but I'd always had the impression that the 'Cavemen, like, ate meat all the time' considered so disproven as to be barely worth mentioning, given that the dental records suggested that neanderthals weren't wildly different from humans in terms of chewing optimizations, and basically every pre-agricultural society ever(except maybe inuit, since there isn't much to 'gather' on the ice) have combined some amount of hunting with some amount of gathering.

      There is a fairly noticeable change when agriculture hits the scene (suddenly all rice/millet/wheat/etc. all the time becomes a thing for the squalid underclass, minus any small livestock that can be raised on scraps); but there is nothing suggesting that hominids with alternatives ever went meat-only.
      • by gstoddart (321705)

        It's nice to see that somebody found some coproliths (isn't it nice that there's a scientific synonym for 'shit rocks'?)

        They should have called them crapoliths. ;-)

      • . . .except maybe inuit, since there isn't much to 'gather' on the ice. . .

        They didn't really live on the ice. It was just a temporary place to use while hunting. While the Inupiat and Yupik (as well as other Inuit people) obtained (and many still do) most of their calories from hunting, they still gathered and preserved tubers, lichen, seaweed and berries. I don't think any Inuit cultivated crops, but some did practice animal husbandry.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Axynter (684016)
        Dental records are not as relevant for a species that uses tools to process food; tools/food processing technologies can make any food item suitable for any dentition.

        The thing with Neanderthals is that _direct_ evidence (c.f. article) from the isotopic composition of bone collagen indicates they obtained most of their _protein_ from meat. This doesn't mean they didn't eat veggies - low protein fruits, for example, would be more or less invisible isotopically. What the isotope data tells us is that they r
        • by Reziac (43301) *

          Seems to me the important point here is that they COOKED and ate plants... indicating that uncooked plants were unsuitable food.

          And as you say, poop only indicates what they ate this week. Maybe it's a seasonal crop. Maybe it indicates the hunting was poor. Maybe someone had dietary perversions.

          And maybe it was why they died out -- being reduced to relying on unsuitable foods.

  • by overlook77 (988190) on Thursday June 26, 2014 @07:57AM (#47323493)
    Look how that worked out for them....
  • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Thursday June 26, 2014 @07:59AM (#47323511) Homepage
    Not sure how much one sample can tell us about the diet of an entire species.
    • Re:One Sample (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jeffb (2.718) (1189693) on Thursday June 26, 2014 @08:15AM (#47323609)

      Seems like it shoots down the idea that no Neanderthal ate cooked veggies.

      One counterexample goes a long way toward rejecting a theory.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If it was said that they were only carnivores and we found evidence of them eating vegetables, then that does refute the original hypothesis for the entire species.

    • Re:One Sample (Score:5, Insightful)

      by netsavior (627338) on Thursday June 26, 2014 @09:10AM (#47324029)
      The fact that they had a high rate of conversion (i.e. they digested the plant instead of passing it) it is reasonable to assume that they were ADAPTED to eating veggies, which means it was part of the reason they survived/evolved.

      Finding veggies in stool is no big deal, wild cats poop out grass all the time, it doesn't make them true omnivores.

      They found DIGESTED vegetable matter, that is the true find, and one that easily extrapolates across the entire species.
      • Great point, I had not thought of that. But it still does not differentiate between 95% of the calories being from meat or 5% being from meat in some average Neanderthal diet.
      • by Nutria (679911)

        it is reasonable to assume that they were ADAPTED to eating veggies

        The other Homininae digest plant matter, so why should we think that Neaderthal did not eat any plant matter?

        • It's romanticizing them, if you'd call picturing the Neanderthals as brutish carnivores romantic. In similar fashion Jean Auel popularized the theory of a cult based around worship of the cave bear, but it turned out those fossils simply turned out to be from bears who died during hibernation in caves where Homo sapiens neanderthal happened to have inhabited earlier/later.

        • by dylan_- (1661)

          The other Homininae digest plant matter, so why should we think that Neaderthal did not eat any plant matter?

          Because it's a good idea to think you might be wrong. It encourages you to think of ways to *prove* that you're wrong.

  • Wrong species (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Before people start claiming that this proves that our ancestors ate such-and-such... remember Neanderthals aren't ancestors of modern Homo Sapiens but a different evolutionary branch altogether.

    Which isn't to say that their and our common ancestors must have eaten a substantially different diet. Also, apparently there was some cross-breeding between our various ancestral species.

    So what was my point again? Never mind.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Modern humans are a hybrid species: Sapiens, Neanderthal, Desovionian, and there are genetic hints of a fourth yet unidentified subspecies that has contributed to the modern genome.

    • Species means you cannot have fertile interbreeding. But we could and did interbreed. Up to 5% of European and Asian genes are neadertal.

      As discoveries accumlate it looks more and more like neadertal did most of same cultural things as homo double-sapiens: composite tools, fire, language, art, clothing, etc. The degree of culture may have been different.

      It also appears neadertal had larger and more complex brains [blogspot.com] than double-sapiens.
      • by dryeo (100693)

        Species is much more subtle then no fertile interbreeding. Example, ring species where you have types a,b,c and a can breed with b, b can breed with c but a can not breed with c. There are examples (big cats I believe) where the off spring are fertile if a is male and b is female but infertile if b is male and a is female. Then there are the species that are fertile across species but aren't turned on by the other species or have different breeding seasons so don't breed.
        Basically species are more of a spec

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          Then there are the species that are fertile across species but aren't turned on by the other species or have different breeding seasons so don't breed.

