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The Ancient Atkins Diet

By Jocelyn SelimJanuary 1, 2003 6:00 AM


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Because European settlements from around 10,000 B.C. are primarily found along coasts and rivers, archaeologists assumed their inhabitants survived mostly on fish and plants. The latest look at Mesolithic menus suggests, however, that people back then were a lot more interested in steak than salad niçoise. Archaeologist Glyn Davies of the University of Sheffield in England recently performed a detailed chemical and physical analysis on an 8,000-year-old thighbone unearthed along a river in central England. He focused on patterns of nitrogen and carbon isotopes that can distinguish plant eaters from meat eaters. "We know the bone belonged to a woman who ate an almost exclusively carnivorous diet, only occasionally supplemented with berries or plants," Davies says. Cut marks seen on the bones of wild cattle, aurochs, and deer found nearby corroborate that view. The research raises new questions about Europe's inhabitants after the last ice age. "Everything we know from that period suggests that this woman probably lived in a small family group that traveled seasonally between inland hills and the coast," Davies says. "But no fish and plant remains suggests she stayed put, doing more hunting than gathering."

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