Cannibal human ancestors would kill and eat each other because it was “more cost-effective” than catching animals, a new study claims.
Researchers found archaeological evidence in Spain that was said to show “unquestionable signs of cannibalism” in an ancient human species called Homo antecessor and Neanderthals.
The analysis revealed that cannibalism was a good survival technique for the predecessors of Homo sapiens because they would have had to spend much less time and energy catching other humans than faster animals, despite animal flesh being more calorific.
The study, published in the Journal of Human Evolution, claims that human flesh would have been just as nutritious for the primitive people.
The bones of seven individuals who showed evidence of being eaten by humans were found at the archaeological site of Gran Dolina in Spain.
Evidence of being eaten by humans includes tooth marks, cuts and fractures made purposefully to expose bone marrow.
The human remains were found among nine other mammal species, including deer and 22 individuals who had not been eaten.
Homo antecessor is one of the earliest known varieties of human discovered in Europe and lived there around one million years ago.
Lead author of the study Jesús Rodríguez said: “Our analyses show that Homo antecessor, like any predator, selected its prey following the principle of optimizing the cost-benefit balance and they also show that considering only this balance, humans were a ‘high-ranked’ prey type.
“This means that, when compared with other prey, a lot of food could be obtained from humans at low cost.”
The archaeologists also suggested that the cannibals may have eaten members of their own group when they died from other causes.
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