- The world's first known cannibals ate each other to satisfy their nutritional needs.
- The cannibals belonged to the species Homo antecessor, related to both Neanderthals and modern humans.
- Homo antecessor appears to have preyed on competing groups, treating victims like any other meat source.
The world's first known human cannibals ate each other to satisfy their nutritional needs, concludes a new study of the remains of cannibal feasts consumed about one million years ago.
The humans-as-food determination negates other possibilities, such as cannibalism for ritual's sake, or cannibalism due to starvation. In this oldest known case of humans eating humans, other food was available to the diners, but human flesh was just part of their meat mix.
"These practices were conducted by Homo antecessor, who inhabited Europe one million years ago," according to the research team, led by Eudald Carbonell.
Carbonell, a professor at the University of Rovira and Virgili, and his colleagues added that Homo antecessor was "the last common ancestor between the African lineage that gave rise to our species, Homo sapiens, and the lineage leading to the European Neanderthals of the Upper Pleistocene."