Cavemen From 400,000 Years Ago Ate Better Meals Than You Do


Neanderthal chefs had a fine-dining streak.

Tel Aviv University archaeologists discovered burn-marked 400,000-year-old tortoise shells and bones in Israel's Qesem Cave, a site that was occupied by humans hundreds of thousands of years ago. The team, led by archaeologist Ran Barkai, published a paper indicating the shells were cut open in a way consistent with "cooking in the shell, defleshing and direct percussion to access the visceral content," which is the academic-paper way to say, "cut 'em and cook 'em."

But tortoises aren't big enough to support an entire diet, unless Ug and Gork were spending the whole day shucking tortoise shells and talking about life. Therefore, Barkai deduced, they must have been part of a larger meal, along with what prehistoric dental records show to be plenty of vegetables too.

"Now we know they ate tortoises in a rather sophisticated way," Barkai said, according to CBC News. "It would have been a supplement — an appetizer, dessert or a side dish — to the meat and fat from large animals."


Around this time, we know Neanderthals made wooden spears to hunt and kill large animals, in some cases horses. The tortoise discovery is a eureka moment in Barkai's ongoing research into how hominids filled the gaps in diet when there was nothing huge to kill.

But there's an unfortunate twist: Thanks to Barkai's findings, we now know early man occasionally had a meat appetizer before the meat main course. Unfortunately, that only reinforces believers in the questionable paleo diet — a diet that implies early man ate a lot of grass-fed bison burgers, kale and seeds. And that finding the food was as easy as a $200 Whole Foods trip.