Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Middle to Late Paleolithic: Neanderthals Consumed Grains and Legumes

For 200,000 Years Neanderthals Dominated Euroasia

Homo neanderthalensis, Neanderthals, migrated out of Africa and completely separated genetic lineages an estimated 200 to 300,000 years ago or even longer. Recent genetic data has shown that as Neanderthals migrated northward, hypopigmentation and red hair (MC1R gene associated) characteristics may have been selected for. National Geographic presents a nice summary HERE.

The geographic range for Neanderthals was vast from Germany, France, Croatia, the steppes of Russia, the Mediterrean shores where they hunted seal and mussels to the Middle East and Israel. See wiki diagram. This area also included the 'fertile cresent', the origin of mass cultivation of cereal grains and domestication of herd animals that sprouted the new world economy, war, arts and advanced culture.

Modern Humans Slowly Entered Eurasia 100,000 Yrs Ago

Modern humans (aka Hss or Homo sapien sapien) started to arrive 90 to 100,000 years ago according to fossil evidence from a rock shelter in Qazfeh Israel. See diagram, courtesy National Geographic). Perhaps after separation from a common hominid ancestor 200 to 300,000 years earlier, modern homininds and Neanderthals crossed paths and recent genomic evidence suggest intermingling occurred... though probably rarely but appears to have resulted in introgression of 1-4% Neanderthal DNA in Euroasian gene stock. The Neanderthal clade consisted of an estimated sparse 15,000 individuals. Earth's population was probably only double or triple that? The last remains of Neanderthals are dated back 28,000 yrs ago at Gibraltar.

What happened? No one is sure...

Sexual and DNA Neanderthal + Modern Human Admixture

Trinkaus, a paleoanthropologist interviewed in the National Geographic piece, states "At the time of the biological transition, the basic behavior [of the two groups] is pretty much the same, and any differences are likely to have been subtle." Trinkaus believes they indeed may have mated occasionally. He sees evidence of admixture between Neanderthals and modern humans in certain fossils, such as a 24,500-year-old skeleton of a young child discovered at the Portuguese site of Lagar Velho, and a 32,000-year-old skull from a cave called Muierii in Romania. "There were very few people on the landscape, and you need to find a mate and reproduce," says Trinkaus. "Why not? Humans are not known to be choosy. Sex happens."

Euroasian Fauna and Flora Based on Fluctuating Temperature

See far top diagram, courtesy Wiki. Wild temperature fluctations occurred on earth during the time period that Neanderthals inhibited Euroasia. Mega and minor extinctions of flora and fauna would probably in a single lifespan of a Neanderthal's life. As the temperatures cooled, trees retreated and grasslands persisted and greatly expanded in their territorial ranges. As the Ice Age ended, the Neanderthal had already perished as a distinct genetic species. Around ~12,000 years ago when high temperatures occurred consistly, mass cereal cultivation and domestication of animals signaled what we recognize now as the Neolithic age. How early were the first small grained grasses foraged by our hunter-gatherer forebears?

Would this have affected Neanderthal gene expression?

Chronic disease afflictions?

Natural selection?

Evidence Middle Paleolithic Neanderthals Foraged Small Grained Grasses

Grasses are basically weeds and non-flowering. The seeds are dispersed off the grain-head by wind and animal/bird ingestion. As such, natural plant defenses support dispersal by keeping the seed intact and evolution of 'chemical warfare' involving phytic acid, lectins and gluten to ensure intact dispersal after animal/bird digestion. As early as 105,000 years ago, sorghum grains were found immediately near hearths in S. Africa highly suggestive of ancient man foraging and use stone mill tools (Science 2009). Could ancient Neanderthals have adopted similar tools and techniques, especially if cooling climatic changes, reduced animal resources to hunt and possible competition with modern humans for resources were all occurring?

Apparently this is the case. ~Approximately 50,000 yrs ago, definitely before the end of the middle paleolithic era, evidence for Neanderthals collecting phytic acid rich legumes and small-grain grasses exists.

