A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!

Did Neanderthals Boil Their Food?

Thursday, May 01, 2014


AUSTIN, TEXAS—John Speth of the University of Michigan thinks that Neanderthals probably boiled their food. Speth, who recently presented his ideas at a meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, speculates that Neanderthals boiled their food in skin bags or in trays crafted from twisted birch bark, citing as evidence animal bones at Neanderthal sites that are free of gnawing marks, suggesting that the fat had been removed by cooking, and grains found in the teeth of a Neanderthal from Iraq that show signs of having been cooked. “You can boil in just about anything as long as you take it off the flame pretty quickly,” he told National Geographic Daily News. It is known that Neanderthals made birch tar for hafting spear points by heating birch bark in oxygen-free holes. Evidence of boiling by modern humans dates to some 26,000 years ago, after the demise of the Neanderthals, and consists of stones that had been heated in fire pits and dropped into water.