Neanderthals Loved to Eat Their Greens

Article excerpt

Byline: Colin Fernandez

WE think of him subsisting solely on meat in his primitive world.

Indeed, it was widely thought that Neanderthal man's limited diet and lack of cooking skills contributed to his demise.

But according to scientists, our ancestor may have been a little more sophisticated than we give him credit for.

Their research has found that he actually ate a variety of greens - and knew how to cook them too.

The Neanderthals died out some 30,000 years ago. No one knows why, but it had been assumed they were less adaptable than their rival, Homo Sapiens, our direct ancestors, because they had a smaller variety of food to choose from.

But a detailed analysis of the fossilised teeth of Neanderthals reveals that their diet was more varied than previously thought.

It seems they ate vegetables including beans, roots and tubers. They also ate palm dates.

The evidence, from cave sites in Iraq and Belgium, also suggests that Neanderthals were accustomed to using fire in much the same way as Homo Sapiens. According to the scientists, many of the plant remains appeared to have been cooked before they were eaten.

Researchers are still trying to identify remains of other plants on the teeth.

Writing in the journal Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences, the experts, led by Dr Dolores Piperno, from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, said: 'Our results indicate that Neanderthals made use of the diverse plant foods available in their local environment and transformed them into more easily digestible foodstuffs, in part through cooking them - suggesting an overall sophistication in Neanderthal dietary regimes. …