Weiss et al published in a review of the use of cereals out pacing small-grained labor intensive grasses in utilization by early man (PNAS 2004). See above diagram. I extrapolated to where estimated Neanderthal extinction may have occurred and the potential for use of small-grained grasses by co-mingling modern humans. He discusses the evidence of grain/cereal foraging by Middle Paleolithic Neanderthals at 2 sites in the Middle East ('fertile cresent'):
  • 48-60,000 yrs ago: Kebara Cave, Lev et al
  • 55-70,000 yrs ago: Amud Cave, Madella et al

    Middle Paleolithic: Prelude to the Broad Spectrum
    In Middle Paleolithic Kebara Cave (~60,000–48,000 thermoluminescence years ago), Mount Carmel, Israel, Lev and associates (41, 44) found 3,956 charred seeds representing 52 taxa. On the basis of ethnographic observations and the fact that this plant assemblage was retrieved mainly from the immediate environment of the hearths, we assume that these seeds represent the Mousterian cave dwellers’ diet. Most of the seeds (3,300) were legumes but there were also acorns (Quercus sp.) and pistachio (Pistacia atlantica) nuts, as well as the seeds of giant golden-drop (Onosma gigantean), podonosma (Podonosma orientalis), Judean bugloss (Echium angustifolium judaeum), safflower (Carthamus sp.), and wild grape (Vitis vinifera). Only ten grass grains, including two of wild barley (Hordeum spontaneum), were recovered. In light of the generally good preservation of plant remains in the cave, Lev and colleagues concluded that cereal grains were an insignificant food source. It is notable, however, that they had made their way into human hands by this time, albeit in modest amounts.

    Less compelling evidence of the Middle Paleolithic diet comes from Amud Cave (~70,000–55,000 thermoluminescence years ago) in the Upper Galilee, Israel. On the basis of phytolith assemblages, Madella et al. (42) concluded that the cave’s Neanderthals exploited herbaceous plants, ligneous parts of trees and shrubs, and mature grass panicles, and proposed that broad-spectrum exploitation of plants had started at least by the end of the Middle Paleolithic.

Legume and Grain-Consuming Neanderthals and Modern Humans

Did Neanderthals' diet affect the trajectory of their long existence to a final conclusion earlier than expected for such a strong, vital, muscular, close-proximity large-game hunting, cold-adapted, smart, larger-brained (20%), advanced hominid race who had already survived several large and small ice ages???

Why did their race slowly but abruptly fall short?
Lectins? Phytates? Vitamin D deficiency? Celiac disease?
How are both modern humans and extinct Neanderthal similar to Old and New World Primates in regards to pathophysiology of celiac and bone diseases?
See diagram below -- fossil sites of Neanderthal and modern man and the fertile cresent of grains/cereals/gluten. The vegetation is for 18,000 yrs ago, not 28,000 yrs ago when it was several magnitudes cooler reaching the lowest temperatures of the last Ice Age, more grass-lands and arid areas in the Mediterrean and northern European areas... The intense cooling from the Ice Ages did not initiate at polar caps but central continental bodies of water -- literally sucking out 200 to 300 ft of water as it cooled to freezing. Vegetation vastly altered... Grains...d*mn dirty grains...

Next post:
Evidence of Phytate-related Rachitic Damage in Late Neanderthals

Courtesy of owners at handprint.com


Aaron Blaisdell said...

That's some nice detective work/story telling! I'm missing my days as a student of paleoanthropology.

Kevin said...

I'd read somewhere that Neandertals were something like 30% larger than modern humans. As the large ungulates died off, they had to resort to grass grains as a food source. The smaller modern humans were able to survive on that while the Neandertals were not. Just a guess.


Dr. B G said...


You must love mysteries too :)


ABSOLUTELY!!! Neanderthals were smart but not too 3-dimensionally oriented. They could thrust but not throw, apparently. May have to do with narrow inner ear apparatus versus us, humans, wider inner ears and the stones/gel presence.

Myostatin may have been missing, hence HUGE muscular phenotypes combined with obligate carnvorous type hunting and feeding ancient lifestyles.... Hibernation may have helped with cold-adaptation...

The PPAR nuclear family is related to both of these traits and the genome data sheds some light.

But there are a couple of loose ends...
--why not modern man die off since they co-habited/co-mingled? Why Neanderthal first and more vulnerable to this environmental selection pressure (e.g. grass grains and legumes)?
--what do the bones say?
--what do the DNA say (nDNA v. mtDNA)?
--how neurologically, metabolically and hormonally Neanderthal less suited to omnivorous diet v. modern humans?
--is the lack of adaptive genes ancestral (e.g. dating back to chimps or 5+ mya earlier)??

Brings up more questions than answers!

Thanks for your comment,

Unknown said...

Poor wheat. The Neandethals too?

Jake said...

