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Scientist Studied The Nutritional Value Of Cannibalism And Won A 'Nobel Prize' For His Findings

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James Cole, Ph.D. won the Ig Nobel Prize in the Nutrition category for his work on cannibalism published in a Scientific Reports journal in April 2017.

In his findings, the archaeology professor posited that a human cadaver has little nutritional value in relation to other traditional diets.


Which explains why zombies are so thin.

The Ig Nobel Prize is a parody of the Nobel Prize.

It is meant for people to laugh at the more absurd scientific studies and achievements that still have valid scientific value.

The alternate prize is organized by the Annals of Improbable Research (AIR) magazine and is given every autumn to acknowledge bizarre achievements in scientific research.

Think Golden Razzie, but for science.

Past research on the subject of the nutritious value of eating the other, other white meat, implied that cannibalism was nutritional, according to a 2010 paper that was published in Current Anthropology.

However, Dr. Cole said that cannibalism among Paleolithic humans was probably the result of societal and cultural reasons rather than out of necessity.

A Spanish expedition, led by Eudald Carbonell, Ph.D, published their findings about the nutritional value of cannibalism in the "Cultural Cannibalism as a Paleoeconomic System in the European Lower Pleistocene."

"The numerous evidences of cannibalism, the number of individuals, their age profile, and the archaeostratigraphic distribution suggest that cannibalism in TD6 was nutritional."


But Cole couldn't find any empirical evidence supporting the theory that hunting and consuming other humans was a necessity for survival.

Or any easier or more nutritious than other food sources.

To demonstrate this, he compared the nutritional value of other meats available for consumption with that of Paleolithic humans by breaking down their caloric intake.



He found:

"whole cannibalistic episodes hold the same calorific value or less than many individual large faunal species (for example: mammoth, rhinoceros, auroch, bison, cow, bear, horse, giant deer, red deer, musk-ox, deer, boar or reindeer)."

Therefore, he concluded that the faunal intake of calories was more than the meat of hominids could provide to sustain energy.


There is plenty of evidence that cannibalism existed at different points in human history, but Cole suggests that the practice was adopted more for a cultural standpoint.

Inverse acknowledged chimpanzees as an example of this.

Paul Pettitt, Ph.D., a professor of archaeology at the University of Durham who is not associated with Cole's research, told The Guardian:

"Such behaviors clearly form something like a behavioral ritual—an unconscious act that stemmed from common activities central to group behavior like eating meat."
"Somewhere along the line of human evolution this behavior turned from behavioral rituals to ritualized behavior, and as Coles shows very well, evidence does clearly reveal that eating human meat was not exclusively about survival."




Based on Cole's use of the human nutritional template, humans "fall within the expected range of calories for an animal of our average body weight," but we don't necessarily have as much to offer by way of calories.

"We are, however, significantly lower in calorie value when compared to single large fauna (such as mammoth, bison, cattle and horse) that have a much greater calorific return per individual than many of the groups of cannibalised human remains."


The Ig Nobel Prize is a play on the word "ignoble," which means, "characterized by baseness, lowness, or meanness."


H/T - GettyImages, Twitter, Inverse, Nature, Wikipedia

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