PDA

View Full Version : Did humans always eat meat?



Pages : [1] 2 3 4 5

Hasha
Oct 3rd, 2004, 06:42 PM
Talking of fish, I just read that Norwegian anthropolgists got a surprise when analyzing stone age findings along the coastal line of Norway (well, Norway IS a coastal line, sort of). This wasn't even Southern Norway, but from an area which has really cold and long winters. They seem to have found out that they didn't eat fish at all, but a lot of raspberries and hazelnuts (just like me! :) ), and only food 'from the soil'.

I've been thinking about this one, and I figure, perhaps they weren't fishing, but then they must've been hunting large mammals or something like that. For clothes if for no other reason. And if they were hunting for clothes, well, one would think they'd eat what they caught... Any thoughts?

Korn
Oct 3rd, 2004, 09:03 PM
Hi Hasha,

I don't think they 'must have' been hunting large mammals, but maybe they have. According to the article I saw, they only seemed to live on plant food.

There are many studies and assumptions regarding what man 'always' ate. If someone lives in a cold climate, with snow for several months, with only primitive (or hardly any) weapons, and only two legs (while the animals they were to hunt had four, and were much bigger)... if I were them, I would rather have spent my efforts on moving southwards than running around in the snow after big, scary animals :) .

But who knows? What we know, is that there have been vegetarian cultures for thousands of years, and cultures with true respect for animals as well. If they represented 1% or 99% of the world populatin is a question of mathematics and statistics, isn't it?

The basis of the life of most Jains, founded by Mahavir about 2500 years ago, is a vegetarian lifestyle that normally AFAIK doesn't even include the use of leather. The Norwegian study goes much further back in time, and while scientists will disagree for centuries about what people did thousands of years ago, personally I'd rather influence what scientists find out in 10,000 years about how mankind lived 10,000 years ago (now!), than being part of assuming or believing and guessing anything about what happened 10,000 years before I was born.

Maybe you have seen this list:

"Meat-eaters: have claws
Herbivores: no claws
Humans: no claws

Meat-eaters: have no skin pores and perspire through the tongue
Herbivores: perspire through skin pores
Humans: perspire through skin pores

Meat-eaters: have sharp front teeth for tearing, with no flat molar teeth for grinding

Herbivores: no sharp front teeth, but flat rear molars for grinding
Humans: no sharp front teeth, but flat rear molars for grinding

Meat-eaters: have intestinal tract that is only 3 times their body length so that rapidly decaying meat can pass through quickly
Herbivores: have intestinal tract 10-12 times their body length.
Humans: have intestinal tract 10-12 times their body length.

Meat-eaters: have strong hydrochloric acid in stomach to digest meat
Herbivores: have stomach acid that is 20 times weaker than that of a meat-eater
Humans: have stomach acid that is 20 times weaker than that of a meat-eater

Meat-eaters: salivary glands in mouth not needed to pre-digest grains and fruits.
Herbivores: well-developed salivary glands which are necessary to pre-digest grains and fruits
Humans: well-developed salivary glands, which are necessary to pre-digest, grains and fruits

Meat-eaters: have acid saliva with no enzyme ptyalin to pre-digest grains
Herbivores: have alkaline saliva with ptyalin to pre-digest grains
Humans: have alkaline saliva with ptyalin to pre-digest grains


Based on a chart by A.D. Andrews, Fit Food for Men, (Chicago: American Hygiene Society, 1970)"

Or this, from medical-library.net:

"If you were an alien from another planet trying to classify the animals according to what they eat by looking at their anatomy, man would certainly be classified as a vegetarian. He has relatively benign-looking teeth, best adapted to grinding vegetable fiber. He has no claws but rather fingers and fingernails well-adapted to dissecting plants. He is not particularly fast; in fact, even slower than the bear and thus unable to run down a meal. He has a 28-foot-long intestinal tract! This long intestinal tract is designed for dealing with the more complex nature of plant digestion. All these characteristics indicate that, by nature, man's ancestors on the simian tree were vegetarians. This design apparently is rather ancient. In the meantime, man's digestive physiology has changed to that of an omnivore, also able to handle meats, preferably, from a digestive point of view, raw meats. However, man was designed to be a vegetarian and the presence of four canine teeth is not enough to say otherwise." ( http://www.medical-library.net/sites/framer.html?/sites/_nutrition.html )

Psychologists for Ethical Treatment of Animals (http://www.psyeta.org/sa/sa4.1/tobias.html) have some interesting stuff about the topic, including information about the Bishnoi and the Toda. You might also know that The American Dietetic Association (ADA) believes that most of mankind for most of human history has lived on vegetarian or near-vegetarian diets. Personally, I'm not really really interested in the subject as such, because whatever my Norwegian ancestors had for lunch thousands of years ago, doesn't influence what I'll have for lunch tomorrow :).