It is possible that the small amount of grains that Neanderthals used were not eaten. They could have been used for face and body painting.

Dr. B G said...


Their natural H-G habitat shrunk and the inevitable ease of phytate-rich legumes and grains were not enticing but were probably a necessity given circumstances. Or not? Perhaps they enjoyed the starchy taste? They had genes for bitterness sensation -- veggies would not have been that enticing for obligate carnivores as Neanderthals were.


I've read reports that is plausible. I keep makeup near my hearth/kitchen j/k...!

Manganese blocks make good body markings and apparently these were found in Neaderthal caves as well. Since it was icy freezing cold, if it were a choice between freezing and face painting, grains may have had multiple uses... predicated on customs? I was very impressed to learn they had burials for the dead and whistle/flute devices.

Small sized grains may have been underestimated in archaelogical finds compared with larger legumes given to the variable mesh hole size used at research sites. Another limitation is vegetation matter hold up the most poorly over time (no calcifications). The 2 Israel cave finds > 50,000 yrs ago were indeed special, valuable and very relevant to evolutionary and adaptive theories. The gain for fast adaptative changes encouraged by all that ROS from unprocessed phytic acid (+vitamin D deficiency + bone/ phosphate + marrow deficient/rabbit diet) in accumulating mtDNA mutations is fitness costs.

Somehow the Neanderthals paid off a swift debt, I believe.


Anonymous said...

Wow, what a fantastic and most interesting post!

Ned Kock said...

Fascinating post!

One thing that apparently Neanderthals were not capable of doing was also complex oral speech. I think that this trait conferred a major selective advantage to H. sapiens:


Dr. B G said...


I appreciate your evolutionary thoughts... your paper is very relevant in the information age. It is ironic with less oral speech via internet communciation we have less 'suppression' and a wider audience for unpopular ideas (like evo/paleo/crossfit etc). I enjoyed the discussion on the evolution of costly traits. With our abundant crazy global population, many costly fitness traits are emerging (Type 1, obesity, cancer, celiac, ASD). Perhaps that is evolution of broad scale population control?

Neonomide said...

Haa, my friend always talks about Neanderthals and glad he's not the only one. :)

Regarding bones and sexual selection, I have pondered that if sexy male "Neards" had some close moments with sapiens females the conception was not too fun at all.

Concurrent wheat intoxication and D3/mineral deficiencies may have made it even less fun:


But then, of course the real cause must be sum of many parts. There are many great Neards books out there (even though they seem to age veeery quickly now). Just taking a fast spin here. ^^

Dr. B G said...


You're always reading my dense MIND *haa*

Schrenk's 'The Neanderthal' is ok but he believes Neanders were derived off the H. ERECTUS line... unfortunately the DNA data appears to prove otherwise (bone data seem conclusive as when you look at jaws and skulls -- we are all probably off the heidelbergensis line).

There was a LOT OF INTERBREEDING goin on... It is funny to me that the Max Planck institute used a French person, not a German, for the genome analysis... Hungary, Croatia, Russia... why not???! French are more aligned to the Chinese... *sigh*

Any sequencing can now be done for a dime a dozen SNPs... more data will overwhelm shortly. The fact that the DOE (dept of energy, here in the US usually they are weapons) are now interested in our DNA is scary.

Nice slide. Yes I have others too. I'd concur Sapien females would have to survive a TWILIGHT monster birth... !

Indeed, many hybrids did survive and some paleoanthropologists are quite vocal about it. Sometimes bone data trumps DNA data IMHO... but what do I know...? Reading genomic DNA might be like reading tea leaves... It is the expression of genes and the environmental selection pressures that activate.


Dr. B G said...


They were innovators and early adopters of technology, culture, arts and other things.

Neanders were a race and ethnicity not too unlike ours... their descendants still walk the earth!

Many of us in fact... *haa*


Steve said...

