Usor:Andrew Dalby/Alimenta palaeolithica

Paleolithic hunting and gathering people ate varying proportions of leafy vegetables, fruit, nuts and insects, meat, fish, and shellfish.[1][2] However, there is little direct evidence of the relative proportions of plant and animal foods.[3] Although the term "paleolithic diet", without references to a specific timeframe or locale, is sometimes used with an implication that most humans shared a certain diet during the entire era, that is not entirely accurate. The Paleolithic was an extended period of time, during which multiple technological advances were made, many of which had impact on human dietary structure. For example, humans probably did not possess the control of fire until the Middle Paleolithic,[4] or tools necessary to engage in extensive fishing. On the other hand, both these technologies are generally agreed to have been widely available to humans by the end of the Paleolithic (consequently, allowing humans in some regions of the planet to rely heavily on fishing and hunting). In addition, the Paleolithic involved a substantial geographical expansion of human populations. During the Lower Paleolithic, ancestors of modern humans are thought to have been constrained to Africa east of the Great Rift Valley. During the Middle and Upper Paleolithic, humans greatly expanded their area of settlement, reaching ecosystems as diverse as New Guinea and Alaska, and adapting their diets to whatever local resources available.

Another view is that until the Upper Paleolithic, humans were frugivores (fruit eaters) who supplemented their meals with carrion, eggs, and small prey such as baby birds and mussels, and only on rare occasions managed to kill and consume big game such as antelopes.[5] This view is supported by studies of higher apes, particularly chimpanzees. Chimpanzees are the closest to humans genetically, sharing more than 96% of their DNA code with humans, and their digestive tract is functionally very similar to that of humans.[6] Chimpanzees are primarily frugivores, but they could and would consume and digest animal flesh, given the opportunity. In general, their actual diet in the wild is about 95% plant-based, with the remaining 5% filled with insects, eggs, and baby animals.[7][8] In some ecosystems, however, chimpanzees are predatory, forming parties to hunt monkeys.[9] Some comparative studies of human and higher primate digestive tracts do suggest that humans have evolved to obtain greater amounts of calories from sources such as animal foods, allowing them to shrink the size of the gastrointestinal tract relative to body mass and to increase the brain mass instead.[10][11]

A difficulty with the frugivore point of view is that humans are established to conditionally require certain long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs), such as AA and DHA, from the diet.[12] Humans' LC-PUFA requirements are much greater than chimpanzees' because of humans' larger brain mass, and humans' abilities to synthesize them from other nutrients are poor, suggesting readily available external sources.[13] Pregnant and lactating females require 100 mg of DHA per day. However, LC-PUFAs are almost nonexistent in plants and in most tissues of warm-climate animals.

Anthropologists have diverse opinions about the proportions of plant and animal foods consumed. Just as with still existing hunters and gatherers, there were many varied "diets" - in different groups - and also varying through this vast amount of time. Some paleolithic hunter-gatherers consumed a significant amount of meat and possibly obtained most of their food from hunting,[14] while others are shown as a primarily plant-based diet, Most, if not all, are believed to have been opportunistic omnivores.[15] One hypothesis is that carbohydrate tubers (plant underground storage organs) may have been eaten in high amounts by pre-agricultural humans.[16][17][18][19] It is thought that the Paleolithic diet included as much as 1.65–1.9 kilograms per day of fruit and vegetables.[20] The relative proportions of plant and animal foods in the diets of Paleolithic people often varied between regions, with more meat being necessary in colder regions (which weren't populated by anatomically modern humans until 30,000-50,000 BP).[21] It is generally agreed that many modern hunting and fishing tools, such as fish hooks, nets, bows, and poisons, weren't introduced until the Upper Paleolithic and possibly even Neolithic. The only hunting tools widely available to humans during any significant part of the Paleolithic period were hand-held spears and harpoons. There's evidence of Paleolithic people killing and eating seals and elands as far as 100,000 years BP. On the other hand, buffalo bones found in African caves from the same period are typically of very young or very old individuals, and there's no evidence that pigs, elephants or rhinos were hunted by humans at the time.[22]

Paleolithic peoples suffered less famine and malnutrition than the Neolithic farming tribes that followed them.[23] This was partly because Paleolithic hunter-gatherers accessed a wider variety natural foods, which allowed them a more nutritious diet and a decreased risk of famine.[24] Many of the famines experienced by Neolithic (and some modern) farmers were caused or amplified by their dependence on a small number of crops.[25][26] It is thought that wild foods can have a significantly different nutritional profile than cultivated foods.[27] The greater amount of meat obtained by hunting big game animals in Paleolithic diets than Neolithic diets may have also allowed Paleolithic hunter-gatherers to enjoy a more nutritious diet than Neolithic agriculturalists.[23] It has been argued that the shift from hunting and gathering to agriculture resulted in an increasing focus on a limited variety of foods, with meat likely taking a back seat to plants.[28] It is also unlikely that Paleolithic hunter-gatherers were affected by modern diseases of affluence such as Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular disease, because they ate mostly lean meats and plants and frequently engaged in intense physical activity,[29][30] and because the average lifespan was shorter than the age of common-onset of these conditions.[31][32]

