Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Planet Earth

When the World Was Young, and Human Cannibalism Wasn't Such a Big Deal

DiscoblogBy Joseph CalamiaSeptember 1, 2010 10:26 PM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

hotdog.gif

No dessert, caveman child, until you finish eating your human. Digging around in a Spanish cave called Gran Dolina, archaeologists have found butchered humans' fossilized bones. Researchers say the bones show that cave dwellers skinned, decapitated, and enjoyed other early humans, before throwing their remains into a heap with animals bones from other meals. The study, which appeared this month in Current Anthropology, says the 800,000-year-old Homo antecessor bones could indicate the most "ancient cultural cannibalism ... known until now." Adding to the nightmare: National Geographicreports thatthe hungry cavemen had a penchant for kids, since the 11 cannibalized humans uncovered were all youngsters. They speculate that the kiddos were easier to catch, and eating them was a good way to stop competitors from building their families. Study coauthor José María Bermúdez de Castro, of the National Research Center on Human Evolution, told National Geographic that marks near the base of some skulls hint that the diners decapitated humans to get the brain goodness inside.

"Probably then they cut the skull for extracting the brain.... The brain is good for food."

The researchers believe that eating other humans wasn't a big deal back then, and probably wasn't linked to religious rituals or marked by elaborate ceremonies. They draw that conclusion from the fact that butchered human bones were tossed in the scrap heap along with animal remains. There is some debate as to how frequently human was on the menu, but these researchers note that the Sierra de Atapuerca region had a great climate and that cannibalism didn't likely result from a lack of alternatives. I guess our ancestors were just that tasty. Related content: Discoblog: For Early Europeans, Cannibalism Was One Perk of Victory Discoblog: Mad Cow Fears Keep Euro Sperm Out of U.S. Discoblog: To Fight Cancer, Ovarian Cells Eat Themselves 80beats: New Guinean Cannibals Evolved Resistance To Mad Cow-Like Disease

Image: flickr / joanna8555

2 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In