Here are my lastest VAP Numbers:
Date 5/19/2010-- 7/23/2010
LDL 173------------126
HDL 44------------- 37
VLDL 24------------ 23
Total -C 241------- 186
Trigs 115---------- 106
Non HDL -C 197------ 149
apoB calc 135-------- 102
LDL-R 157------------ 108
LP(a) 0--------------- 4
IDL 16---------------- 14
Remnant Lipo 30-------- 28
HDL-2 10---------------- 9
HDL-3 34----------------- 28
VLDL-3 14---------------- 14
LDL1 -A 28.5------------- 16.9
LDL2 - A 4--------------- 24.4
LDL - B 94.4------------- 57.9
LDL-B 30.1 9.1
LDL Density Pattern B------ A/B almost A on graph

Since 5/19/2010:

1. Added niacin
2. Started taking Green Tea Extract
3. Started taking L-Arginine
4. Started taking Vitamin C
5. Started taking CoQ-10
6. Started taking Tri-Iodine
7. Started taking Vitamin K2
8 Started Coco Powder
9. Brought and use a BG Meter which lead me to cut my carbs way down.
10. Started to eat Grass Fed Meat and Eggs. The Grass Fed Meat has much less saturated fat than my old grain fed meat.
11. Lost 13 pounds (about 20 more to go)
12. Stop eating out two to four times a week.
13 Started exercising

The only thing I was doing before I join TYP was fish oil,Vitamin D, following a Paleo diet and losing weight for 11 months.

I am surprised my HDL took drive with taking Niacin. By not eating out I think really cut down on Saturated Fat. I think need to add more Saturated Fat to my diet and increase my Niacin to 1500mg. I thinking of doing 1000 slo-niacin and 500 ir niacin at the same time. But no statin for me.

Oh Yeah MY AST was 27 and my ALT is 30

Dr. B G said...

hey stephen,

OK my thoughts... You are burning saturated fat off of your beautiful *ss... *haa* don't worry the HDLs will perk up later, however you are probably correct -- the dive in dietary sat fats from less restaurant food and switch to more nutrient dense grassfed beef may have contributed to the change in HDL.

Eggs in carb restricted dits in 6 wks raises HDLs despite weight loss and shifts to pattern 'A':

1. Eggs distinctly modulate plasma carotenoid and lipoprotein subclasses in adult men following a carbohydrate-restricted diet.Mutungi G, Waters D, Ratliff J, Puglisi M, Clark RM, Volek JS, Fernandez ML.J Nutr Biochem. 2010 Apr;21(4):261-7. Epub 2009 Apr 14.PMID: 19369056

2. Eggs modulate the inflammatory response to carbohydrate restricted diets in overweight men.Ratliff JC, Mutungi G, Puglisi MJ, Volek JS, Fernandez ML.Nutr Metab (Lond). 2008 Feb 20;5:6.PMID: 18289377

3. Dietary cholesterol from eggs increases plasma HDL cholesterol in overweight men consuming a carbohydrate-restricted diet.Mutungi G, Ratliff J, Puglisi M, Torres-Gonzalez M, Vaishnav U, Leite JO, Quann E, Volek JS, Fernandez ML.J Nutr. 2008 Feb;138(2):272-6.PMID: 18203890

4. Carbohydrate restriction and dietary cholesterol modulate the expression of HMG-CoA reductase and the LDL receptor in mononuclear cells from adult men.Mutungi G, Torres-Gonzalez M, McGrane MM, Volek JS, Fernandez ML.Lipids Health Dis. 2007 Nov 28;6:34.PMID: 18045475 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]Free PMC Article

The supps are fine.

Tri-iodine is ok but you want to consider the high value of supplementing all of the trace minerals because without adequate selenium and zinc and magnesium -- the glutathione and deiodinases which activated free T4 to free T3 (thyroid hormone, active) won't occur correctly. I like THORNE trace minerals + Mag (ZMA, malate/citrate and Calm are all wonderful and typically well tolerated).

Glutathione is the ultimate #1 endogenous mammalian antioxidant. I take NAC every once in a while because this is the precursor for glutathione.

If you have had years of restaurant foods, there is probably an overabundance of omega-6 stuck in the adipose (which is good you are actively shrinking via CROSSFIT FOOTBALL *wink*) and in the cellular membranes. Consider the high value of using the Robb Wolf calc 0.5 to 1 gram omega-3 for every 10 lbs body weight.

~ 180 lbs = 9 to 18 grams

= 9,000 to 18,000 mg EPA + DHA

If you have a high potency product, 600mg EPA DHA per cap then you are looking at 15 to 20 caps daily (up to 30 caps).

This is of high value of you are trying to lower blood pressure or have a high inflammatory status.

IMHO omega-3 is ten million times MORE effective clinically for ANY condition than drugs (incl statins).

You have an excellent program!


Dr. B G said...

btw, it is good you mentioned the liver -- some experts believe that ALT > 20 for men is indicative of NASH/fatty liver. As insulin resistance improves with carb restriction, exercise, omega-3, minimal fruit/fructose (wild organic berries are fine) and the anti-inflammatory evo/paleo type of lifestyle and diet, the liver tests should optimize and normalize.

