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Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Hominins Ate Tortoises in Israel’s Qesem Cave

Monday, February 01, 2016

Israel Cave Cutmarks TEL AVIV, ISRAEL—Shell and bone remains found at Qesem Cave suggest that tortoises were cooked and eaten there some 400,000 years ago. Marks on the bones indicate that the tortoises were sometimes roasted whole and sometimes they were butchered. “Somehow they cut them with stone knives, and most probably into small pieces,” archaeologist Ran Barkai of Tel Aviv University told The New York Times. Gathering tortoises would have been a low-risk, low-energy activity that supplemented deer, birds, wild asses, horses, and aurochs that made up most of the diet. To read about how tortoise shells were used in Bronze Age China, go to "Artifact: Oracle Bone."

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