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Neandertals’ main food source was definitely meat

Isotope analyses performed on single amino acids in Neandertals’ collagen samples shed new light on their debated diet

A specific feature of modern humans seems to be their frequent fish consumption, which can be determined by nitrogen isotope analyses of bone or tooth collagen. An international research team, led by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, discovered two late Neandertals characterized by exceptionally high nitrogen isotope ratios, which would traditionally be interpreted as the signature of freshwater fish consumption. By studying the isotope ratios of single amino acids, they however demonstrated that instead of fish, the adult Neandertal had a diet relying on large herbivore mammals and that the other Neandertal was a breastfeeding baby whose mother was also a carnivore. According to isotope data, Neandertals seem to have had a very stable diet over time, including after the arrival of modern humans in Europe.

© MPI f. Evolutionary Anthropology/ A. Le Cabec