Neanderthals ate shellfish 150,000 years ago: study

September 15, 2011
Neanderthal cavemen supped on shellfish on the Costa del Sol 150,000 years ago, punching a hole in the theory that modern humans alone ate brain-boosting seafood so long ago, a new study shows. The discovery in a cave near Torremolinos in southern Spain was about 100,000 years older than the previous earliest evidence of Neanderthals consuming seafood.

Neanderthal cavemen supped on shellfish on the Costa del Sol 150,000 years ago, punching a hole in the theory that modern humans alone ate brain-boosting seafood so long ago, a new study shows.

The discovery in a cave near Torremolinos in southern Spain was about 100,000 years older than the previous earliest evidence of Neanderthals consuming seafood, scientists said.

Researchers unearthed the evidence when examining and the remains of shells in the Bajondillo Cave, they said in a study published online in the Public Library of Science.

There, they discovered many charred shellfish -- mostly mussel shells -- left by Neanderthals. They were able to date the shells by testing to about 150,000 years ago.

That is "almost contemporaneous" to the earliest evidence of modern humans eating shellfish at Pinnacle Point in South Africa 164,000 years ago, said the study led by the University of Seville's Miguel Cortes Sanchez.

"This discovery makes the Bajondillo Cave the oldest record of this activity among , as the earliest evidence until now did not go back further than 50,000 years," said Francisco Jimenez Espejo, researcher at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), which was part of the study.

"Many researchers argue that eating shellfish is one of the behaviours that define modern humans and to a certain extent an adaptive advantage that allowed homo sapiens to expand," Espejo said.

"But this investigation shows that at the same time as homo sapiens in southern Africa, in the southern used the same resources."

The study was released Wednesday and is available online at: www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0024026#authcontrib

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10 comments

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Husky
5 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2011
hungry stomachs will eat whatever nearby
DavidMcC
5 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2011
hungry stomachs will eat whatever nearby


Quite so. It's a fair guess that Neanderthals weren't even the first hominids to eat shellfish. There is no direct evidence for species as early as Ardipithecus actually eating them, but large numbers of gastropods, as well as otters (who would also eat them), were found in the same time and place in NE Africa.
Isaacsname
5 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2011
The picture I am getting lately from these articles is that the neanderthals and the humans dined on seafood cooked over wood on the beach, possible at sunset, usually leading to an orgy later after consuming fermented fruit.

Sounds romantic.
Shootist
5 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2011
The picture I am getting lately from these articles is that the neanderthals and the humans dined on seafood cooked over wood on the beach, possible at sunset, usually leading to an orgy later after consuming fermented fruit.

Sounds romantic.


Sounds human.
nayTall
4 / 5 (4) Sep 15, 2011
"no, way.. i'm not gonna eat those readily available food sources: i'm a NEANDERTHAL. what would future scientists think?"
HolyBull
5 / 5 (3) Sep 15, 2011
It can't have been radiocarbon dated to 150,000 years since that is outside the range at which carbon decay is effective and detectable. Please check on this. Thank you.
Djincss
not rated yet Sep 15, 2011
Well I guess this is not that hard food to take, even a monkey can be trained to take it, it is much harder to kill bison or something.
And now this food is brain-boosting......wtf,how they came with this shit?
Is it now the caucasoid inferiority problems knowing we have some from this ass smelling neandertal...
I guess we will see plenty of great discoveries how intelligent indeed this hairy ape was.
Go biased pseudoscience!
braindead
not rated yet Sep 15, 2011
It's handy, easy to catch/collect, comes in small non-threatening packages,tastes good to meat eaters and can be eaten raw or cooked.

Well any Neanderthal living nearby a fresh or salt-water aquatic environment (most of them I would say) would be seriously dumb not to find these snacks (as would you, in a couple of hours no doubt, if you were dumped on a beach and very hungry but had never been told you could eat this stuff).
I don't really see how this would differentiate us from Neanderthals given that they were also sophisticated, tool and fire using beings with access to a high protein meat diet, much the same as us.
braindead
not rated yet Sep 15, 2011
Just a thought - given their more compact body size, could Neanderthals actually swim? Orang-utans can't, for instance, because their muscle-mass makes them negatively buoyant. Being unable to swim might somewhat limit the use of seafood, in general, though of course there are still plenty of shellfish to be picked up around the littoral zone, hardly getting your feet wet.
DavidMcC
not rated yet Sep 19, 2011
Just a thought - given their more compact body size, could Neanderthals actually swim? Orang-utans can't, for instance, because their muscle-mass makes them negatively buoyant. Being unable to swim might somewhat limit the use of seafood, in general, though of course there are still plenty of shellfish to be picked up around the littoral zone, hardly getting your feet wet.


An interesting point, but it might take brachiation to make orangs and chimps so muscle-bound as to sink in water. I don't know what the average density of a Neanderthal's body would be, but it surely was lower than a brachiator's.
NB, as you may know, muscle tissue is more dense than water, but fat (eg from shellfish flesh) is less dense.

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