Recent media reports that Neanderthals were occasional cannibalsÂ and that women may have accompanied the men on their hunts got me thinking about the Neanderthal diet in general. In particular, did they eat much in the way of plant products at all? While meat was clearly the mainstay of the diet, it does seem from this interesting rebuttal of the hunting women hypothesis that:Â Â
Vegetable foods may well have been part of Middle Paleolithic diets in Eurasia, but these were more like salads, snacks, and desserts than energy-rich staples…Large underground storage organs are common among plant taxa in arid sub-Saharan Africa, but the high-yield edible plant foods of temperate and Mediterranean Eurasia tend to be seeds and nuts that, while potentially nutritious, require more effort to collect and process and thus afford low net yields (Kuhn and Stiner 2006:957).
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to promote some underutilized nut as a Neanderthal dessert? Or perhaps that would not be such a clever idea, given that the Neanderthals died out… Anyway, although some of the information sources listed seem somewhat suspect, there is a compendium of internet resources on the “paleolithic diet” here.