If a vegan would tell a meat eater what ADA thinks, he'd probably only say 'so what'? And vice versa, if someone insists that man has always been an omnivore, which we by the way know is wrong, because 'always' also includes studies of people who did NOT eat meat, I see no reason to join them and assume that this or that group 'must have' been eating meat.

Comments are welcome, as always...

homage47
Oct 3rd, 2004, 11:28 PM
Korn, your norwegian coastline dweller story reminded me, that - In a book called 'manwatching' by Desmond morris he argues the case for humans close evolutionary link to the coast / water during our evolution. (it may have been in 'the human ape')

such as nostrils unlike any other primate to keep water gushing into our lungs. most apes stay well away from water and definatly don't dive.
we the only naked ape, yet similar to other marine mammals. water logged fur is no good for swimming!
marginally webbed fingers.

, think diving into water. even our body hair follows the route of water mostly.

Most humans run back to the coast at holiday season. is this coincidental?

Many prehistoric sites in the uk have large tips of crusteacian shells. theres a fair argument for our ancestors being pecharians (seafood eaters). and evolving by the waters edge rather than on the dry african as is taught in history classes.

Hasha
Oct 5th, 2004, 04:51 AM
Homo sapiens is such a weird species. As Korn pointed out, we have far more in common with herbivores than with carnivores. (As for the famous canine teeth, primates use their canines for scaring opponents, not for eating!) And yet, humans eat meat. I think it's pretty safe to assume that, with a few exceptions of relatively recent date, humans always incorporated some meat in their diet. So here's my best guess:

1) Our anatomy suggests that we are best suited for food of plant origin.

2) We have big brains, which demand a great deal of protein.

3) In a non-agricultural society, it is virtually impossible to obtain enough protein by eating plants alone. This is because most of the plants found in the wild don't have too much protein in them. So, non-agriculturalists are forced to go against their intestinal tract (by eating meat) in order to satisfy the needs of their heads (protein).

4) In an agricultural society, and certainly in a developed agricultural society, humans have quite a bit of control over what they raise, so they are able to influence to a considerable degree what foods are available to them.

5) By raising plants rich in protein (soybeans for example), humans are capable of catering both to their stomachs (because they are eating plant food) and to their heads (because they are eating enough protein). So raising animals for food in a developed agricultural society seems to be quite needless and even harmful for our health (to say nothing about the health of the animals humans raise and the health of this planet).


Anyway, I definitely agree with Korn about not letting what my ancestors ate influence what I eat for lunch tomorrow. What my ancestors ate is a part of the problem - they planted the seeds of a ridiculously carnivorous culture that can cause nothing but trouble. I don't mean to overestimate my influence, I don't expect to be able to turn too many people into vegans, I'll be lucky if I convert any at all. But, I want no part in the further destruction of this planet's ecosystem, waters, soil, atmosphere etc. and I want no part in the perpetuation of animal slavery. Finally, I want to reduce the likelihood that I will die of some meat-related disease. And if I have any children and if they live to see some large-scale animal-food related epidemic, I want to give them the best chance I can of being among the lucky survivors.

Hasha
Oct 5th, 2004, 05:03 AM
By the way, the article from medical-library.net is interesting, but it's not terribly credible. Human evolution isn't nearly as well understood as they would like us to believe. For example, it isn't clear that Homo habilis is the ancestor of Homo erectus. Some think that it's just a variation of Homo erectus, others that it's its cousin. And who says that Homo erectus exterminated the australopithecines? Maybe I missed something, but I have never heard of any evidence that would suggest that Homo erectus was killing the australopithecines. Also, the relationship between the Neanderthals and modern humans is not well understood at all. Are the two just subspecies of the same species? Are we different species? Could the Neanderthals speak? And what's that thing about the neuro-chemical change from 4 thousand years ago? Where did that occur? Does that mean that the Old and New World humans are different species? I'm really suspicious.

