According to a new report published this week in the journal PLOS ONE, Scientists from, Spain’s University of La Laguna in The Canary Islands discovered what very well could be the world’s oldest human feces on top of an ancient campfire in Spain. This discovery reveals that Neanderthals may very well have not been carnivores.
Mind you, the research team had not come to Spain looking for defecation. When they arrived at El Salt, the Neanderthal site, they were hoping to discover food scraps and cooking utensils. They were investigating the ancient fire pits there hoping to find some insights on Neanderthal food preparation and details about how Neanderthals cooked food.
As it turned out, the only food scraps they came across were at the end of the digestion process. They were surprised to discover fecal matter in an area once reserved for food preparation; they doubt the Neanderthal in question defecated over an active fire. The research team believes that the cooking area had been converted to a bathroom.
Ainara Sistiaga, lead author and one of the researchers from ULL said: “I thought they were cooking in there, so I was looking for lipids from cooking. I don’t think they were using (the location as a toilet) when the fire was active.”
Chemical analysis of the petrified poop showed evidence of both animal and plant matter. This revelation is seen as highly significant because Neanderthals were once considered strictly meat-eaters. While plant matter had been discovered in between teeth found in Neanderthal caves scientists continued to have doubts. The leaves were said by some scientists to have gotten there incidentally from Neanderthals eating an animal who had eaten the leaves themselves.
Sistiaga stated that the fecal matter “is the perfect evidence, because you’re sure it was consumed.” It is becoming increasingly clear that Neanderthals were omnivores not carnivores. Sistiaga concluded: “We believe Neanderthals probably ate what was available in different situations, seasons, and climates.”