Remains Suggest Neanderthal Diet Included Dolphins and Seals

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Fine dining for our Neanderthal kin may have consisted of some seafood delicacies—both familiar and unfamiliar to modern tongues.

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Excavations of two caves in Gibraltar turned up indications that Neanderthals fed on mussels, fish, dolphins, and seals—foraging for seafood just as so-called “modern” humans do.

This discovery undoes one of the reasons cited for why Neanderthals died out, whereas other humans have survived to this day. Researchers had previously thought other humans’ ability to harvest food from the sea gave them a nutritional edge. But it appears such skill and practice were not exclusive to “modern” humans.

The bones of the aquatic creatures even show signs of having been cooked over a fire and hit with stone tools to separate meat from bone. Furthermore, these remains are found throughout “various layers” of the caves—a sign that seafood wasn’t a one-time menu option for Neanderthals, but rather at least an occasional dietary element.

“It seems to suggest that this wasn’t a one-off, but that these guys were doing it on a regular basis,” commented Clive Finlayson, a Gibraltar Museum anthropologist who contributed to the study, which was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The question is, were Neanderthals eating seafood as much as other humans? Arizona State University anthropologist Curtis Marean, who has found evidence in South Africa of seafood consumption by other early humans, wants to answer the question. Marean has found evidence in South Africa of ancient piles of thousands of shell pieces indicating the extent shellfish were consumed by the humans living there. This compares to “just” 149 shellfish pieces found in the Gibraltar caves. So if there is a difference (as yet undetermined) between Neanderthal consumption of shellfish versus other humans’ consumption of shellfish, was it due to relative ability or relative availability?

“I don’t think that the success of one or the other had to do with subsistence, with the way they hunted or fed,” Finlayson opined. “There may be other factors coming into this, or it may just have been a question of luck.”

We agree. The evidence consistently and overwhelmingly shows that Neanderthals were fully human and engaged in intelligent activities. Their cranial capacity was even larger than modern humans’ (although evolutionary anthropologists dismiss this as only giving them an edge in hunting). The Bible clearly teaches that all humans, no matter what their exact skeletal nuances, were created in the image of God, descended from Adam through Noah. While some sub-groups have died out, they don’t deserve to be treated as anything less than “modern,” especially when we repeatedly find how similar they are to us.

Besides, we pointed out last week how unbelievable different modern humans can be. Why do the minor skeletal differences of Neanderthals make them a different species?

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