Surprise Discovery Reveals Neanderthals Loved Seafood And Were Excellent Fisherpeople

Neanderthals had been apparently a lot extra partial to seafood than earlier considered: new investigate demonstrates that Neanderthal communities dwelling in Portugal during the previous ice age had been just as eager on fishing as our fashionable human ancestors.


Molluscs, crustaceans, fish, birds, and maritime mammals like dolphins and seals made up as a lot as fifty percent the diet of these Iberian ancients, the new review demonstrates. That helps make them resourceful fisher-hunter-gatherers, with behaviours closer to fashionable-working day Homo sapiens than everyone realised. 

The excavation at the cave of Figueira Brava in close proximity to Setubal in Portugal unveiled middens (domestic squander dumps) dated to around 106,000 and 86,000 yrs in the past, packed with bones and shells from maritime animals. These would have been eaten alongside extra conventional fare like deer and goats.

seafood neander 2The Figueira Brava cave. (Pedro Souto/João Zilhão)

The acquiring is a considerable 1 – the fatty acids offered by this type of seafood diet, these as Omega-3, can boost mind advancement. These types of eating habits maybe contributed to the “emergence of cognitive and behavioural modernity” in ancient men and women, the researchers say.

“Figueira Brava presents the very first file of considerable maritime useful resource intake amongst Europe’s Neanderthals,” generate the researchers in their printed paper.

“Reliable with rapidly accumulating proof that Neanderthals possessed a absolutely symbolic substance society, the subsistence proof noted right here additional inquiries the behavioural hole once considered to different them from fashionable people.”


The sheer sum of seafood remains learned, and the distance of the settlement from the coastline (about two kilometres or a very little around a mile), indicates that Neanderthals made use of baskets and luggage to go fishing with, the researchers say.

This potential to plunder food items from seas and rivers has very long been regarded as an solely human trait, not one thing we shared with Neanderthals – and that helps make the results at this coastal web site considerable.

Past proof for a seafood diet among Neanderthals has been patchy: even though it has been noticed in other areas of the planet, it hasn’t been clear just how popular these evolving eating habits in fact had been.

seafood neander 3Recovered fragments of Most cancers pagurus (brown crab). (Mariana Nabais/João Zilhão)

Industry experts know a lot extra about the diet programs of early fashionable people in southern Africa around the very same time, and the new review indicates that the make-up of this diet just isn’t all that distinct from the 1 adopted by Neanderthals who lived by the coastline of Portugal.

Thinking about that snacking on seafood and exploiting maritime methods could nicely have played a large section in triggering the growth of the early human beings and pushing forward the raising sophistication of our societies, pinning down exactly when and where by it occurred is an intriguing obstacle for anthropologists.

As thorough as this discovery is, it is only 1 section of the planet – we really don’t have a sample but. The researchers consider that traces of other similar communities might have been washed away from mounting sea levels during the finish of the previous ice age, so there may not be any extra to find.

Even so, it sheds considerably extra gentle on the life and behaviours of the Neanderthals – and indicates that in their flavor for seafood at minimum, they maybe were not all that distinct from our early ancestors.

The investigate has been printed in Science.