Were the Neanderthals Really Carnivores? An Ancient Tooth Reveals Incredible Details

Source: Lourdes Montes

We know that Neanderthals were skilled hunters, but how about their diets? We are unsure whether or to what extent they added vegetables to their meals. Luckily, that’s about to change.

Researchers are inclined to believe that at least some Neanderthals were omnivores who consumed a range of plants and mushrooms after examining dental tartar obtained from Neanderthal bones discovered on the Iberian Peninsula. Isn’t it just fascinating?

Read out below for all the intriguing facts!

What Did Neanderthals Eat Anyway?

An international team of scientists examined the tooth enamel of a Middle Paleolithic Neanderthal from the Gabasa cave site in Spain using modern analytical techniques to shed more light on the topic of Neanderthal carnivory.

Although it has limitations, that method does best with specimens that have died within the last 50,000 years and may only apply to specimens from temperate areas. The animal being fed a plant diet with more nitrogen-15 than was anticipated might be somehow deceiving.

Researchers investigated zinc isotope ratios in the enamel of the Gabasa tooth instead of nitrogen isotope analysis, which has been used to provide light on certain other Neanderthal remains. And this is where the best part kicks in!

The researchers conclude that this Neanderthal tooth most likely originated from a genuinely committed meat eater. How did they find such a thing? The discovery was based on the low zinc isotope signature.

Moreover, they state that its signal is somehow “similar to that observed for nitrogen isotopes for other sites with Neanderthal habitation” and also point out that it hints “of a top-level carnivore.” They remark that the Neanderthal “easily demonstrates the lowest” zinc isotope ratio among all animal groups examined at Gabasa.

Nevertheless, some Neanderthal groups may have supplemented their meals with fungus and plants more than other Neanderthal humans, just as they likely preyed on a lot of various animals in more locations depending on local availability.

Of course, further study is necessary to fully understand the breadth of Neanderthal diets, even if these findings corroborate the carnivorous tendencies already shown in Neanderthals.

Georgia Nica
Writing was, and still is, my first passion. I love all that cool stuff about science and technology. I'll try my best to bring you the latest news every day.