World's oldest human faeces found in Spain
Alex Dunham · 26 Jun 2014, 12:36
Published: 26 Jun 2014 12:36 GMT+02:00
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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.