Neanderthals Cooked Their Vegetables

Research by the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian natural history museum shows us that Neanderthals were not all that different from modern humans in their eating habits. They ate grains and vegetables as well as meat, and they cooked their dinners, too!
Researchers found grains from numerous plants, including a type of wild grass, as well as traces of roots and tubers, trapped in plaque buildup on fossilized Neanderthal teeth unearthed in northern Europe and Iraq.

Many of the particles "had undergone physical changes that matched experimentally-cooked starch grains, suggesting that Neanderthals controlled fire much like early modern humans," PNAS said in a statement.

Stone artifacts have not provided evidence that Neanderthals used tools to grind plants, suggesting they did not practice agriculture, but the new research indicates they cooked and prepared plants for eating, it said.

Link -via J-Walk Blog

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This is interesting, especially in light of the research reported here -

http://harvardmagazine.com/2011/01/head-to-toe

which addressed the question of why the human face has gotten smaller during evolution, and attributed the changes to the cooking of food:

"As bones grow, their size and shape respond to biomechanical stresses, so he decided to study the effects of chewing hard versus soft food on the growth and development of the skull in various animal species. In one experiment, he fed soft food to one group of pigs, hard food to another. The stresses of chewing made the upper and lower jaws of the pigs eating hard food grow larger. The study suggested that there is a link between smaller jaws and regularly chewing very high-quality soft food. And humans, he points out, have never had greater access to high-energy processed food than they do now. “I think many people today never have to actually chew anything all day long,” he says. “You can see the effects of that shift in our heads now in terms of molar impactions”—small faces and jaws leave too little room for teeth."
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