Subscribe to Breaking News emails

You have successfully subscribed to the Breaking News email.

Subscribe today to be the first to to know about breaking news and special reports.

Neanderthals Ate Their Veggies - According to Their Poo

 / Updated 
MIT News / Christine Daniloff

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

We may think of Neanderthals as a primitive, dead-end branch on humanity's family tree, but at least they ate their vegetables — can you say the same? Scientists from MIT and the University of La Laguna in Spain made an odorous discovery at El Salt, a roughly 50,000-year-old Neanderthal settlement: prehistoric poo, merged with soil but still verifiably from human metabolism. The waste contained various chemical biomarkers indicating what had been processed. While coprostanol — formed when meat is eaten — was abundant, there was also quite a bit of 5B-stigmastanol, which is derived from plants. So Neanderthals weren't just meat-eaters — they ate plants, tubers and berries as well, probably whatever was available. “It’s important to understand all aspects of why humanity has come to dominate the planet the way it does,” said MIT giobiology professor Roger Summons, co-author of the study, which appears in the journal PLoS ONE. “A lot of that has to do with improved nutrition over time.”

Sign up for top Science news delivered direct to your inbox

In-Depth

Nearly Neanderthal: Skulls Reveal the Steps in Human Evolution

Scientists Argue That Neanderthals Weren't Incompetent Dimwits

Well-organized Neanderthals tidied up around the cave

Social

— Devin Coldewey, NBC News

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
MORE FROM news