Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

An Unfortunate and Lengthy Adventure in Misdiagnosis

Prehistoric Brits ate like wolves

with one comment

Regina Wilshire posted a short press item published in Discover Magazine. I found a slightly longer version, one cached from a now expired page. It’s here to preserve the content online:

By Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

Sep. 5 The 7,700-year-old remains of a woman, nicknamed the Lady of Trent, reveal that she ate nearly as much meat as a wolf, according to a press release from the Archaeological Consultancy of the University of Sheffield in England.

The finding suggests meat played a more important role in the diet of Middle Stone Age, or Mesolithic (about 10,000-5,000 years ago) humans in the region that is now England than previously thought. Before now, it was thought that even meat eaters rounded out their diet with gatherer fare, like vegetables and nuts, and fish and shellfish, according to the report, released last week.

A thighbone belonging to the Lady of Trent became the focus of study when the fairly well- preserved bone was found in a dried-up channel of the River Trent. Scientists at Bradford University measured the bone for nitrogen and carbon levels. From the measurements it was determined that this lady was quite a carnivore. Glyn Davies, senior project archaeologist at the Archaeological Consultancy, explained, “The results of the testing gave a (nitrogen) figure of 9.3 for the human bone. As a comparison, cattle would have a figure of about 6 and a carnivore like a wolf would give a figure of around 10.”

He added, “This suggests that the individual here had a very high proportion of meat in (her) diet.”

Supporting his conclusion were several animal bones found near the human remains. One was a bone, which had cut marks most likely from butchering and skinning, according to Davies. Additionally, a wild cattle vertebra was found, along with two ribs from large mammals, such as other deer or cattle, which also possessed cut marks from defleshing.

Debate still exists as to whether or not prehistoric Europeans moved between coastal and inland sites, Davies said. However, since the Lady of Trent hadn’t enjoyed a fish dinner for many years, her reliance on meat suggests Stone Age humans may have stayed put more often than thought.

Andrew Myers, an archaeologist with the Derbyshire County Council who has recently undertaken a review of the Mesolithic in England’s east Midlands, was not entirely surprised “that terrestrial animals provided the main source of dietary protein.”

But he was astonished by the extent to which land meats dominated over other potential sources, like vegetable and nut proteins.

Myers agreed with Davies that the Lady of Trent’s meat-heavy diet indicates Mesolithic man may have been less nomadic than previously believed.

“If (the Lady of Trent’s) movements were so restricted that she had not been to coastal areas (for the last 10-12 years of her life),” said Myers, “this could suggest that the differing dietary strategies of inland and coastal groups may have been reinforced or sustained by some degree of group territoriality.” Prehistoric Brits Ate Like Wolves

There’s also an older press release in the British Archaeology Magazine, dating from 2002 citing the same evidence:

The thighbone of a woman who died about 7,700 years ago, found in a dried-up channel of the River Trent in Nottinghamshire, has undermined some of the cherished clichés of the Mesolithic era. The poor lady, it seems, never saw the sea, and never ate a shellfish or perhaps even a hazelnut in her life.

It is sometimes argued that Mesolithic people in Britain generally stuck to the coastlines, while the ubiquitous hazelnuts and shellfish shells found at campsites have produced a standard view of Mesolithic diet. The Lady of the Trent, by contrast, ate almost nothing but meat – and none of it came from the sea.

Stable isotope analysis – a laboratory technique for measuring the source of protein in bone – conducted by Mike Richards of Bradford University found that the woman’s diet was virtually as meat-rich as that of a carnivorous wild animal. Nitrogen levels were measured as 9.3, on a scale running from herbivore cattle at 6 to carnivore wolves at about 10. Carbon levels showed that her diet had been purely terrestrial, involving no marine food.

The bone, radiocarbon dated to between about 5735-5630 BC, was excavated from a gravel quarry at Staythorpe near Newark by Glyn Davies of the Sheffield University-based unit, ARCUS. Mesolithic human bones are exceptionally rare in Britain, and its discovery in a former channel of the Trent may lend support to the theory that bodies were disposed of in ‘sacred’ rivers – either floated on rafts or thrown directly into the water. A collection of Neolithic skulls was found in the Trent a few years ago.

Close to the thigh bone, archaeologists found a group of butchered Mesolithic animal bones, including aurochs, roe deer and otter. Elsewhere, in a river channel dating to the Bronze Age, a cut-marked deer antler was found which had been used as raw material for tools. The 7,700-year-old woman who ate like a wolf

An aurochs (yes that grammar is right) is a type of extinct cattle with large horns. However, I’m more intrigued by the idea of eating an otter. I expect they are quite fatty.

I keep saying this, and people always scoff at me, even (in fact, especially) on the Weston A. Price Foundation groups. The reason we are food chemical intolerant as a species is not because there is something terribly wrong with a small minority of us, but because we evolved to eat fresh meat and little else.

It’s also quite nice to note that the tests were performed on the remains of a female. Seems she didn’t do very much gathering after all. I wonder if she caught her own otters? We don’t know anything about paleolithic gender roles, but we do know that extrapolating from property owning neolithic societies is a dangerous mistake. Since childcare was probably a shared responsibility, if I lived in a tribe of about thirty people, even if I had a couple of kids I don’t think it would preclude me from catching otters .


Written by alienrobotgirl

9 February, 2007 at 7:06 pm

Posted in Historical Diets

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. That was what I was thinking while watching that Ray Mears thing last week. Hunting is so much more efficient at delivering energy. The gathering was last a bizzare chemistry experiment trying to make things edible


    10 February, 2007 at 10:46 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: