Tag: prehistoric culture

When the World Was Young, and Human Cannibalism Wasn't Such a Big Deal

By Joseph Calamia | September 1, 2010 1:26 pm

hotdogNo dessert, caveman child, until you finish eating your human. Digging around in a Spanish cave called Gran Dolina, archaeologists have found butchered humans’ fossilized bones. Researchers say the bones show that cave dwellers skinned, decapitated, and enjoyed other early humans, before throwing their remains into a heap with animals bones from other meals.

The study, which appeared this month in Current Anthropology, says the 800,000-year-old Homo antecessor bones could indicate the most “ancient cultural cannibalism … known until now.” Adding to the nightmare: National Geographic reports that the hungry cavemen had a penchant for kids, since the 11 cannibalized humans uncovered were all youngsters. They speculate that the kiddos were easier to catch, and eating them was a good way to stop competitors from building their families.

Study coauthor José María Bermúdez de Castro, of the National Research Center on Human Evolution, told National Geographic that marks near the base of some skulls hint that the diners decapitated humans to get the brain goodness inside.

“Probably then they cut the skull for extracting the brain…. The brain is good for food.”

The researchers believe that eating other humans wasn’t a big deal back then, and probably wasn’t linked to religious rituals or marked by elaborate ceremonies. They draw that conclusion from the fact that butchered human bones were tossed in the scrap heap along with animal remains.

There is some debate as to how frequently human was on the menu, but these researchers note that the Sierra de Atapuerca region had a great climate and that cannibalism didn’t likely result from a lack of alternatives. I guess our ancestors were just that tasty.

Related content:
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Discoblog: To Fight Cancer, Ovarian Cells Eat Themselves
80beats: New Guinean Cannibals Evolved Resistance To Mad Cow-Like Disease

Image: flickr / joanna8555

Our Ancestors Chowed Down on Giant Clams, Study Says

By Andrew Moseman | September 2, 2008 3:10 pm

giant clam If a creature was big, slow, and delicious, there’s a good chance that early humans hunters found it too good to pass up.

Researchers combing the Red Sea have identified a new species of clam, a giant one that could measure more than a foot in length and may have been one of our ancestors’ favorite meals. The oversized mollusk went undiscovered for so long because it accounts for only one percent of the current population of clams. However, checking the fossil record, the scientists found that the giant clam once made up 80 percent of the population, then dropped off precipitously around 125,000 years ago, a date that roughly coincides with early humans coming out of Africa.

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