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Showing posts from June, 2014

Polishing turds: social contexts of Neandertal coprolites

Finally we have something I've been waiting for for a while- Neandertal poo. Aside from providing journalists with various amusing headlines ("What the crap?"; "Poop scoop" etc.), this new research (open access article) is interesting on several levels. The obvious one reported in the paper is the identification of vegetal matter through chemical analysis, which is yet another neat addition to the ever-increasing stack of examples that Neandertals weren't the hyper-carnivores they were believed to be. However I think a couple of other things are equally interesting.

There has been at least one previous claim of Neandertal faeces (known when preserved in archaeological deposits as coprolites) from Lazaret, France, but these may not have been human, and analysis was limited to identifying pollen grains. While this kind of study is useful for information about the contemporary environment, it's not direct evidence of the food making up the co…