John
Oct 5th, 2004, 05:17 AM
3) In a non-agricultural society, it is virtually impossible to obtain enough protein by eating plants alone. This is because most of the plants found in the wild don't have too much protein in them. So, non-agriculturalists are forced to go against their intestinal tract (by eating meat) in order to satisfy the needs of their heads (protein)


I beg to differ. After buying a book on edible wild plants I saw just how much wild plant food is available, even in the overpopulated region where I live. It just takes a lot of knowldge to know where to find it, how to identify it, how to process it, and what is poisonous.

Hasha
Oct 5th, 2004, 05:23 AM
I beg to differ. After buying a book on edible wild plants I saw just how much wild plant food is available, even in the overpopulated region where I live. It just takes a lot of knowldge to know where to find it, how to identify it, how to process it, and what is poisonous.

Just? :p Seriously though, the question isn't whether those plants are edible but whether they would provide enough protein for our brains. What we need is a lot of those plants that provide us with a lot more protein than your average plant has. Also, how many of those plants are available year round? If you're a forager, you aren't going to be able to store all that much to survive winter.

John
Oct 5th, 2004, 05:30 AM
It is possible to make flour from many wild plants to last through the winter. Off the top of my head I can give the examples of acorns and cattails (a marsh plant we have around here) which can be made into flour. Wild rice can be dried. And yes, many wild plants are high in protein.

Hasha
Oct 5th, 2004, 05:39 AM
I don't think that non-agriculturalists could make flour.

John
Oct 5th, 2004, 06:02 AM
In the case of cattails, I believe that flour can be made with only one's hands and a bucket of water. No grindstone. But even grinding with stone does not require much much technology. Think of Southwestern Indians grinding cornmeal on a flat stone with another grinding stone in hand. I know that they were agriculturists but the point is that the implements don't have to be that heavy.

Hasha
Oct 5th, 2004, 06:18 AM
I'm still suspicious. Are the plants that are 1) easy to make flour from and 2) rich in protein, easily and widely available? Also, even if it's fairly easy to make flour, how do you store it if you're constantly moving from one place to another?

The fact is that most (all?) non-agriculturalists ate at least some meat. There must've been some advantages to doing so. I mean, if it was so easy to get all the nutrients necessary from plants growing in the wild, I can't imagine that the feeble Homo sapiens would've bothered hunting big, scary animals, no matter how smart he may have been.

John
Oct 5th, 2004, 08:35 PM
Of course, it largely depends on climate. However, it seems that in many instances most of the food probably came from plants, while hunting occasionally brought in some food. It seems like men hunted because they enjoyed hunting and left the women and children at home to do the real work of gathering and processing food. Meanwhile, the men spent the day enjoying the scenery and sport. Of course, occasionally they would bring home a kill and everyone would enjoy the extra food.

There are obviously some places like Alaska where most of the food came from hunting and fishing. However, these seem like places which were only recently inhabited by people forced into the fringes.

Out of gathering plants for food and medicine came language. Out of language came classification. Out of calssification came science. Out of science came technology. Out of technology came "civilization".

nonemorebrown
Oct 5th, 2004, 10:01 PM
Of course, it largely depends on climate. However, it seems that in many instances most of the food probably came from plants, while hunting occasionally brought in some food. It seems like men hunted because they enjoyed hunting and left the women and children at home to do the real work of gathering and processing food. Meanwhile, the men spent the day enjoying the scenery and sport. Of course, occasionally they would bring home a kill and everyone would enjoy the extra food.


You are right about this, John. I remember reading in one of my text books (or somewhere) that, in the Hunter/Gatherer era, 90% of their food was plant based.

