Early Humans Ate Animals We Call Pets

Human bite marks found on small-carnivore remains
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 19, 2015 5:00 PM CST
Archaeologists work at an archaeological site in Atapuerca in northern Spain, on July 10, 2007.    (AP Photo/Israel L. Murillo)

(Newser) – Europeans have dined on dogs, foxes, badgers, and wild cats, a new study says—although admittedly it's been a while. Researchers base this on ancient small-carnivore remains discovered in a Spanish cave, the Telegraph reports. Dating back 3,100 to 7,200 years, the remains show signs of human bite marks, cut marks, breaks, and evidence of culinary processing (like being defleshed and boiled). Early humans apparently used the cave at Atapuerca to shelter sheep flocks, but had to eat too, and may have downed dogs and cats during famines: "It's one of the possibilities," says researcher Patricia Martin. "However, in some Asian cultures dog meat is considered a rich source of protein or as a delicatessen meat."

She says early humans may have also killed these animals to "obtain the skin." Either way, she adds, cave dwellers may have grabbed these wild carnivores by chance because catching them was so hard. The 24 fossils offer the first tooth-mark evidence of humans consuming such animals, the study says, but the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution mentions earlier finds pointing to consumption of similar animals on Mediterranean islands like Cyprus during Neolithic times. An odd side-note: "Dog consumption is sporadic but occurs repeatedly in time," says Martin, "whereas the consumption of small wild carnivores is more limited in time." (For another ancient find, read about a shipwreck that yielded "Atlantis" metal.)

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