Neanderthals Ate Cooked Crabs, Shattering Primitive Stereotypes

It is high time to remove the primitive and heavy cave-dwelling stereotype of Neanderthals. Archaeologists help the extinct branch of humanity get their due. A new study published this week in Frontiers in Environmental Archeology has found that Neanderthals had a strong taste for roasted seafood.

Archaeologists studying the contents of a cave in Portugal have found evidence that Neanderthals cooked and ate crabs 90,000 years ago. The place is called Gruta de Figueira Brava, and there are stone tools, charcoal, shells and bones. Researchers have found the remains of large adult brown crabs with patterns of damage, breakage and burns suggesting the animals were on the menu for Neanderthals.

“They would take them to pools on the nearby rocky coast, targeting adult animals with an average carapace width of 16cm. The animals were taken whole to the cave, where they were roasted over hot coals and then eaten,” the official said. lead author Mariana Nabais, of the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution at Borders, said in a statement Monday.

Researchers have found crab shell and claw fragments with black burns in the Neanderthal cave in Portugal.

Mariana Nabais/Catherine Dupont/Joao Zilhao

Some researchers have suggested that early human ancestors may have evolved their large brains through a diet rich in aquatic animals. Frontiers said the discovery of cooked crabs in the Neanderthals’ diet “disproves the idea that eating sea foods gave the brains of early modern humans the competitive edge.”

Neanderthals died out around 40,000 years ago while Homo sapiens – modern humans – developed and flourished. It seems the lack of seafood was not what held the Neanderthals back. Scientists are still investigating why Neanderthals died out. Climate change or disease may have played a role.

The crab finds are the latest evidence that Neanderthals were more sophisticated than they have often been portrayed as growling cavemen. A 2017 study found that a Neanderthal community had treated a deaf and injured Neanderthal man in his old age. A 2020 study found proof of fiber technologyand a 2021 study looked at a artistically carved bone.

“Our findings add another nail in the coffin of the outdated notion that Neanderthals were primitive cave dwellers who could barely earn a living from salvaged big game carcasses,” Nabais said.


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