A team of Israeli researchers have traveled the world looking at known sites of early human habitation.
They found that the early humans had a liking for elephant meat and favored young kills.
Dr. Ran Barkai at Tel Aviv University conducted the study, which was just published in Quaternary International, with fellow researcher Hagar Reshef.
Barkai explained that he thinks young elephant meat was a matter of taste, not just survival, among early humans.
“Taste plays a central role in human life and has a major impact on our food preferences,” the TAU researcher explained. “Although nutrition and the diet of different hominin species is a fundamental component of their life and survival, very little is known of the taste perceptions and dietary preferences of prehistoric humans.”
Dr. Barkai also pointed out that while it appears that young elephants were available and vulnerable kill, they were not just convenient, their tender meat was a favored food.
To support their taste preference claims, Barkai and Reshef point to a site found close to home in Israel.
At Gesher Benot Ya’akov, a 100,000-year-old site, archaeologists unearthed a young elephant skull that had been cracked open to get at the brains.
Considering the hard work involved, Barkai and Resef contend harvesting the brains was not just to get the calories alone.
“A task such as this can be difficult and complicated considering the weight of the skull, understanding its breakage point and reaching the brain,” the researchers said.
“Why waste energy when other elephant parts might have been displayed and available. Could this be associated with taste preference?”
They also say that early humans likely found elephant meat tasty because of the fat.
“We assume that the special composition of fatty acids that built the adipose tissue in juvenile mammoths might have had a special taste and caloric contribution, making these young mammoths a preferred food item,” the Israeli researchers wrote, concluding, “Elephants and in particular juveniles were specifically targeted by early humans and played a central role in the survival of humans over hundreds of thousands of years.”