A new study by a team of GW researchers found that Neanderthal diets incorporated cooked and raw vegetables and did not rely exclusively on meat-based food sources for sustenance.
This find refutes theories that Neanderthals’ demise resulted from a primitive, meat-dependent lifestyle.
Dr. Amanda Henry, the lead researcher involved in the discovery, said Neanderthals might have been significantly different from humans’ direct ancestors – Homo sapiens – but did not have a radically different diet.
“Our results suggest, along with many other recent work, that the common portrayal of Neanderthals as backwards, brutish, meat-eaters is really out-dated,” Henry said.
Henry, along with Dolores Piperno – a GW research professor and senior scientist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History – and Dr. Alison Brooks from the anthropology department, have been conducting an ongoing research initiative on the evolution of the human diet for the past four years.
The study focused on food elements that make up the majority of the Neanderthal diet, including starches, tubers, or foods that have buds from which new plants arise, grains and meat from large animals.
Brooks said past studies on Neanderthal bones led to the idea that they were toward the top of the food chain as carnivores, suggesting they ate more meat than cave bears.