Neanderthal Diet Much More Varied.

It seemed unlikely that diet had much to do with the disappearance ofthe Neandethal.  A way more plausiblescenario was the tyranny of numbers. These peoples were able to interbreed but were socially grouped in smallhunting bands quite suitable for following game herds.

Mankind organized in larger tribal units and over time simply bred the Neanderthalsinto so called extinction.

An explicit recent example is the fate of the Huron Indians.  Their numbers today are a few hundred in twosmall reserves or so.  Sounds like theyare nearly extinct to me.  However it hasbeen stated that almost all French Canadians are twenty five percentHuron.  Since the population of folkhaving such ancestry is plausibly in the many millions throughout Canada and the USA, the net result is a hugeexpansion of Huron genetic contribution.

I am curious what the hair color contribution of the Neanderthal was.  We already know that the reports on theGiants who are also of European ancestry told of red hair.  Perhaps those giants were in fact a remnant ofthe Neanderthal bloodline.  Our few examples show statures of six foot, but could easily have included members much taller when you realize our range is five to six and Neandertal range is at least a foot taller. 

It is plausible that the key European characteristics were contributedby Neanderthals to Cro-Magnon stock that would certainly have sported blackhair.  European man could well be a hybridizationof Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon stocks.

Released: 12/22/2010 3:00 PM EST 

Newswise— Researchers from George Washington University and the Smithsonian Institutionhave discovered evidence to debunk the theory that Neandertals’ disappearancewas caused in part by a deficient diet – one that lacked variety and was overlyreliant on meat. After discovering starch granules from plant food trapped inthe dental calculus on 40-thousand-year-old Neandertal teeth, the scientistsbelieve that Neandertals ate a wide variety of plants and included cookedgrains as part of a more sophisticated, diverse diet similar to early modernhumans.

“Neandertalsare often portrayed as very backwards or primitive,” said Amanda Henry, leadresearcher and a post-doctoral researcher at GW. “Now we are beginning tounderstand that they had some quite advanced technologies and behaviors.”

Dr.Henry made this discovery together with Alison Brooks, professor ofanthropology and international affairs at GW, and Dolores Piperno, a GWresearch professor and senior scientist and curator of archaeobotany and SouthAmerican archaeology at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History,Washington D.C., and Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama.

Thediscovery of starch granules in the calculus on Neandertal teeth providesdirect evidence that they made sophisticated, thoughtful food choices and atemore nutrient-rich plants, for example date palms, legumes and grains such asbarley. Until now, anthropologists have hypothesized that Neandertals wereoutlived by early modern humans due in part to the former’s primitive,deficient diet, with some scientists arguing Neandertals’ diets werespecialized for meat-eating. As such, during major climate swings Neandertalscould be outcompeted by early humans who incorporated diverse plant foodsavailable in the local environment into their diets.

Drs.Henry, Brooks and Piperno’s discovery suggests otherwise. The researchersdiscovered starch granules in dental calculus, which forms when plaque builduphardens, on the fossilized teeth of Neandertal skeletons excavated from Shanidar Cavein Iraq and Spy Cave in Belgium. Starchgranules are abundant in most human plant foods, but were not known to surviveon fossil teeth this old until this study. The researchers’ findings indicatethat Neandertals’ diets were more similar to those of early humans thanoriginally thought. The researchers also determined from alterations theyobserved in the starch granules that Neandertals prepared and cookedstarch-rich foods to make them taste better and easier to digest.

“Neandertalsand early humans did not visit the dentist,” said Dr. Brooks. “Therefore, thecalculus or tartar remained on their teeth, preserving tiny clues to thepreviously unknown plant portion of their diets.”

Dr.Henry is currently a post-doctoral researcher in the Columbian College of Artsand Sciences Hominid Paleobiology program at the George Washington University,where she also received her Ph.D. in Jan. 2010. Her research focuses on theuses of plant foods by human ancestors. In Jan. 2011, Dr. Henry will beginleading an independent research group focusing on the evolution of human dietat the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.Dr Brooks’ research focuses on the evolution of modern human behavior. Dr.Piperno is a pioneer in the detection and study of plant microfossils and theevolution of human diets.

“Thissignificant finding provides new insight on the plight of the Neandertals,”said Peg Barratt, dean of GW’s Columbian College of Artsand Sciences. “It’s also an excellent example of our dynamic partnership withthe Smithsonian to further advance learning and discovery.”

Thearticle, "Microfossils in calculus demonstrate consumption of plants andcooked foods in Neandertal diets (Shanidar III, Iraq; Spy I and II, Belgium),”will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) andwill be published online Dec. 27. PNAS is a weekly journal that publishesresearch that spans the biological, physical, and social sciences.

Theresearch was supported by a National Science Foundation IGERT award, a WennerGren Foundation doctoral dissertation award, a Smithsonian Institutionpre-doctoral fellowship, a National Science Foundation HOMINID award to theSmithsonian Institution and a selective excellence award from the GeorgeWashington University.

GW'sColumbian College of Arts and Sciences is the largest of the university'sacademic units with more than 40 departments and programs for undergraduate,graduate and professional studies. Columbian College provides the foundationfor GW's commitment to education, research and outreach, providing coursesranging from the traditional disciplines to a wide variety of interdisciplinaryand applied fields for students in all the undergraduate degree programs acrossthe university. An internationally recognized faculty and active partnershipswith prestigious research institutions place Columbian College at the forefrontin advancing policy, enhancing culture and transforming lives through scientificresearch and discovery.

The George Washington University was created byan Act of Congress in 1821. Today, GW is the largest institution of highereducation in the District of Columbia and hasadditional programs in Virginia.The university offers comprehensive programs of undergraduate and graduateliberal arts study, as well as degree programs in medicine, public health, law,engineering, education, business and international affairs. Each year, GWenrolls a diverse population of undergraduate, graduate and professionalstudents from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and more than 130 countries.

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