To meat or not to meat? New perspectives on neanderthal ecology

Luca Fiorenza, Stefano Benazzi, Amanda G. Henry, Domingo C. Salazar-García, Ruth Blasco, Andrea Picin, Stephen Wroe, Ottmar Kullmer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

77 Citations (Scopus)


Neanderthals have been commonly depicted as top predators who met their nutritional needs by focusing entirely on meat. This information mostly derives from faunal assemblage analyses and stable isotope studies: methods that tend to underestimate plant consumption and overestimate the intake of animal proteins. Several studies in fact demonstrate that there is a physiological limit to the amount of animal proteins that can be consumed: exceeding these values causes protein toxicity that can be particularly dangerous to pregnant women and newborns. Consequently, to avoid food poisoning from meat-based diets, Neanderthals must have incorporated alternative food sources in their daily diets, including plant materials as well.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-71
Number of pages29
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue numberS59
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Dental calculus
  • Paleopathology
  • Stable isotopes
  • Technology
  • Tooth wear
  • Zooarchaeology

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