In a first evidence that early Paleolithic people saved animal bones for up to nine weeks before feasting on them, Tel Aviv University researchers in collaboration with scholars from Spain have found evidence of storage and delayed consumption of animal bone marrow at the Qesem Cave here.
The site has led to many discoveries from the late Lower Paleolithic period, some 400,000 years ago. Bone marrow, a significant source of nutrition, long featured in the prehistoric diet.
Until now, evidences pointed to immediate consumption of marrow following the procurement and removal of soft tissues. "In our paper, we present evidence of storage and delayed consumption of bone marrow at the Qesem Cave," said Professor Ran Barkai.
"This is the earliest evidence of such behaviour and offers insight into the socio-economics of the humans who lived at Qesem," said Ruth Blasco. "It also marks a threshold for new modes of Paleolithic human adaptation," he said in a paper published in Science Advances.
The bones were used as 'cans' that preserved the marrow for longer period until it was time to take off the dry skin, shatter the bone and eat the marrow.
Until recently, it was believed the Paleolithic people were hunter gatherers who had hand-to-mouth survival (the Stone Age version of farm-to-table), consuming whatever they caught that day and enduring periods of hunger when food sources were scarce.
According to the research, this is the earliest evidence of food preservation and delayed consumption. The discovery joins other evidence of innovative behaviours found in the Qesem Cave, including recycling, regular use of fire, and cooking and roasting of meat.