Cooked brown crabDid Neanderthals Eat Seafood?

Archaeologists working in a coastal cave in Portugal have discovered the remains of various shellfish, including numerous brown crabs, where Neanderthals lived around 90,000 years ago. The find suggests that Neanderthals cooked and ate meat from crabs and shellfish.

Specifically, according to a new study published in Frontiers in Environmental Archaeology, the Neanderthals living in the Iberian Peninsula hunted and ate mostly larger adult crabs. This suggests that Neanderthals knew that larger crabs provided more food.

Did Neanderthals Eat Seafood?

Along with the remains of the brown crab, the researchers found remains of a variety of shell-like molluscs that Neanderthals ate, including limpets, clams and clams. The coastal cave is known as Gruta da Figueira Brava and is located about 20 miles south of Lisbon, Portugal, right next to the Atlantic coast.

Given the proximity to the sea, researchers suggest that Neanderthals resorted to hunting in shallow waters rather than moving inland. Finds at Gruta da Figueira Brava show that Neanderthals cooked clams and crabs over coals and then broke them open to eat the meat that was inside.

Read more: What animals did early humans primarily hunt?

How do we know Neanderthals ate shellfish?

The researchers could conclude that Neanderthals were responsible for the shelly remains because of the type of damage seen on the shells. According to the study, the crack marks on the shells are similar to those found when a person eats crab today. Also, the damage patterns on the shells do not reflect the damage a bird or other animal would cause.

“Our results add a further nail in the coffin of the outdated notion that Neanderthals were primitive cave dwellers who could barely subsist on scavenged large game carcasses,” said study author Mariana Nabais in press release.

Read more: Ancient Predators: A Guide to Neanderthal Hunting

Other Neanderthal Diets and Habits

Researchers are learning more about the Neanderthal diet, and recent discoveries at Gruta da Figueira Brava are helping to shed new light. Other studies in the past few years have also revealed that Neanderthals adapted to different environments and hunted different types of animals.

A study published in February 2022, found that Neanderthals could hunt and kill adult elephants with straight tusks that could weigh up to 13 tons. Neanderthals probably managed to feed hundreds of people with these carcasses. And November 2022 survey reveals that Neanderthals cooked meals that included plants like lentils that are still present in our diet today.

Whether Neanderthals were eating crabs or cooking elephant meat, new research into their diet is always giving us a closer look at what life was like for this ancient species.

Read more: Neanderthals hunted and ate elephants with straight tusks

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