          So, the opposite of James T. Kirk then?

          • by dryeo (100693)

            Kirk is more like a male dog, tries to breed with everything including legs without caring about species or pretty much anything but getting his rocks off.

    • by Arker (91948)
      Neanderthals do not appear to have been a fully separate species, but rather a subspecies or race of humans.
  • What does that tell us about Neanderthals?

  • by Joe Gillian (3683399) on Thursday June 26, 2014 @08:11AM (#47323587)

    One thing I'd be curious to find out is whether or not the Neanderthals were doing this because they preferred vegetables, or because they had nothing else around to eat.

    • You are asking the wrong question. There is no reason to suppose that Neanderthals preferred vegetables, since the conclusion is that they ate both vegetables and meat. I like meat, but I also eat vegetables. I do not eat vegetables because I prefer them to meat. Nor do I eat vegetables because I have nothing else around to eat. I eat vegetables because I like them (and sometimes because they are good for me).
      • You get your food from a grocery store, where everything is plentiful.

        Thus your anecdote has no bearing on the question.

        Go camping for a week without food, and have to scavenge for yourself. See what you 'prefer'.

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          Go camping for a week without food, and have to scavenge for yourself. See what you 'prefer'.

          I already know the answer to this: room service.

        • If you "go camping for a week", you are probably going to be eating berries and mushrooms, with possibly a fish.

          You probably are not going to be eating fresh elk.

        • It does not matter. There is no reason to suppose that Neanderthals preferred vegetables, nor that they preferred meat, since they ate both. While it is possible, probably even likely, that their diet consisted primarily of whatever they could find that was edible, it is unlikely that they chose vegetables ONLY because that was all they could get or because they preferred them to meat.
    • by will_die (586523)
      It was done as a bar bet after of bunch of shepherds were out drinking beer.
    • Good question, one I guess the paleo environmental folk might be able to shed light on (what species of flora and fauna were in the area). But folk can really like a big steak when they are hungry and equally really enjoy fresh picked fruits on a hot summer's day, there doesn't need to be a conflict on a taste front. From a survival strategy perspective it makes sense to be happy with either hunted or gathered food sources, reduces your risk of starvation. Your tribe's not going to survive that long if you

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gstoddart (321705)

      I've always assumed that if they were hunter gatherers, part of the 'gathering' is likely to be food derived from plants.

      If it has teeth like an omnivore, and poops like an omnivore, it's probably a freaking omnivore.

      I should think not long after they got fire, they started cooking stuff.

      My guess, they collected anything they knew they could eat, and ate it.

    • by hey! (33014)

      In my experience you tend to crave what you habitually eat. The Hmong forage for Solanum nigrum -- black nightshade -- a plant that is not only inedibly bitter for most people, it's actually poisonous if you haven't spent years working up a tolerance to its toxic alkaloids. And here's the kicker: black nightshade grows wild here in the US and the old folks here go looking for it in the woods, even though they can buy meat and non-toxic vegetables in the supermarket. They grew up with the stuff, so they

      • Did half the country take a "Hmong Cultures" class a couple years ago? I must have missed it. During the past two years or so, I have seen several references to the Hmong people, with no explanation of who they are. If I mentioned "the plight of the Nukak", I would certainly have to include a reference to their location and what their plight is.

        Am I the only one here that only knows the Hmong because of repeated googling about them?

        • by hey! (33014)

          Some of us are old enough to remember the Vietnam war, which in turn brought us in contact with the long running civil war in Laos. Anti-communist Hmong from Laos fought alongside Americans and after both Vietnam and Laos fell to the Communists many Hmong refugees were resettled here in the US along with their families.

          I remember this story about S. nigrum from a newspaper account back in the 80s about foraging by local Hmong refugees. There were lots of stories about Hmong settling in, and because this

          • Thank you for the additional information. I'm not old enough to remember Vietnam. I was born during it, in 1970.

            I knew a lot of "Vietnamese" moved to the US after the war, but that was how they were always mentioned. As far as I remember, I never saw the term 'Hmong' until a couple years ago.

            Also, since I grew up in the upper midwest farm country, our local paper certainly didn't have stories like that one. I remember finding an old copy of one a little while ago (probably at my mom's house), and was surpri

      • by dryeo (100693)

        There's also mutations where one group can handle a poisonous plant or often fungus that will sicken or kill another group. We see this with milk where Europeans often have a mutation allowing to digest milk and other groups don't. Really the ideal diet varies on sub-type of human and what was available in their ancestral homes.

    • It's simple. If they didn't eat their veggies, they wouldn't get any dessert.

  • I'm not surprised Neadrathals ate veggies. Look at their teeth. Cooking food though, that's pretty cool.
  • I will be publishing my own fecal matter soon. Pre-order yours today!
  • Great...so even Neanderthals ate their veggies...and yet we struggle getting our kids to eat anything green.

  • Meanwhile, vegged out Neanderthal "Stone-agers" were confused by yucky veggies and just ate their poop.

    The original "Hole Foods" was born.
  • Seems to be on even slimmer psudeo-scientific ground.

  • Once again science just proving the accuracy of Genesis :)

  • Amazing finding.

    This clearly demonstrates that a subspecies of Homo sapiens; H. sapiens neandertalensis had after all the same feeding habits than the rest of the Homo sapiens species!! Amazing. Who would have told?

    Another spectacular finding for the team of Dr. El Obvio, preferred disciple of Prof. O'Bvious.

    Hail to them!!!

The world is no nursery. - Sigmund Freud

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