Hasha
Oct 6th, 2004, 01:06 AM
I do believe that the hunter-gatherers' diet was largely plant-based. In the summer at least, it would've been far easier to find plants than it would be to hunt down a large animal. That doesn't mean that the early humans would've been just as well or better off if they'd just stuck to plants. Even if meat was just 10% of their diet (something I'm quite prepared to believe, at least when it comes to humans who lived in relatively mild regions, which is presumably where Homo sapiens first evolved), those 10% were protein-dense and would've been quite valuable. Hunting must've been risky and unpredictable business, so it would be hard to believe that the early humans could rely on the men to keep them from starving by hunting. Taking care of the tribe's needs for calories, vitamins, etc. would've been the women's job since they were the ones to gather the plants, and plant gathering must've had a far more predicable outcome than hunting did. But, when the men struck it lucky, they would bring home a big animal that would take care of everyone's protein needs (or rather, the protein needs that weren't fully met by the plant food that people ate most of the time). So I would think that the men had an important role to play in meeting the tribe's nutritional needs, even though, in terms of calories, they provided far less than the women did. I find it hard to imagine that the men would just go off to hunt simply because it was fun, leaving the women to do the boring work. I can't imagine that they saw it as nothing but sport. I would guess that sport developed as an imitation of war and hunting in the agricultural societies at times of peace. Sport and hunter-gatherers - that strikes me as a rather weird concept...

John
Oct 6th, 2004, 01:28 AM
From the documentaries which I have seen about the African wilderness, it seems like there is fierce competition for meat. There is always some big carnivore running up and snatching a piece of meat from a smaller carnivore. It makes me think that it might have been quite dangerous to have a big barbecue back then. Especially since it was the time of megafauna around the world and animals were much bigger then. One instance of a lion running up on a band of rejoicing hunters may have been enough to disuade them from hunting.

I'm sure that some bands may have gotten good at fighting animals and stuck with the hunting method, but some others may have decided to not attract large carnivores to their camps. These people may have decided to not have animal carcasses lying around and stuck with the plants.

Of course this is purely hypothetical. All I am saying is that it is possible that there were vegan stone age people. Why not, with all the different cultures in the world? If we can be vegans now, with so much meat to be easily gotten, why not vegans then?

Why not nonviolent cavemen? They were human beings just like we are.

Hasha
Oct 6th, 2004, 03:12 AM
It is possible that there were vegan non-agriculturalists. But if they existed, that must've been in areas where plenty of protein-dense plants were available all year round. Can anyone think of such an area? I don't know, I've never studied the subject. Also, it is true that there is far more meat available today, but think about how you obtain your food. You go to a supermarket. Do I want chicken or do I want tofu? You do have lots and lots of meat easily available, but protein-dense plant foods are also readily available for those who want them. That's not the way things worked thousands of years ago.

Also, a big barbecue would've been quite safe, I would think - animals tend to be afraid of fire. Now, dragging a carcass home for that barbecue would've been a different issue... Plus, even a vegan tribe wouldn't be safe from bigger carnivores - humans can be run down and eaten. But still, I suppose it's possible that among the many omnivore tribes, there were a few vegan ones as well.

mattd
Oct 6th, 2004, 05:43 AM
Of course, it largely depends on climate. However, it seems that in many instances most of the food probably came from plants, while hunting occasionally brought in some food. It seems like men hunted because they enjoyed hunting and left the women and children at home to do the real work of gathering and processing food. Meanwhile, the men spent the day enjoying the scenery and sport. Of course, occasionally they would bring home a kill and everyone would enjoy the extra food.

There are obviously some places like Alaska where most of the food came from hunting and fishing. However, these seem like places which were only recently inhabited by people forced into the fringes.

Out of gathering plants for food and medicine came language. Out of language came classification. Out of calssification came science. Out of science came technology. Out of technology came "civilization".

You seem to be pretty damn certain about the specific activities and the reasons for those activities without really supporting why you believe that. Men would NOT have hunted just for sport. It gas been observed and well documented that early homo sapiens hunted megafauna (mammoth, whoolly rhino, ect). These animals were extremely dangerous but provided enough meat for a very long time. There's no reason to believe that humans would take part in such a dangerous acvtivity if it didn't have any utilitarian purpose.

And there have been people living in the far northern latitudes for a long time. It is most likely that they slowly crossed over into the Americas along the cost around Alaska or over the landbridge into northern Canada. There have be sites found to be thousands upon thousands of years old. In terms of modern human society thats a fairly long time.

