Study Suggests Neanderthals Regularly Enjoyed Sea Food

News March 27, 2020

(João Zilhão)
Portugal Figueira Brava
(João Zilhão)

GÖTTINGEN, GERMANY—The Guardian reports that an international team of researchers has uncovered evidence that Neanderthals systematically collected and processed seafood between 86,000 and 106,000 years ago at Figueira Brava, a cave on the coast of Portugal. The massive cave deposit includes remains of mussels, limpets, crabs, sharks, fish, eels, seals, dolphins, and marine birds. João Zilhão of the University of Barcelona explained that the fatty acids found in marine foods are thought to promote the growth of brain tissue. It had been previously thought that the cognitive abilities of modern humans alone benefited from the consumption of these nutrients. But the discovery of a massive deposit of marine foods at a Neanderthal site offers additional evidence that Neanderthals and modern humans were very similar to each other. The cave also contained stone tools, traces of roasted plants, and the bones of horses and deer. Some 100,000 years ago, Zilhão added, the cave was set back about one mile from the coastline, indicating that Neanderthals must have made baskets or bags in order to carry large quantities of shellfish to the shelter. The researchers suspect that the location of this deposit was key to its preservation. To read about Neanderthals using eagle talons as jewelry, go to "Neanderthal Fashion Statement."

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