Neandertals, plants, and fish

1 minute read

I don’t read Spanish well, but I’m going to go ahead and link a news article in a Spanish journal about Neandertal diet and cooking at the Spanish site of El Salt:

Uno de los casos es la aplicacin de la qumica orgnica en el estudio de la estructura de combustin, conocida como el lugar en donde los neandertales hacan las hogueras para calentarse o cocinar. Ahora "estamos empezando a saber que asaban animales como el ciervo y la cabra", seala Galvn. Han tenido conocimiento de esta informacin a travs "de las grasas contenidas en las piedras quemadas procedentes del asado de estos animales", dijo la doctora. Asimismo, tambin han encontrado grasas de origen vegetal y restos de "espinas de peces quemadas". Y es que los neardentales saban utilizar todas las materias primas que tenan a su alcance.
One example [of a "quantum leap" in excavation techniques] is the application of organic chemistry to the study of hearths, used by the Neandertals for heat or cooking. Now "we are learning that they roasted animals like deer and goats," said [Bertila] Galvan. This information was obtained from "the fat contained in burned rocks from cooking these animals," said the doctor. In the same way, they also found fats of vegetal origin and remains of "burned fish bones." And that shows that the Neandertals knew how to use all the raw materials available to them.

Not much more than that, but I think it’s very interesting in light of last week’s story about flax fibers. The point is that these microscopic and chemical excavation techniques are able to find some surprising information – a process in archaeology that is mirroring the application of similar techniques to dinosaurs. Results like these show the great promise of such analysis, or the reanalysis of existing samples. It seems like a very propitious time to be trained in chemical techniques to apply to archaeological sites.

Julien Riel-Salvatore has a little bit of context, has more, and Martín Cagliani has the most direct discussion, although that does raise the Spanish language problem again!

I’ll be waiting for confirmation from other reports from this site, and hope that we can see some replication.