World's Oldest Poop Shows Neanderthals Ate Veggies
By Mick Joest 2014-06-27 08:38:03
A recent archaeological dig in Spain has revealed Neanderthal poop with veggies in it. This further discredits the common belief that our predecessors were strictly carnivores. The poo was found near a 50,000 year old campfire at the El Salt dig site near the Mediterranean coast. While prior examinations of teeth have shown omnivorous characteristics, student Ainara Sistiaga says that fossilized feces is the best evidence one can find. Why?
"because you're sure it was consumed"
So how do researchers even know there are veggies in the fossilized poop? A year after the dig, the results underwent all sorts of testing. First gas Chromatography separates the chemicals and molecules. This process is combined with the process of mass spectrometry to fully analyze the “sample”. Lastly scientists use coprostanol, which we use to analyze our sewage systems, to confirm that the fossil is indeed fecal in origin.
BBC tells us that this 50,000 year old fossil is the oldest piece of human feces ever. It also gives a lot of weight to the argument that Neanderthals ate a mixed diet, and not just meat. This controversial issue has gone back and forth on both sides, but may be reaching an end with this data. Dr. Stephen Buckley, an expert of sorts on this matter, believes that the plant diet may have not been universal. Instead, he believes that Neanderthal diet varied largely due to climate…
"If you're in central Germany, it might make sense to eat more meat - the climate is cold, and you need more calories. But if you're in Spain, where there was a milder climate, then there might be more of a reason to consume plants."
Why is it so important we know these things? A lack of evolving diet has long been cited as a reason why Neanderthals died out, and Homo Sapiens became the dominant human species. This study challenges that belief which means more revisions and speculation as to why the Neanderthals disappeared. Debate will continue, but as far as I’m concerned the proof is in the poopings.