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Lizards and Snakes on Prehistoric Menu in Israel

Monday, June 29, 2020

HAIFA, ISRAEL—According to a Live Science report, an examination of the bones of lizards and snakes recovered from el-Wad Terrace, a cave near Mount Carmel in northern Israel, indicates that reptiles such as the legless European glass lizard and the large whip snake were eaten by members of the Natufian culture at the site between 15,000 and 11,500 years ago. The lizard and snake bones made up about one-third of the animal bones in the cave. Ma’ayan Lev of the University of Haifa said that finding butchery marks on such small bones can be difficult, especially when they have been weathered over a long period of time. Lev and her colleagues therefore experimented with the bones of modern lizards and snakes to identify signs of erosion, burning, trampling, and digestion by birds of prey, and then compared those marks with marks on the ancient remains. “The most surprising find was the butchery marks on several large whip snake vertebrae,” Lev said, adding that the marks were found in identical locations of different bones. These animals were likely eaten by humans, Lev said. The study also suggests the eastern Montpellier snake, the common viper, and other smaller lizards and snakes whose remains were found in the cave were likely eaten by raptors or died of other causes. To read about human consumption of a snake in southwest Texas 1,500 years ago, go to "Snake Snack."

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