A 50,000-year-old Neanderthal dropping found in Spain is the oldest faecal matter discovered from these human relatives.
Analysing the sample revealed these ancient cousins ate more vegetables than previously thought, although their diet was found to be predominantly meat-based.
Neanderthal diet reconstruction is difficult using current methods of dietary analysis.
However, the authors of this study used analytical techniques to quantify faecal biomarkers from five samples found in El Salt, Spain, dating back about 50,000 years.
The analysis suggests that Neanderthals predominantly consumed meat, as indicated by high proportions of a one faecal biomarker, but the authors also found evidence of significant plant intake.
Researcher Ainara Sistiaga, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of La Laguna, said:
“This study represents the first approach to Neanderthal diet through the analysis of faecal markers found in archaeological sediment.”
The study, The Neanderthal Meal: A New Perspective Using Faecal Biomarkers, is published in the journal PLOS ONE.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.