A human heart might seem like a hefty chunk of meat, but its 650 calories would hardly fill up a hungry cannibal living in Paleolithic times. It's a finding that is forcing researchers to rethink why cannibalism was practiced in that period if not as a last resort to fend off starvation. To better understand the reasons behind cannibalism, James Cole of the University of Brighton opted to count calories for all edible parts of the human body using autopsy data, reports Quartz. Including everything from the skeleton to the skin, he discovered a 145-pound man was worth 125,822 calories, reports Time, with 32,376 calories from his 45 pounds of lean muscle. At about 590 calories per pound of muscle, that's not much of a meal, per Ars Technica.
If a group of 25 Neanderthals dined on a single body, they'd each get about a third of the calories needed for that day, Cole says. But if the same group dined on a similarly sized boar, with 1,800 calories per pound of muscle, they'd have enough to feed them for three days, Cole says. With 3.6 million calories of muscle from a mammoth, the group could be fed for a month. Since humans would likely have been challenging to hunt, Cole's study, published in Scientific Reports, calls into question "the viability of hunting and consuming hominins for strictly nutritional reasons," Cole says. "We're not very nutritional at all," he adds, per National Geographic. Cole argues cannibalism instead involved opportunity, competition, and ceremony. (Evidence of cannibalism was just found in a Spanish cave.)