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Middle Stone Age Spaniards Ate Elephant Meat and Bone Marrow

Scientists in Spain say elephant meat appears to have been a popular menu item for people living near what is now the capital city of Madrid, 84,000 years ago.

The study co-authors made their findings from 82 bones of a single elephant, as well as hundreds of stone tools and other artifacts collected from Spain’s Preresa archaeological site on the banks of the Manzanares River.

The researchers say they discovered certain cuts and strike marks on fossil bones indicating that humans who populated the region in the mid-Stone-Age period consumed elephant meat and bone marrow.

They say this is the first documented example of strike marks - or percussions -- that show an intentional bone fracture made to reach the edible marrow inside. Such marks previously had always been associated with tool-making.

The study’s lead co-author, Jose Yravedra of Complutense University of Madrid, says there are many archaeological sites dating back to the Middle-Paleolithic era, but few with fossil remains with marks that demonstrate the humans’ purpose.

The new study is published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The team of researchers included archaeologists, geologists and zooarchaeologists - scientists that study the remains, such as bones, hair and genetic material, left behind when an animal dies.

The Middle-Paleolithic period extended between 127,000 and 40,000 years ago.