Were Neanderthals On A Paleo Diet? Oldest Human Poop Tells Us
    By News Staff | June 25th 2014 06:03 PM | 7 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    Neanderthals from Spain may have consumed more vegetables than previously thought, according to a dietary reconstruction.

    Obviously, Neanderthal diet reconstruction remains difficult because they didn't farm. They may have eaten whatever they could find which skews results somewhat. And current methods of dietary analysis use isotopes and focus on the role of meat in the diet, which may be overemphasized.

    For instance, some evidence suggests that plants may have contributed to their diet. To better understand contributions to the Neanderthal diet, the authors of this study used analytical techniques to quantify fecal biomarkers from five samples found in El Salt, Spain, dating back to about 50,000 years ago. These biomarkers can help researchers identify dietary sources by the way dietary sterols are broken down in the mammalian gut. 

    A) El Salt site during excavation; B) Field photograph showing a detail of exposed combustion structure H44 (white sediment corresponds to the top ash layer). The black sediment to the left belongs to an overlying combustion structure (H32). C) Field photograph of sediment block showing the facies described in the text in microstratigraphic succession. D) Microphotographs of a slightly burned coprolite of putative human origin identified in El Salt Stratigraphic Unit X (sample SALT-08-13). The images under plane polarized light show the pale brown color and massive structure of the coprolite, as well as the common presence of inclusions, which are possibly parasitic nematode eggs or spores. Views under blue light fluorescence (black background) shows autofluorescence indicative of high phosphate content. 

    The samples in this study may be the oldest known human fecal matter. The analysis suggests that Neanderthals predominantly consumed meat, as indicated by high proportions of a one faecal biomarker formed by the bacterial reduction of cholesterol in the gut (coprostanol), but the authors also found evidence of significant plant intake, as shown by the presence of a compound often found in plant sources (5β-stigmastanol). 

    In support of the finding, microscopic examination of sediment from the same context yielded the identification of human coprolites. The authors hope that future studies using this biomarker approach may provide further insights into the role of vegetables in the Neanderthal diet.

    Lead author Ainara Sistiaga said, "This study represents the first approach to Neanderthal diet through the analysis of fecal markers found in archaeological sediment."

    Citation: Sistiaga A, Mallol C, Galván B, Summons RE (2014) The Neanderthal Meal: A New Perspective Using Faecal Biomarkers. PLoS ONE 9(6): e101045. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0101045


    Um, the Paleo Diet includes vegetables.

    The article says that the presence of meat was overstated, so sure. Who said the paleo diet didn't include vegetables?
    This article also switches back and forth numerous times between the subject of Neanderthals and Humans and refers to the Neanderthal poop that was examined as "possibly the oldest know HUMAN excrement". SO i'm gonna take EVERYTHING this article says with a grain of salt. Humans and Neanderthals are NOT the same by definition.

    The article is not wrong.  HUMANS  scientifically means all the members of the Genus homo
    All members of the Genus homo are HUMANS.  So everything from Homo Habilis confined to East Africa 2 million years ago, to Homo Sapeins Sapiens are HUMANS.  

    True the neanderthals were not anatomically and behaviorally modern in the sense that about 95% of all living humans ancestors have been for the last 200,000 years... but they were human enough that we may have cross bred with them (and other archaic off shoots of Homo in Africa and after leaving Africa 70,000 years ago. 

    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    But think of the complications in human rights legislation if H.erectus were still around!

    Flanders and Swann once told an American audience:  “Always remember that if it hadn't been for the English, you'd all be Spanish.”

    Pithecanthropus says: Don’t look down on us erectus: if it wasn’t for us, you lot would never have been sapiens.

    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    I agree, Hontas. Someone making a neanderthal/cro-magnon distinction feels very 1975 (I do it, on occasion, for humor or as an analogy, not in biology, though). We know that isn't the case, there is a whole lot of Neanderthal genes in most of us.
    I'm sure the Neanderthal diet was similar to the diet of the American plains Indians. Buffalo was the main course. Injun batter fried pancakes was on the side. And would you like fried tubers with that?