LifestyleScientists unearth astonishing insights into our ancestors' diet

Scientists unearth astonishing insights into our ancestors' diet

What did our ancestors eat?
What did our ancestors eat?
Images source: © Pixabay | krantzpeter

6:54 AM EST, November 5, 2023

The latest findings from numerous scientists are bound to surprise many of you. Contrary to popular belief, the foundation of our ancestor’s diet a few thousand years ago was not meat, but rather algae, seaweed, and other aquatic plants. What’s more, this practice predates the consumption of the same resources in the Far East.

According to scientists whose studies were published in "Nature Communications", algae and seaweed could have been the cornerstone of diets in prehistoric Europe, especially during the Mesolithic and Neolithic (Middle and Late Stone Age) periods. They postulate that this dietary habit likely persevered into the early Middle Ages. Historic records suggest that even by the 10th century in Iceland, people were dining on seaweed and algae.

Algae: A Staple Of Ancient European Diets

"While a variety of seaweeds is consumed today, including in Asia, archaeological evidence for the consumption of algae and freshwater plants in Europe is limited. During the Neolithic period, agriculture spread across all of Europe, and food of marine origin was deemed insignificant. Seaweed was previously suggested to be used as fodder for animals or as fertilizer," wrote the researchers conducting the study, Stephen Backley of the University of York and Karen Hardy of the University of Glasgow, who were cited by "National Geographic".

In Japan, algae have been part of the diet for over 2,000 years. However, researchers claim that Europeans incorporated them into their meals even earlier. What supports this theory? Scientists have analyzed biomarkers extracted from dental calculus found on the teeth of prehistoric skeletons. Samples from 74 individuals from various parts of Europe were examined. The analysis showed that our ancestors frequently consumed aquatic plants. The results also suggest consumption started around 8,000 years ago and persisted into the Neolithic period, when the benefits of plant cultivation became clear.

"The discovery highlights the potential of marine and water plants as a local and sustainable food source," affirm the authors of this revolutionary study.
Algae
Algae© Adobe Stock

Prehistoric Europeans consumed varying types of seaweed, algae, and other aquatic flora, including red, green, and brown varieties. Those dwelling near the Orkney archipelago in Scotland also harvested sea rocket, a member of the cabbage family found on beaches and dunes. It’s noteworthy that these edible aquatic plants are rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals.

Related content