A taste of an elephant: The probable role of elephant meat in Paleolithic diet preferences

Hagar Reshef, Ran Barkai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Taste plays an essential role in human life and has a major impact on people's food preferences. Based on the recent discovery of taste-related genes in a Neanderthal and the assumption that taste preferences are likely to have existed in earlier Paleolithic times also, we believe that this is a potentially useful line of inquiry. Since taste preferences are embedded within social and cultural imprinting, we explore the very long nutritional, cultural and perceptional connection between humans and elephants in the Paleolithic period in order to examine the probable role of taste in decision-making regarding elephant procurement and consumption. The aim of this study is to explore the extent to which taste preference could be detected in relation to elephant consumption. We have compiled ethno-historical accounts of elephant consumption from Africa in an attempt to establish patterns based on taste preferences. We then investigated Paleolithic faunal assemblages that contained elephant remains in an attempt to detect preferences that might have influenced food selection in the deep past.We suggest that early hominins might have had taste preferences and that elephant meat played a significant role in their diet, when available. Furthermore, the archaeological evidence coupled with ethnographic observations and the study of frozen mammoths suggest that juvenile elephants were specifically a delicacy and were hunted intentionally since their specific meat and fat composition seems to have had a better taste and a better nutritional value.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-34
Number of pages7
JournalQuaternary International
StatePublished - 27 Aug 2015


  • Cave site
  • Elephants
  • Juveniles
  • Paleolithic
  • Preference
  • Taste

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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