Among other types of meats, it seems that prehistoric humans had tortoise on the menu and that it was a good variation from their usual diet. It was also much easier to catch.
- Researchers found tortoise bones in the Qesem Cave, in Tel Aviv
- The remains were between 200,000 to 400,000 years old
- The scientists believed they were easy game to catch, more often targeted by older hunters
A group of researchers made an excavation in the Qesem Cave, just outside the highway with the same name in Tel Aviv. The site was discovered back in 2000 by workers constructing the long road. Since then, the cave has become a major point of interest for archaeologists, offering insights into early human history. The massive sites spread on several levels and has been the source of many discoveries.
Most recently, the team of Spanish, German, and Israeli scientists found remains that indicated a new aspect of the human diet. Apparently, between 200,000 to 400,000 years ago, early humans feasted on tortoise. While today there are some varieties that are still enjoyed in Japan, it’s not a very common dish in modern times. However, it was not so uncommon for them, as they presented with several advantages.
Experts believe that ancient humans had a preference for big game, such as deer and aurochs. While that is certainly true, it has also been underlined that hunting was not easy. In fact, for thousands of years, they fed mostly on vegetables because large game was difficult to acquire. That is because there was a need for excellent weapons and larger groups. Tortoises, on the other hand, were easy prey. They are slow moving, easy to kill, and do not offer much of a chase.
This has likely led ancient hunter-gatherers to make them part of their diet, though likely as a variation. According to lead author of the study Ran Barkai, an archaeologist at Tel Aviv University, it’s unlikely that tortoises was their main meal. It could have been something to add variety or smaller meals. However, that also offered another insight in the hunting habits of hunter-gatherers. Due to the ease of hunting them, it’s tough to say if capturing a tortoise was considered hunting. It resembled more to gathering.
The researchers state that it’s highly possible that finding and catching turtles was more of an old man’s game. The conclusion was drawn after observing today’s remaining population of hunter-gatherers, such as the San tribes in Africa. Large game is often left to the young men to hunt, while the smaller animals fall prey to the older and less able hunters. It’s possible that it was the same situation hundreds of thousands of years ago.
The team of researchers drew their results after noting scorch marks, blunt damage, and scratches made by flint knives across the shelves. It showed that the tortoises were stunned by heavy blows, and either separated from their shells or roasted directly over the fire.
Image source: blognostics.net