April fools post!
A new study released today in the journal Nature upends our beliefs about Paleolithic peoples, suggesting that their diets may have been based solely on animal fat.
Previous research examining food particles in tooth plaque suggested that Paleolithic Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis consumed a wide variety of plant and animal foods, leading to the belief that humans are natural omnivores. Yet new research suggests that while our ancestors may have chewed these foods, they probably didn’t swallow them.
Using the ratio of bismuth-84 to molybdenum-43 in six partially fossilized knee caps recovered from three European caves, a research team led by Nathan Hayes of the University of Pennsylvania was able to determine that the prehistoric humans ate no carbohydrate or protein at all, implying that their diet consisted entirely of fat. Based on bones and tools found in the same strata, the researchers believe these populations harvested the fat of large mammals such as aurochs, mammoths, elk, and wooly rhinoceroses, leaving the meat to rot.
“We are very confident in our conclusions”, said Hayes. “These people ate nothing but animal fat.”
The research community is stunned. Liu Zhang, a Yale biochemist, remarked “The implications of this finding go far beyond nutrition. It seems humans have a greater capacity to synthesize amino acids from fat than we thought.”
Hayes and his team believe the hunting grounds of Paleolithic humans in Europe were rich enough that they had no need to bother with inferior foods like plants and muscle tissue. Herds of mammoths were so thick during this time that it was almost impossible to throw a spear without hitting one in the carotid artery. Grains, legumes, fruit, and other plant foods were chewed for pleasure and to clean the teeth, but spat out rather than swallowed due to their inferior nutritional value.
Examining the kneecaps further, Hayes noted that the attachment points of their tendons were extremely robust. “These guys were ripped”, exclaimed Hays. “They definitely didn’t skip leg day. Or maybe it was all the fat they ate.”