On a mountain range in Western Portugal, in a cave high above the modern coast, is a remnant of the ancient coast. The narrow, low-cave cave, located on a peninsula about 20 miles south of Lisbon, has a diverse and decadent marine menu enjoyed by ancient people – and further evidence that the Neanderthals were not the bone-pulling fogs we had long imagined.
Clam. Crabs. Seabirds. Seals. Maybe dolphins. Sure sharks. All were par for the Neanderthals course in present-day coastal Portugal, which researchers discovered during an excavation that stretched from 201
But that’s not all they found. There were also horse bones. Ibex left. Deer. Aurochs (a giant cousin of cattle). Even a piggy bank (ouch!). All were detailed in a new study, conducted by a multinational European team and published last month in the journal Nature.
The culinary cornea provided a wealth of new information about Neanderthal diets, exposed in the middle (ancient debris piles) inside the Figueira Brava cave. When the Neanderthals occupied the site, about 100,000 years ago, the cave was about a mile off the coast of modern Portugal.
Some of the food may have been cleared, but much of it – including sharks that could be spayed in shallow water or retrieved from isolated time poles – would have been within Neanderthal’s capacity to hunt. The collection represents a different diet than most ancient people ate, and what would have been on the menu for the coastal Neanderthal neighbors – a combination of wretched rhinos and mammoths, among other large steep mammals.
The cave finds broaden our understanding of Neanderthal’s complex behaviors. Evidence that early modern humans – people we resemble Neanderthals – eat seafood extends 160,000 years back in South Africa. However, as João Zilhão, an archaeologist at the University of Barcelona’s Catalan Institute for Research and Advanced Studies and leading author of the paper, points out, it may have been assumed that the Neanderthals had not similarly preserved marine eateries since no one had been found so far.
Zilhão says everything is part of a long-standing anti-Neanderthal, pro-modern human bias.
“On the positive side, the evidence [of early humans eating seafood] existed, he says. “And on the negative side there was no such evidence among the Neanderthals. So it all fit in this very nice story. How the chosen people become masters of the earth. “
Strong Neanderthal. When they discovered them – in a German quarry, as early as the 19th century, the ancient people were interpreted as crippling monkeys: “cave people,” if you will. Only recently have their fossil records come into focus, and more open-minded interpretations of archaeological sites have begun to decay them.
This is not the first time the Neanderthals have surprised us with the lengths they would eat for. In January, shells in an Italian cave indicated that the former people left their cave days to dive for mussels on the Mediterranean bottom.
The Neanderthals were also artists. An earlier study by Zilhão identified the earliest known cave art in Europe as their work.
Yet they have been imagined as a backbone of the evolutionary tree since the first scale from Neanderthal emerged from the German valley that gave them its name. Archaeologists like Zilhão have been trying to fix that misconception ever since.
“For some people, the idea is that the Neanderthals were a different species[than[than[än[thanHomo sapiens], and less capable, is a matter of faith, he says. “And therefore they are impervious to facts and reason.”
Figueira Brava is another springboard in Neanderthal’s long walk to grace. Along with artistic abilities, caring for loved ones and physical skills, a diverse, delicious appetite can now be added to their repertoire.
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