|New evidence including this ancient, charred vole mandible suggests that 5,000 years ago, rodents were on the menu in Europe. (Courtesy of Jeremy Herman)|
The European palate may not always have been so sophisticated.
This week, researchers report the first evidence of ancient Europeans snacking on rodents at least 5,000 years ago.
The discovery suggests that rodents like mice and voles have not always been mere pests hellbent on annoying humanity throughout its history: They may have been a food source as well.
“Rodents are frequently excavated from older archaeological sites in Europe, but people haven’t examined why they are there,” said Jeremy Herman, a biologist at the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh. “Maybe because they are not currently a food source in Europe, no one ever thought to ask if they had been in the past.”
The new finding, reported Tuesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science, was made after researchers sifted through nearly 60,000 small mammal bones collected at the Skara Brae settlement on the largest island of the Orknay archipelago in Scotland.
Skara Brae consists of the remnants of eight stone houses and was occupied in the latter half of the Stone Age from roughly 3180 .BC. to 2500 B.C., according to radiocarbon dating. [...] LA Times / Link 2