It is high time to move away from the stereotype of the primitive, clumsy Neanderthal cave dweller. Archaeologists are helping an extinct branch of humanity get what it deserves. A new study published in Frontiers in Environmental Archeology this week found that Neanderthals had a taste for grilled seafood.
Archaeologists studying the contents of a cave in Portugal have found evidence that Neanderthals cooked and ate crabs 90,000 years ago. The site is called Gruta de Figueira Brava and has unearthed stone tools, charcoal, shells and bones. The researchers found the remains of large adult brown crabs with patterns of damage, fractures and burn marks, suggesting the animals were on the Neanderthals’ menu.
“They were taken in pools on the nearby rocky shore, targeting adult animals with an average shell width of 16 cm. The animals were brought whole into the cave, where they were roasted over charcoal and then eaten,” lead author Mariana Nabais, of the Instituto Catalunya in human paleoecology and social evolution at frontiers, it said in a statement on Monday.
Some researchers suggest that early human ancestors may have developed their large brains with the help of a diet rich in aquatic animals. Frontiers said the discovery of cooked crabs in the Neanderthal diet “disproves the idea that eating seafood gave a competitive advantage to the brains of early modern humans.”
Neanderthals died out about 40,000 years ago, while Homo sapiens – modern humans – developed and flourished. It seems a lack of seafood wasn’t what held Neanderthals back. Scientists are still studying why the Neanderthals went extinct. Climate change or disease may have played a role.
The crab finds are the latest evidence that Neanderthals were more sophisticated than the grunting cavemen commonly portrayed. A 2017 study found that a Neanderthal community haduntil his old age. A 2020 study found and a 2021 study examined the an .
“Our results add a further nail in the coffin of the outdated notion that Neanderthals were primitive cave dwellers who could barely subsist on scavenged large game carcasses,” Nabais said.