Evidence found that ancient hunter-gatherer consumed entire rattlesnake

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Archaeologists have discovered what’s thought to be the first example of an ancient human who consumed an entire venomous snake – fangs and all.

Evidence found that ancient hunter-gatherer consumed entire rattlesnake
Image of the Viperidae fang recovered during coprolite analysis. Note venom channel
[Credit: Sonderman et al. 2019]

In a one-of-a-kind discovery at the Conejo Shelter in Texas, researchers recovered the bones, scales, and a single fang of a viper from fossilized human feces.

The remains of the precarious meal date back to roughly 1,500 years ago, and researchers suspect it was part of a ritual or ceremony.

Researchers from Texas A&M University and Wichita State University detailed the unusual findings in a new paper published to the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.




In the study, the team analyzed samples from more than 1,000 coprolites (fossil poop) found in Texas during the 1960s.

It’s thought that the site may once have served as a latrine.

The samples revealed clues on the diets of hunter-gatherers in the region over 1,500 years ago – in the hot, dry climate, these people survived on small animals and what vegetation they could forage.

Evidence found that ancient hunter-gatherer consumed entire rattlesnake
The coprolite in question prior to analysis
[Credit: Sonderman et al. 2019]

While that may well have included non-venomous snakes, too, the discovery of the potentially deadly animal consumed in its entirety is likely the first of its kind.

‘Zooarchaeological analysis found the remains of a small rodent, evidently eaten whole, with no indication of preparation or cooking,’ the researchers note in the paper.

‘Notably, the bones, scales, and a fang of a snake in the Viperidae family were also recovered from the coprolite, which is the first direct archaeological evidence of venomous snake consumption known to the researchers.’




As the researchers note, other examples of snakes that had been consumed by hunter-gatherers had their heads cut off, along with other hard or sharp parts, such as bones or rattles.

Given the presence of the bones and an intact fang, the team says this was likely a matter of ceremony, not nutrition. But, strangely, it is the only such sample from the entire bunch.

‘With the exception of the Viperidae remains, the coprolite evidence is consistent with previous research at Conejo Shelter and the Lower Pecos region,’ the researchers say.

Author: Cheyenne MacDonald | Source: Daily Mail [April 24, 2019]

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