Tuesday, 23 Sep, 2008 Science

Neanderthals Had Seals and Dolphins for Dinner


Anthropologists in their new study revealed that Neanderthals that lived in caves located on the Mediterranean Sea had mussels, fish and other representatives of marine life for dinner. Researchers consider that Neanderthals were big lovers of seafood just like modern humans.

It is worth mentioning that humans are different from Neanderthals, both, however, came from a common ancestor hundreds of thousands years ago. For many years scientists had to answer the question why modern humans evolved and prospered and Neanderthals failed. Previously anthropologists considered that the ability to take advantage of marine resources was the main feature that differentiated the two species.

However, the new study could question the inability of Neanderthals to exploit marine resources. Clive Finlayson, an anthropologist at the Gibraltar Museum says that Neanderthals possessed complex foraging skills just like modern humans.

"I don't think that the success of one or the other had to do with subsistence, with the way they hunted or fed. There may be other factors coming into this, or it may just have been a question of luck," said Finlayson.

The latest study of Neanderthals is based on the research of two caves discovered on the western edge of Gibraltar. Earlier scientists found that the caves were inhabited by Neanderthals as recently as 28,000 years ago.

Researchers discovered mussel shells and bones that belonged to seals, dolphins and fish. These were found together with remnants of deer and several other mammals. It was also found that a lot of bones were cooked over a fire and some bones had signs left by stone tools that Neanderthals used for cutting large pieces of flesh.

After finding a large number of seafood remains in different layers in the caves, researchers came to the conclusion that Neanderthals exploited marine resources on a regularly basis for tens of thousands of years.

The discovery was published in the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences". Anthropologist at Arizona State University in Tempe, Curtis Marean, was the one who found proof that Neanderthals occasionally ate seafood in South Africa about 165,000 years ago. But the scientist is still not sure whether the prehistoric humans exploited seafood as much as modern humans in Africa did.

"I don't think there's enough evidence here to indicate that they are systematically being a coastal forager in the sense that we think of coastal foragers," he said.

Source: National Geographic

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