(Kin Man Hui /The San Antonio Express-News via AP
Pre-school students observe a tortoise at its exhibit at the San Antonio Zoo, in San Antonio, Texas, in January 2016. In Israel, researchers have found evidence that humans ate tortoises as an appetizer some 400,000 years ago.

Humans served tortoise appetizers 400,000 years ago

Researchers found 400,000-year-old tortoise shells and bones in a cave in Israel that showed hunter-gatherers butchered and cooked tortoise.

Prehistoric cave-dwellers enjoyed munching on tortoises roasted in their shells as an appetizer or side dish, Ran Barkai, an archaeologist at Tel Aviv University, said on Tuesday.

Barkai helped lead a research team who found 400,000-year-old tortoise shells and bones in a cave in Israel that showed hunter-gatherers butchered and cooked tortoises as part of a diet dominated by large animals and vegetation.

Burn marks were found on the shells discovered in the Qessem cave, as well as signs they were cracked open and cut marks indicating the animal was butchered using flint knives.

"Now we know they ate tortoises in a rather sophisticated way," Barkai said. "It would have been a supplement - an appetizer, dessert or a side dish - to the meat and fat from large animals."

Qessem cave was uncovered during road work in 2000 and was believed to be inhabited for about 200,000 years. The site has offered scientists a rare insight into human evolution and accounted for many research papers.

Bones scattered throughout the cave have already suggested a calorie-rich prehistoric menu of horses, fallow deer and wild ox. A study last year, based on plaque found on teeth, showed the cave's inhabitants also ate plant-based material.

The latest findings by Barkai's team, which included members from Spain and Germany, were published this week in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews.

Researchers are learning more about the diet of ancient humans. In Australia, the appetite for humongous eggs brought about the extinction of a large bird, reports The Christian Science Monitor.

The study was conducted by a team of Australian and American scientists, who analyzed burn patterns on eggshell fragments.

The giant bird, which scientists have dubbed Genyornis newtoni, weighed roughly 500 pounds and stood about seven feet tall. Its eggs would have been the size of cantaloupes, and likely weighed 3.5 pounds. Genyornis was just one of many massive ancient animals, a group that scientists collectively call megafauna.

Other gargantuan examples of Australia’s frightening animal past include a 1,000 pound kangaroo and a wombat the size of a moderately sized car. Despite their impressive size, these megafauna were no match for humans; about 85 percent of these animals went extinct after people arrived on the scene.

The study, published Friday in the science journal Nature Communications, is the first to shine some light on the connection between humans and the extinction of Australia’s gigantic megafauna.

"We consider this the first and only secure evidence that humans were directly preying on now-extinct Australian megafauna," Gifford Miller, a geology professor at University of Colorado, Boulder.

(Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Raissa Kasolowsky)

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Humans served tortoise appetizers 400,000 years ago
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today