Neanderthals Ate Their Veggies - According to Their Poo

MIT News / Christine Daniloff

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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.”

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