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Ancient Humans Ate Mammoth, But Their Dogs Ate Reindeer

First Posted: Nov 24, 2014 11:31 AM EST

It turns out that while humans ate mammoths, dogs ate reindeer. Biogeologists have uncovered artifacts from 30,000 years ago that reveal how our ancient ancestors ate and lived.

In this case, the researchers explored a prehistoric site located in the Czech Republic. About 30,000 years ago, this site was inhabited by people of the pan-European Gravettian culture. These people used the bones of more than 1,000 mammoths to build their settlement and ivory sculptures. Yet the researchers wanted to know whether the Gravettian culture harvested the bones for already dead mammoths, or if they hunted them for food.

In order to find out, the scientists carried out an analysis of carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes in human and animal fossil bones from the site. Then, the researchers tested to see whether the Gravettian people ate mammoth meat by examining the bones and how the bones from dogs at the site fit into this picture.

In the end, the researchers discovered that humans ate mammoth meat in large quantities, which means that they probably actively hunted the animals. In addition, other carnivores-brown bears, wolves and wolverines-also had access to the mammoth meat. However, the dogs didn't show a high level of mammoth consumption. Instead, it seems as if they consumed large quantities of reindeer meat that was not the staple food of their owners. This suggests that early dogs were restrained and probably used as transportation helpers.

The findings are published in the journal Quaternary International.

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