taste for fish floundered in stone age

Stone-age Brits quickly gave up eating fish when meat and grains became easily available, researchers report in the Sept. 25 Nature. Archeologist Michael P. Richards of the University of Bradford, UK, and his colleagues analyzed human bones from coastal and inland sites to determine the diet of ancient Britons. Marine and terrestrial dietary proteins leave different “signatures” in the bones and, in this way, the researchers were able to discover what foods were eaten most. They found a sharp change from a diet that consisted of large amounts of marine life to one dominated by meat and cereal crops – even for coastal inhabitants. The change coincides with the arrival of the first domesticated animals and plants to Britain some 5,000 years ago. The authors stated: “The attraction of the new farming lifestyle must have been strong enough to persuade even coastal dwellers to abandon their successful fishing practices.” The strong resurgence of fish and chips in later centuries would require more extensive study.

This news brief appeared in the Random Data column of the Boston Globe’s Health/Science section on 9/30/2003.
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