We know that about half of all Neanderthals were male and we also know that guys will eat just about anything, so it’s surprising that we haven’t had any evidence that Neanderthals ate birds. A new discovery in Gibraltar is the first proof that that they ate and possibly even cooked the ancestors of pigeons, making them the first hominids to eat wings, along with the rest of the fowl.
Bones of rock doves found in a cave in Gibraltar that were 28,000 to 67,000 years old showed evidence of cuts, burns and human tooth marks, indicating that they were eaten when Neanderthals lived in the area. According to a recent paper in the journal Scientific Reports, they appeared to butcher, roast and consume the pigeons the same way we eat chickens. Clive Finlayson, director of the Gibraltar Museum and co-author of the paper, put it this way:
They liked what we like and went for the breasts, the drumsticks and the wings.
The research team was surprised that Neanderthals partook of the pigeons repeatedly.
Our results point to hitherto unappreciated capacities of the Neanderthals to exploit birds as food resources on a regular basis. More so, they were practicing it long before the arrival of modern humans and had therefore invented it independently. This makes them even more human.
The cut marks could mean they used stone tools to get the meat off the bones although the tiny birds were probably best eaten by hand. While the scorch marks may indicate cooking, the team admits that bones could have also been burned afterwards as means of disposal. At the time the pigeons were plentiful, so a Neanderthal climber could easily catch them in their nests.
Maybe this explains why the pigeons in the park scatter when I yell “Neanderthal!”