archaeology

Paleo Fantasies: Debunking The Carnivore Ape Narrative

Every two years or so I notice a cyclical trend in the online “paleo” community. It’s the resurgence of dogmatic carnivory. It has two main themes: plants are “poisons” that cause most of our health problems and humans “evolved to be” very low carb. Always an undercurrent with some very zealous devotees (“The Bear” of Grateful Dead fame was probably one of its most prominent popularizers), it suddenly finds popularity among normally more moderate people, picking up some non-paleo low-carb followers in the process.

No, we don't know how much protein "cavemen" ate

 How hard it is to read a scientific study? Should you bother to learn? I recently commented on a blog post on that subject. 

Are liquid carbohydrates evolutionarily novel?

 In the debate surrounding the NYC ban on large soft drinks earlier this year, the argument came up that we had to regulate them because liquid calories are evolutionarily novel and inappropriate for our species to consume because we cannot consume them moderately and their metabolism is harmful to our bodies.

Can you digest bone?

 Possible too gross for some, via John Hawks, this article that mentions a most interesting experiment mentioned in an article on strange science:

The Human Colon in Evolution: Part 2, Fiber Foolishness

Suggestions that humans may have obtained more calories from SCFA in the past are rooted in estimates of fiber consumption from the Paleolithic. Evidence is rather sparse and limited to coprolites. In the burgeoning field of evolutionary medicine, anthropologists have become very interested in the Paleolithic diet and its relevance for promoting health today. Some of the landmark papers in the field have cited these coprolite studies as evidence for fiber intakes as high as 150 grams as day, well over what any known human culture currently consumes (M. Konner & S Boyd Eaton, 2010).

The Human Colon in Evolution: Part 1, comparative anatomy

 This will be one of the few series posts I'll actually finish since it's already written :) I'd like to thank Stephan Guyenet, Chris Masterjohn, and Professor Holloway for their tips, critiques, and inspiration! I welcome more such educated thoughts in the comments. Full disclosure: yes, I did write this for a class, but I thought some people might enjoy it and then I could also kill two birds with one stone.

The Great and Mighty Eland

N=0: The Perils of Using Art for Paleopathology

 As interesting as Venus-gate is, I don't think art from the paleolithic really tells us much about the health of the average person. Think of some famous artwork from our era, imagine there is a nuclear disaster and everything is destroyed except that piece of artwork. What incorrect conclusions would a society come to if they just had that piece of artwork? Humans have an incredible ability to see things in nothing.

Neanderthal diets included some grains

FYI: if you've told your family about the paleo diet, some time this week you are liable to get sent this article Neanderthals may have feasted on meat and two veg diet by your Aunt Maude, who was dismayed last Thanksgiving when you didn't want two helpings of her refried bean casserole.

Early Bone Nutrition Extraction

I was curious recently about use of bones as food in the paleolithic. One interesting paper I found was Gazelle bone fat processing in the Levantine Epipalaeolithic.