Obviously there's always a chance that some early groups of humans were vegans, and there maybe some evidence of that now. But the overwhelming evidence (found in animal bones with cuts made from human tools, actual tools found, and fossilized poop) shows that most humans ate at least some meat. But I'm really not sure if this has anything to do with the culture of animal abuse alive in society today. There was a reason humans ate meat back then, it had the huge benifit of giving them alot of fat and alot of protien calories in a relatively compact form. In the western world today we don't need that, our bodies aren't built to be as lazy as they are and cope with the amount fat most humans consume. Blah, thats about all I have to say, I'm tired.

PS. John, sorry. I hope it didn't look like I was attacking you, so please don't take it as that.

John
Oct 6th, 2004, 06:00 AM
I certainly don't believe that all people were vegans 100,000 years ago. Just that is is possible that some were. If archeologists in the future want to know what people of our time eat, they would have a hard time finding any evidence that some people are vegans. The majority of archeologists would say that all people ate as much meat as they could. "There would be no way that a person could go to the supermarket and find enough
protein-rich foods. They just didn't exist in the supermarket. Poor people would eat as much meat as possible because they were starving."

So let's build a monument to veganism that will last 100,000 years.
We must leave our mark. Any suggestions?

artbeat
Oct 8th, 2004, 08:08 PM
"Meat-eaters: have claws
Herbivores: no claws
Humans: no claws

Meat-eaters: have no skin pores and perspire through the tongue
Herbivores: perspire through skin pores
Humans: perspire through skin pores

Meat-eaters: have sharp front teeth for tearing, with no flat molar teeth for grinding

Herbivores: no sharp front teeth, but flat rear molars for grinding
Humans: no sharp front teeth, but flat rear molars for grinding

Meat-eaters: have intestinal tract that is only 3 times their body length so that rapidly decaying meat can pass through quickly
Herbivores: have intestinal tract 10-12 times their body length.
Humans: have intestinal tract 10-12 times their body length.

Meat-eaters: have strong hydrochloric acid in stomach to digest meat
Herbivores: have stomach acid that is 20 times weaker than that of a meat-eater
Humans: have stomach acid that is 20 times weaker than that of a meat-eater

Meat-eaters: salivary glands in mouth not needed to pre-digest grains and fruits.
Herbivores: well-developed salivary glands which are necessary to pre-digest grains and fruits
Humans: well-developed salivary glands, which are necessary to pre-digest, grains and fruits

Meat-eaters: have acid saliva with no enzyme ptyalin to pre-digest grains
Herbivores: have alkaline saliva with ptyalin to pre-digest grains
Humans: have alkaline saliva with ptyalin to pre-digest grains


Here is a similar list from http://www.ecologos.org/anatomy.htm:

Facial Muscles

CARNIVORE: Reduced to allow wide mouth gape
HERBIVORE: Well-developed
OMNIVORE: Reduced
HUMAN: Well-developed

Jaw Type

CARNIVORE: Angle not expanded
HERBIVORE: Expanded angle
OMNIVORE: Angle not expanded
HUMAN: Expanded angle

Jaw Joint Location

CARNIVORE: On same plane as molar teeth
HERBIVORE: Above the plane of the molars
OMNIVORE: On same plane as molar teeth
HUMAN: Above the plane of the molars

Jaw Motion

CARNIVORE: Shearing; minimal side-to-side motion
HERBIVORE: No shear; good side-to-side, front-to-back
OMNIVORE: Shearing; minimal side-to-side
HUMAN: No shear; good side-to-side, front-to-back

Major Jaw Muscles

CARNIVORE: Temporalis
HERBIVORE: Masseter and pterygoids
OMNIVORE: Temporalis
HUMAN: Masseter and pterygoids

Mouth Opening vs. Head Size

CARNIVORE: Large HERBIVORE: Small OMNIVORE: Large HUMAN:
Small

Teeth: Incisors

CARNIVORE: Short and pointed
HERBIVORE: Broad, flattened and spade shaped
OMNIVORE: Short and pointed
HUMAN: Broad, flattened and spade shaped

Teeth: Canines

CARNIVORE: Long, sharp and curved
HERBIVORE: Dull and short or long (for defense), or none
OMNIVORE: Long, sharp and curved
HUMAN: Short and blunted

Teeth: Molars

CARNIVORE: Sharp, jagged and blade shaped
HERBIVORE: Flattened with cusps vs complex surface
OMNIVORE: Sharp blades and/or flattened
HUMAN: Flattened with nodular cusps

