They made a point. Scientists finally figured out what Neanderthals actually ate
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Researchers used new tooth analysis technology to find out what a 150,000-year-old man ate.
The diet of Neanderthals has been the subject of heated debate among scientists over the past few decades. A new study seems to be able to put an end to this issue – scientists examined the molar of a Neanderthal to understand what his diet actually consisted of, writes the Daily Mail.
Traditionally, Neanderthals were thought to be the first people to live on the caveman diet, which is based on food that can be obtained through hunting or gathering. However, some studies of the tartar of people from the Iberian Peninsula have shown that Neanderthals mainly ate plants. Studies outside of Iberia, on the contrary, testified that Neanderthals did not consume almost anything except meat.
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In 2014, researchers again returned to the theory that the Neanderthal diet was still more diverse and included not only meat, but also tubers and nuts. In 2019, researchers found evidence that ancient people mainly ate deer and horse meat. And in 2020, researchers found evidence that Neanderthals also ate a lot of seafood, including mussels and omega-3-rich fish.
The debate about what actually consisted of the diet of Neanderthals, apparently, continued further. But in the current study, scientists used a new way to analyze the enamel of an ancient human tooth to finally put an end to years of debate.
This time, scientists from the Géosciences Environment Toulouse (GET) in France studied a Neanderthal molar found in Gabas in northern Spain. The researchers suggest that the remains of an ancient man were found in the same cave where he spent his entire life.
It is still unknown whether the tooth belonged to a man or a woman, and when exactly this person died. However, the layers where the remains of the Neanderthal were found date back to approximately 150,000 years. Scientists suggest that the tooth is apparently the same age or slightly younger.
In earlier studies, scientists had to extract proteins and analyze nitrogen isotopes present in bone collagen. However, this method could only be applied in temperate climates and in samples no older than 50,000 years. But in the current study, scientists used a new method – they analyzed the ratio of zinc isotopes in tooth enamel, which is resistant to all forms of deformation.
), then the body, including teeth, will be enriched in light isotopes. With a plant-dominated diet of heavy isotopes of zinc.
During the study, scientists found that the Neanderthal tooth had low levels of heavy isotopes, and the lungs predominated, indicating a carnivorous diet. Scientists do not undertake to say that the Neanderthals did not eat plant foods at all, but its share in the diet was very small. diets. However, more analyzes and studies of the teeth of ancient people in other regions will be needed to say with certainty that all Neanderthals followed this diet.