Neanderthals ate sharks and dolphins

Cave of Figueira BravaPicture copyright
Joao Zilhão

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There may be proof of the intensive and long-term exploitation of marine meals sources at Figueira Brava

Neanderthals had been consuming fish, mussels and seals at a website in present-day Portugal, in response to a brand new examine.

The analysis provides to mounting proof that our evolutionary family members might have relied on the ocean for meals simply as a lot as historical fashionable people.

For many years, the flexibility to assemble meals from the ocean and from rivers was seen as one thing distinctive to our personal species.

Scientists discovered proof for an intensive reliance on seafood at a Neanderthal website in southern Portugal.

Neanderthals dwelling between 106,000 and 86,000 years in the past on the cave of Figueira Brava close to Setubal had been consuming mussels, crab, fish – together with sharks, eels and sea bream – seabirds, dolphins and seals.

The analysis crew, led by Dr João Zilhão from the College of Barcelona, Spain, discovered that marine meals made up about 50% of the food plan of the Figueira Brava Neanderthals. The opposite half got here from terrestrial animals, corresponding to deer, goats, horses, aurochs (historical wild cattle) and tortoises.

Picture copyright
Joao Zilhão

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Crab claws smashed open by Neanderthals on the cave


A number of the earliest recognized proof for the exploitation of marine sources by fashionable people (Homo sapiens) dates to round 160,000 years in the past in southern Africa.

A number of researchers beforehand proposed a principle that the brain-boosting fatty acids seafood contributed to enhanced cognitive improvement in early fashionable people.

This, the idea goes, may assist account for a interval of marked invention and creativity that began amongst fashionable human populations in Africa round 200,000 years in the past. It may also have assisted fashionable people to outcompete different human teams such because the Neanderthals and Denisovans.

Picture copyright
Joao Zilhão

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Vertebral bone from an eel discovered within the cave

However the researchers discovered that the Neanderthal inhabitants of Figueira Brava relied on the ocean in a scale similar to fashionable human teams dwelling at an analogous time in southern Africa.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Matthew Pope, from the Institute of Archaeology at UCL, UK, mentioned: “Zilhão and the crew declare to have recognized ‘middens’. This can be a shorthand for humanly created constructions (piles, heaps, mounds) shaped virtually completely of shell.

“They’re necessary as they recommend a scientific and organised behaviour, from assortment to processing to discard.”

Dr Pope, who was not concerned with the present examine, added: “In later durations internationally, coastal shell-hunter-gatherers appear to spend money on these constructions in monumental methods, even having burials inside them.

“So to explain these accumulations as ‘middens’ is a daring and loaded step.

“Actually, they make a powerful case that these are similar to related accumulations within the Center Stone Age of Africa.”

The study is published in the journal Science.

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