Apr 09, 2017 01:52 PM EDT
Cannibalism during the Paleolithic times may have been motivated more by cultural, rather than nutritional reasons. Researchers found out that humans are not as nutritious after all, with only 125,000 calories for the whole human body. A better alternative would be the 3.6-million-calorie mammoth or the 612,000-calorie steppe bison. While the whole human body can provide sustenance for up to 25 people for half a day, it is no match for the mammoth as it can provide sustenance for more than a month or the steppe bison that can provide nourishment for up to 10 days.
University of Brighton Archaeologist James Cole studied cannibalism in the Paleolithic era. He found out that the human thighs are the most nutritious with 13,350 calories, while the kidneys are the least nutritious with only 380 calories. The research showed that the caloric value of the other parts of the human body was so low compared to other animals, it gave rise to a conclusion that humans are not worth eating at all even for cannibals.
Since the 1,800 calories packed into the muscle of every boar is a lot more than the 650 calories from the human muscle, it is more logical to hunt for this animal than humans, Cole said as reported by National Geographic. If humans are not that valuable as a prey, then it would be useless to hunt them, unless they are already too weak to put up a fight. This gave Cole the idea that not all cannibalism during the ancient times was done merely to fill the belly, but most probably it served a social or cultural function.
Cole's research on cannibalism elicited various comments from other researchers. Cornell University Nutrition Scientist David Levitsky said researchers used the same method to determine the energetic value of animals consumed by people. The human caloric chart may be gross but it is the best way to approximate the human body's real energetic value. But other researchers see it differently, according to New York Times.
"The energy contents of lean tissue, fat and body carbohydrate are well established, and using four cadavers to get to estimates of quantities is a terrible way to go about calculating the human body," USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging Scientist-Tuft University Nutrition Scientist Susan Roberts said
Natural History Museum Anthropologist Silvia Bello agreed with Cole's conclusion that humans practiced cannibalism in the Paleolithic era not really as a necessity but as a choice. Bello, who also studied cannibalism in the ancient times, said it would, however, be difficult to find the motive behind those choices.