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Diet in Prehistoric Times

Ancient humans had much better diet than us

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New research has shown that Stone Age humans in Britain and France selected their ‘real estate’ in order to achieve the perfect diet.  Ancient humans chose to live on islands in the flood plains of major rivers which offered them a plentiful array of foods.

The study examined 25 major British and French sites which were inhabited by Homo heidelbergensis, an early human relative who inhabited the areas approximately 300,000 years before the emergence of modern humans (Homo sapiens).  They found that our human ancestors consistently chose to live in the flood plains of major rivers and avoided forests, hills, and the upper reaches of river systems.

Although their reasons for choosing flood plain areas were found to be complex, one of the primary reasons was diet. The river flood plains produced rich grass which attracted large numbers of large herbivores, such as horses, deer, rhino and beavers, which they could hunt and eat, as well as large flocks of water birds, who produced eggs that were high in protein.  The flood plains also generated vast numbers of reeds and other water plants with edible roots that were rich in carbohydrate, and leafy vegetables, which would have provided folic acid, crucial for healthy child-bearing. 

The flood plains also provided plentiful material for making tools and lighting fires, and beaver dams offered a good source for obtaining wood.  The beaver pelts, which are warmer that other animal skins, enabled them to make garments to survive the cold winters, and the shallow running water of the river was ideal for catching eels.

According to medical researchers, these factors enabled them to reach extremely good levels of health, far better than what we can find on the supermarket shelves today.

“Looking at the nutritional resources available to these populations, we think that they would not have suffered from much heart disease, cancer or most viral diseases”, said Professor Tony Brown, archaeologist and geographer of the University of Southampton.

Today, humanity is plagued by health conditions linked to poor diet.  In order for our ‘civilised’ and ‘advanced’ society to make improvements to health, we would benefit from delving deeper into the practices of our ancient ancestors and learning from them…  or we might just become another extinct species to add to the fossil record.

By April Holloway

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