Neanderthals totally dug on veggies, yo! »
That’s right! Scientists discovered traces of veggies, legumes and grains in the teeth of some Neanderthal specimens. More interesting, in my opinion, is that there’s evidence some of the food was cooked. See, previously, scientists thought Neanderthals exclusively ate meat, based on the amount of protein in their bones—we all know you can ONLY get protein from meat. Or the wacky idea that their bodies might have processed nutrients differently than ours? But whatevs, now we know they ate plants too.
Considering that early humans were hunter-gatherers (possibly even hunter-scavengers), and up to 80 percent of the hunter-gatherer diet comes from the gathering, it doesn’t surprise me that Neanderthals ate plants. It’s up for debate, but there’s evidence that humans and Neanderthals were living on earth at the same time;* what’s more, earlier this year scientists found evidence that Neanderthals and humans interbred. At the very least, Neanderthals could have observed the diet practiced by humans and followed suit. Then again, they could have discovered plant food-sources all on their own. I mean if you’re hungry, you’re going to try to eat whatever you may find around you. If it tastes alright and doesn’t kill you, you might eat it again. Other apes were able to discover the joy of veggies, why not Neanderthals too?
I’m more interested in how they cooked—that’s totally news to me. Dolores Piperno, who led the study, explains, “the evidence for cooking is strong. The starch grains are gelatinized, and that can only come from heat associated with cooking.” Fascinating! We all know how humans discovered fire: Prometheus! Did he totally bless the Neanderthals with fire as well?
The study also has implications on why Neanderthals went extinct and we didn’t. One theory was that they went extinct because animals they ate, like the wooly mammoth, went extinct and so they had nothing to eat; the news that they had more sophisticated and diverse diets puts an end to that. Poor scientists! I like the theory I learned in college: humans totally forced Neanderthals into oblivion! It reinforces my opinion that humans are a bunch of jerks.
*I majored in anthropology in college, where they taught us that Neanderthals definitely existed at the same time as humans but I guess not everyone believes that. This is the annoying part of anthropology; people are like, “this happened and this happened,” and then they’re always like, “OR, they didn’t!”