Chewing

CARNIVORE: None; swallows food whole
HERBIVORE: Extensive chewing necessary
OMNIVORE: Swallows food whole and/or simple crushing
HUMAN: Extensive chewing necessary

Saliva

CARNIVORE: No digestive enzymes
HERBIVORE: Carbohydrate digesting enzymes
OMNIVORE: No digestive enzymes
HUMAN: Carbohydrate digesting enzymes

Stomach Type

CARNIVORE: Simple
HERBIVORE: Simple or multiple chambers
OMNIVORE: Simple
HUMAN: Simple

Stomach Acidity

CARNIVORE: Less than or equal to pH 1 with food in stomach
HERBIVORE: pH 4 to 5 with food in stomach
OMNIVORE: Less than or equal to pH 1 with food in stomach
HUMAN: pH 4 to 5 with food in stomach

Stomach Capacity

CARNIVORE: 60% to 70% of total volume of digestive tract
HERBIVORE: Less than 30% of total volume of digestive tract
OMNIVORE: 60% to 70% of total volume of digestive tract
HUMAN: 21% to 27% of total volume of digestive tract

Length of Small Intestine

CARNIVORE: 3 to 6 times body length
HERBIVORE: 10 to more than 12 times body length
OMNIVORE: 4 to 6 times body length
HUMAN: 10 to 11 times body length

Colon

CARNIVORE: Simple, short and smooth
HERBIVORE: Long, complex; may be sacculated
OMNIVORE: Simple, short and smooth
HUMAN: Long, sacculated

Liver

CARNIVORE: Can detoxify vitamin A
HERBIVORE: Cannot detoxify vitamin A
OMNIVORE: Can detoxify vitamin A
HUMAN: Cannot detoxify vitamin A

Kidney

CARNIVORE: Extremely concentrated urine
HERBIVORE: Moderately concentrated urine
OMNIVORE: Extremely concentrated urine
HUMAN: Moderately concentrated urine

Nails

CARNIVORE: Sharp claws
HERBIVORE: Flattened nails or blunt hooves
OMNIVORE: Sharp claws
HUMAN: Flattened nails

Andie
Nov 17th, 2004, 05:00 PM
A dear friend of mine, an omni, often tells me that "cavemen ate meat" as if to justify her diet. It's become almost a joke with us. One day I'm going to ask her if she lives in a cave ;-)

JasperKat
Nov 18th, 2004, 12:48 AM
Meat-eaters: have no skin pores and perspire through the tongue
Herbivores: perspire through skin pores
Humans: perspire through skin pores



The rest of the list seems self-explanatory (and this one probably is too :rolleyes: ), but this one confuses me. Does it have something to do with prey being able to smell a hunting animal?
-JK

Geoff
Nov 18th, 2004, 10:41 AM
From an item about Tollund Man who lived about 2400 years ago in Denmark:

The stomach and intestines were examined and tests were carried out on their contents. The scientists discovered that the man's last meal had been a kind of soup made from vegetables and seeds, some cultivated seeds and some wild: barley, linseed, 'gold of pleasure', knotweed, bristlegrass, and camomile.

There were no traces of meat in the man's digestive system, and from the stage of digestion it was obvious that the man had lived for 12 to 24 hours after this last meal. In other words, he had not eaten for a day before his death. Although similar vegetable soups were not unusual for people of this time, two interesting things were noted:

The soup contained many different kinds of wild and cultivated seeds. Because these seeds were not readily available, it is likely that some of them were gathered deliberately for a special occasion.
The soup was made from seeds only available near the spring where he was found.
The body is currently kept in the Silkeborg Museum in Denmark.

gertvegan
Nov 18th, 2004, 02:23 PM
I just found the " Fruits of the Past (http://www.viva.org.uk/guides/fruitsofthepast.htm) " article from Viva! which is relevant to this thread. Sorry if it duplicates whats already been posted. :)

veganfever
Nov 18th, 2004, 03:02 PM
Thanks Gert again, excellent article. I am going to give the printout to my son for his "self-defence" when being challenged by some fellow highschoolers. :)

Kingley
Nov 28th, 2004, 05:19 PM
I will not respect a person as a *TRUE* omnivore unless he/she can eat their foods LIVE im talking taking a big old bite out of a sleeping cows back...

Until then i see people as vegetarian and that only..