My Mesolithic experience. Timecamp 2000

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boatman

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Feb 20, 2007
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As this reference says, watch the video to the end. http://robbwolf.com/2013/04/04/debunking-paleo-diet-wolfs-eye-view/

What seems to be the key is the early use of fire that allowed a form of pre-digestion of foods of all sorts. Fire use seems to be being recognised earlier and earlier in human development. The importance of taurine needs to be taken into account as well as well as other anatomical features that she seems to gloss over initially.
 
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To me the image of the stone age people eating a lot of meat looks like a myth. Here's an archaeologist talking about diets in the paleolitic period:

i cannot watch the movie as YT is not working on my PC but i remember a documentry about neanderthals where they analyzed fossilzied neanderthal poop and according to the result they ate almost entirely meat.... .
i guess it depends on the climate/conditions as to how much meat stone age people ate..?!
 

boatman

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Yes, it could be summed up as, they didn't eat much meat in the past, except when they did.
 

Cavegirl

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Mar 21, 2015
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1
Morecambe
I think the Mesolithic can be defined as a period in which tool technology gradually became more specialised and more efficient and food procurement became more diversified due to a wider range of species and habitats opening up at the end of the glacial period.

The new species of plant life would certainly have offered a greater availability of protein and carbohydrate than the previous glacial period and would surely have led to vast amounts of experimentation to see which species were immediately available (fruits and berries) and which need further processing (eg hazelnuts). There would also have been greater impetus on people to look for long term food preservation solutions (eg smoking meat) as they would not have had a 'permanent freezer' in which to keep food fresh.

As the ice sheets melted across Britain an enormous number of new waterways opened up carrying the runoff away from the highlands down to the coasts and these would have played host to a new range of fish and shellfish species. There are a large number of Mesolithic midden sites in Britain that contain vast numbers of discarded seafood shells alongside bird bones and egg shells. I'm sure fish and shellfish probably played a greater role in the Mesolithic diet than meat.

As forests gradually developed and took over from the permafrost tundra we know they became home to small, fast, well camouflaged prey (red and roe deer, rabbits, boar, foxes, wolves, bears etc)- these are not as easy to locate and hunt as herds of giant elk on open tundra and so we could suggest that the earlier part of the Mesolithic was probably more difficult than the latter in terms of subsistence hunting until the technology and knowledge base evolved to the new habitats.

In any case I think it's possible to say that the Mesolithic h-g's had a better diet than their Late Palaeolithic ancestors and the changing climatic and environmental conditions laid the groundwork for the Neolithic Revolution where early experiments in foraging and food processing and the difficulty of capturing (relatively) small, nimble camouflaged animals eventually developed into the purposeful cultivation of plants and early attempts at animal husbandry.
 

boatman

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Feb 20, 2007
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Forests give cover to hunter as well as prey but no reason to doubt that food choices increased over time. Fishing developed and deep sea fishing from boats happened. Interesting whether the fisherman had the same presumed prestige as the meat hunter. Certainly the whale harpooner is well respected in whale hunting cultures, more than the fisherman probably.

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Robson Valley

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Nov 24, 2014
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Inland native people in North America used the strategy of driving prey into ambush. Certainly, stalking was just one effort in their strategy.
But for Bison, there must have been substantial risk in hunting as opposed to stampeding a herd over a jump. Not ones to ignore opportunity,
they were quite capable of killing mammoth/mastodon.
There's a case to be made for having lived on Beringia for thousands of years before the glaciers receeded and the continent opened up for
travel south along what is now an ocean-flooded coastline. They must have brought much their tool making skills and food processing skills with them.
And same here on the coast: Bottomless middens of sea shells. Low tide and the buffet dinner begins, every day!
When did the land bridge from the UK to the continent flood?
 

Robson Valley

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Nov 24, 2014
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Of course, not until the interior of the continent was ice free. Bison are nasty, unpleasant, violent, typical herbivores.
Even Grizzly bear are more predictable. Anything worth trying with mammoth would be worth trying with bison.
At Wanuskewin near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan the village was occupied for more than 4,000 years. Nice buffalo jump.
They also used ambush corrals for spearing (my brother has a 6" point).

Did you not have Auroux (sp?) wild cattle things to hunt? When the cards are down, you and I both know that a cow moose can kill you.

"Head-Smashed-In" Buffalo Jump in Alberta, Canada. Recently, they broke through a hard pan clay layer to find an even greater depth of bone.
 

Cavegirl

Member
Mar 21, 2015
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I have a personal idea about the nature of the Mesolithic diet derived from stories in the Old Testament which was written about 6000BC, but which we know was based upon even earlier myths and oral traditions. For me, the Garden of Eden story is actually a mythologised history of the Mesolithic from the perspective of Prehistoric peoples.

So in Genesis Book 2 (King James) the fist line goes:
'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.'

So they place fish first, then birds, then beasts and then insects etc and this could be indicative of the relative importance of hunting practices to local diets. The list is repeated several times in that order.

In Chapter 3 there's the line:
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

Which I believe to be representative of foragers gaining knowledge of plants for cultivation- a revolution that changed everything, that changed people from subsistence gatherers (a practice at least 200,000 years old to our species) into early farmers with that incredible ability to create a food surplus. I don't think it can be undervalued how big a game changer this was.

However, it doesn't seem as though the authors of the Bible were very happy about becoming farmers, even with it's new possibilities as they write:

Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.

Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

There's a great wistful sadness to these lines. An admission of the high price paid for the Neolithic Revolution. Cultivating wild progenitors of wheat must have been backbreaking and risky compared to the relative comfort of the established lifestyle. The loss of freedom of movement, the breakup of the family group and the established way of life must have been extremely unnerving for these early pioneers and I think it's something we still feel deeply today.

Anyway, I offer this up because often when I chat to people about it it's something they've never considered before and it's something I find interesting to think about. It gives me huge respect for the authors of the Old Testament because it's something I relate to alongside them, despite the vast time gap.
 
Sounds like an interesting experience, but only for a week I think.

OK we perhaps are not mesolithic much anymore but we often spend long periods in the forest or tundra hunting.

I notice anglos always build bigger fire than they need to cook and keep warm, maybe thats why you use lots of wood?

Flinkt knapping. We come across places where our ancesters waited at river crossing points to ambush carribou when they swim rivers, some place we still use. In some places the broken flints, and flakes are several feet deep and spread over a wide area. Maybe no need to avoid?

My wife was innuit, they used leather for some tents but we don't because often too wet here and leather does not make good shelter when wet as you find out. Perhaps in England shelter was covered in natural materials like thatch/straw, or like ours sheets of bark.

All animals are hard to see if you don't know what to look for. All animals leave sign where they pass. In my experience the best hunters here are not the ones who can see the animals they hunt, but know what signs they look for, their tracks, and the habits. Here and perhaps in England you cannot be a good hunter if you simply rely on your eyes. You use your knowledge of what animal is where and when in your homeland, what it eats and where it lives at certain times of the year and day. Only need to see it to take a good shot !!

In English when you describe an animal you describe first the size, then the colour, then the sex, then the name of animal (I saw a large brown male mouse) this order is normally the same in your language. We have different order. Perhaps the person who wrote down the order always described fish first when they were talking about other species.

Incidentally because ancient man and women didn't have access to vegetables does not mean they did not eat them or green stuff. My wife when living many years ago with her people would eat the stomach content from caribou because there are no green foods further north.

I'm glad you enjoyed the experience and I hope you will do it again.
 

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