World's oldest human faeces found in Spain

Alex Dunham
Alex Dunham - [email protected]
World's oldest human faeces found in Spain

50,000 year-old human excrement discovered in eastern Spain is offering a new insight into the not so meaty diet of our prehistoric ancestors the Neanderthals. The Local spoke to one of the scientists who found and studied the faeces.


You may have previously thought Neanderthals were protein-loving hunters who turned their noses up at fruit and veg, but a recent discovery in Spain’s Valencia region may prove otherwise.

Geoarchaeologists working at the El Salt Neanderthal site near Alicante have found the oldest human excrement to date atop an ancient campfire.

“We were expecting to find lipids (organic compounds) from their cooking on the campfire, but instead we found samples belonging to human faeces,” Spanish researcher Ainara Sistiaga told The Local.

“I doubt they ‘went to the toilet’ there while the fire was ablaze, or that they used the faeces as fuel for that matter.

“It’s more likely that they used the campfire as a ‘loo’ once they had moved their settlement elsewhere,” Sistiaga added.

A scientist at La Laguna University in Spain’s Canary Islands, Sistiaga has worked with researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in determining what the 50,000 year-old faeces contain.

“Two of the samples we took contained compounds that are produced when molecules found in plant-based foods are broken down.

“We don’t know yet how much of a varied diet Neanderthals had, but our study is the first direct evidence that they may have been omnivorous rather than carnivorous, as was previously thought,” Sistiaga concluded.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also