Neanderthal poo reveals plants in diet

The study examined 50,000 year old faecal biomarkers from five samples from El Salt, a Middle Palaeolithic open-air archaeological site in Alicante, Spain. 

The study is the first to indicate that Neanderthals may have been omnivorous.

Researchers analysed the faecal matter to identify sterols and stanols because they remain relatively stable through food chains and the diagenetic processes of sediment turning into rock. 

Four of the five samples had high concentrations of coprostanol, a lipid formed when the stomach metabolises cholesterol after eating meat, along with some presence of stigmasterol, sitosterol and cholesterol. These findings support the view that Neanderthals predominantly consumed meat.

However, the samples also contained significant levels of phytosterol, a cholesterol-like compound found in plants, as well as 5β-stigmastanol and 5β-epistigmastanol, which are formed when plants are broken down in the