I often see this occur in only 4 wks with diet alone.

Serum alanine aminotransferase levels decrease further with carbohydrate than fat restriction in insulin-resistant adults.
Ryan MC, Abbasi F, Lamendola C, Carter S, McLaughlin TL.
Diabetes Care. 2007 May;30(5):1075-80. Epub 2007 Mar 10.

Implications of diet on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Sullivan S.
Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2010 Mar;26(2):160-4. Review.

The effect of protein source (dairy vs mixed) in high protein, energy restricted diets on body composition, vascular health and metabolic markers in overweight adults.
Bowen J, Noakes M, Clifton P.
Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2003;12 Suppl:S9.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and low-carbohydrate diets.
York LW, Puthalapattu S, Wu GY.
Annu Rev Nutr. 2009;29:365-79. Review.

The effect of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: a pilot study.
Tendler D, Lin S, Yancy WS Jr, Mavropoulos J, Sylvestre P, Rockey DC, Westman EC.
Dig Dis Sci. 2007 Feb;52(2):589-93. Epub 2007 Jan 12.

High- or low-carbohydrate diets: which is better for weight loss, insulin resistance, and fatty livers?
Boden G.
Gastroenterology. 2009 May;136(5):1490-2. Epub 2009 Mar 21.

Role of dietary carbohydrates and macronutrients in the pathogenesis of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Lê KA, Bortolotti M.
Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2008 Jul;11(4):477-82. Review.


Steve said...

Wow Dr. G B

Thanks for your thoughts. I will add trace minerals + Mag to my program. Yes I am taking 25mg of atenolol,so looks like I need to double my fish oil too. I am hoping get off atenolol once I lose my last 20 pounds. My BP currently runs between 130/120 over 90/80 with atenolol.

I was already thinking of having eggs cooked with coconut oil or grass fed ghee everyday and it was good to hear you believe that to be good idea.

Yes, I think you are right about my poor liver. Too many years of eating very high carbs have taken it's toll on my liver.

I have decided I no longer can afford to eat fruit everyday. I will treat fruit as a special treat from now on. I need to give my liver and pancreas a break.

Also, I am on a 30 day no alcohol break. Again giving my poor liver a break.

Again thanks for your Thoughts.

Dr. B G said...

Hi Stephen,

Be patient you will no doubt reach all of your goals in due time ;)

The camaderie and information at the TYP forum are sterling -- you just have to sort through some opposing sh*t. Without moderation it's a joke.


This post highlights the (rare) individuals who got it right:
--dcarrns -- regression in only 8mos high sat fat, low carb, no statin (despite opposing his apparently famous cardiologist *haa*)
--hillbrow -- regression with wt loss in 1 yr, Wt Watcher UK type program, no statin
--sergrad -- regression in only 12 mos on a high sat fat, low carb, near paleo diet, drastic dose reduction of Crestor
--lindybill -- regression in only 1 yr or less, wt loss, lower carb, no statin

SO EASY! *winky*

Who else? The below were pending while I was hunting and tracking success cases... as far as I tracked these folks followed an evo/paleo type mod-high sat fat, lower carb diet, lifestyle, and fitness and I'd expect regression in all cases (no statins, fibrates or zetia).

Impressive. Rapid. Regression.

I enjoyed talking the most with... and so will you.
--Harry35 (but he's on a statin *aha*)

Exercise and some supplements are mandatory and given for optimal longevity/health (vit D, omega-3, limit omega-6, mag, coQ10, K2, probiotics, select amino acids, etc). NONE of the above individuals follow the TYP instructed diet or pharmaceuticals (no low sat fat 20 g/day or 8% of diet, no limitation on dietary cholesterol, etc). LDL 60 is a forum-wide failing myth. Whatever your Lp(a) is (zero or 4?), Lp(a) reduction is NOT a given either. I wish I had some for my awful immunity! Gonna suck Harris' blood...


Steve said...

Again thanks and here is a video you may find interesting:

Hunter-Gatherer Persistence Hunt


Anonymous said...

Dr. B.G.

Has the research you've reviewed put quinoa in a different category than grass grains. I keep reading nutritionists recommending quinoa as an alternative to grains.


Con said...

I believe that homo sapiens just was more fighting experts and took over , thats why will still keep this tredition until today unfortunately for all of us.