Large-seeded legumes were part of the human diet long before the Neolithic agricultural revolution, as evident from archaeobotanical finds from the Mousterian layers of Kebara Cave, in Israel.[33] There is evidence suggesting that Paleolithic societies were gathering wild cereals for food use at least as early as 30,000 years ago.[34] However, seeds, such as grains and beans, were rarely eaten and never in large quantities on a daily basis.[35] Recent archeological evidence also indicates that winemaking may have originated in the Paleolithic, when early humans drank the juice of naturally fermented wild grapes from animal-skin pouches.[36] Paleolithic humans consumed animal organ meats, including the livers, kidneys and brains. Upper Paleolithic cultures appear to have had significant knowledge about plants and herbs and may have, albeit very rarely, practiced rudimentary forms of horticulture.[37] In particular, bananas and tubers may have been cultivated as early as 25,000 BP in southeast Asia.[38] Late Upper Paleolithic societies also appear to have occasionally practiced pastoralism and animal husbandry, presumably for dietary reasons. For instance, some European late Upper Paleolithic cultures domesticated and raised reindeer, presumably for their meat or milk, as early as 14,000 BP. Humans also probably consumed hallucinogenic plants during the Paleolithic period. The Australian Aborigines have been consuming a variety of native animal and plant foods, called bushfood, for an estimated 60,000 years, since the Middle Paleolithic.

Large game animals such as deer were an important source of protein in Middle and Upper Paleolithic diets.

People during the Middle Paleolithic, such as the Neanderthals and Middle Paleolithic Homo sapiens in Africa, began to catch shellfish for food as revealed by shellfish cooking in Neanderthal sites in Italy about 110,000 years ago and Middle Paleolithic Homo sapiens sites at Pinnacle Point, in Africa around 164,000 BP.[39] Although fishing only became common during the Upper Paleolithic,[40] fish have been part of human diets long before the dawn of the Upper Paleolithic and have certainly been consumed by humans since at least the Middle Paleolithic. For example, the Middle Paleolithic Homo sapiens in the region now occupied by the Democratic Republic of the Congo hunted large 6 ft-long catfish with specialized barbed fishing points as early as 90,000 years ago. The invention of fishing allowed some Upper Paleolithic and later hunter-gatherer societies to become sedentary or semi-nomadic, which altered their social structures. Example societies are the Lepenski Vir as well as some contemporary hunter-gatherers such as the Tlingit. In some instances (at least the Tlingit) they developed social stratification, slavery and complex social structures such as chiefdoms.

Anthropologists such as Tim White suggest that cannibalism was common in human societies prior to the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic, based on the large amount of “butchered human" bones found in Neanderthal and other Lower/Middle Paleolithic sites.[41] Cannibalism in the Lower and Middle Paleolithic may have occurred because of food shortages.[42] However, it may have been for religious reasons, and would coincide with the development of religious practices thought to have occurred during the Upper Paleolithic.[43] Nonetheless, it remains possible that Paleolithic societies never practiced cannibalism, and that the damage to recovered human bones was either the result of ritual post-mortem bone cleaning or predation by carnivores such as saber tooth cats, lions and hyenas.


  1. Gowlett JAJ (2003). "What actually was the Stone Age Diet?" (PDF). J Nutr Environ Med 13 (3): 143–7 
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Nexus futuriRecensere

Alimenta primatumRecensere

Alimenta palaeolithicaRecensere

Alimenta neolithicaRecensere

  • Pabulatio
    • G. Jones, "Evaluating the importance of cultivation and collecting in Neolithic Britain" in A.S. Fairbairn, ed., Plants in Neolithic Britain and beyond (Oxoniae: Oxbow Books, 2000) pp. 79–90

Alimenta populorum recentiorumRecensere

Alimenta luxuosaRecensere

Pabulatores hodierni
Pabulatores praehistorici
Cultores praehistorici
Plantae panarcticae, pantemperatae, pantropicae
Transplantatores praehistorici
Cultores classici
Pabulatores classici
Mercatores classici

Ethnobotanica hodiernaRecensere

Papua Nova Guinea

Loci archaeologiciRecensere