Stone Age Cannibalism Was Not Just For Food

Posted: Apr 6 2017, 11:59am CDT | by , Updated: Apr 6 2017, 12:44pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

Stone Age Cannibalism: Early humans Not Hunting Each Other Just for Food
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  • Stone Age Cannibalism: Early humans Not Hunting Each Other Just for Food

The question why our ancient ancestors practiced occasional cannibalistic behavior has been partially answered only recently by the researchers.

Our age-old relatives, the Neanderthals, may have felt that while tracking down prey was the norm, sometimes when the conditions were not good, material that was handy might be just fine. This is the way they most probably felt about such extreme practices as cannibalism.

Cannibalism is the eating of human meat. It is one of the earliest taboos just like incest. Neanderthals and early man probably engaged in cannibalism occasionally.

Normally, it has been thought to be due to such factors as dearth of food and starvation, internecine violence and warfare and the death of an individual.

Yet new evidence which has just surfaced shows that Neanderthals were not just hunting each other for food. That is because human beings are not very nutritious calorie for calorie just like larger game beasts in the wild.

Place a dozen Neanderthals right next to a woolly mammoth and the latter would outweigh them nutritionally. The report on this matter was presented in a scientific journal. Nine sites were taken into consideration. Cannibalism had apparently been practised there.

The marks on the human bones showed that some degree of butchering had been going on at the sites. These sites date back to between 14,000 years and 900,000 years in the past. Thus they fall within the range of Paleolithic times.

Five of these were Neanderthals, two belonged to Homo sapiens and as for the rest of the individuals, they belonged to extinct hominids.

The question was how many calories would an average body in these cannibalistic storehouses have provided the devouring individuals. A modern day human would furnish 144,000 calories. This data was adapted to the age range of the bodies found at the sites.

Even if all the bodies were added up as regards calorific value, they would not equal a woolly mammoth, a woolly rhino or even a great big bear of those prehistoric times.

So the question remains: why bother killing your own kind for food? Especially when that prey is as smart, agile and clever as you and can fight back pound for pound with a vengeance?

Maybe it was in order to make an easy and handy meal of companions who had kicked the bucket. Yet here too some social and cultural issues were present. Violence and the territorial imperative may have come in between members of the same species.

While this new theory does not change the grisly and ghastly nature of such a brutal and heartless practice as cannibalism, it does offer a few clues as to its function in those primitive times.

A re-evaluation of older explanations may be forthcoming in the future thanks to this research, published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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