40,000 Years Ago, Our Ancestors Were Eating Rats the Size of Small Dogs

Dr Julien Louys holds the jaw bone of a giant rat species discocvered on East Timor, up against a comparison with the same bone of a modern rat. Image: Stuart Hay, ANU.
Rats have always played a lead role in the grand drama that is human civilization, although they’ve almost always tended to be cast as the villains—and not without reason. They steal our pizza, infest our cities, and who could forget that one time where they helped decimate over a third of Europe’s population.

By Daniel Oberhaus|MOTHERBOARD

Given their tendency to be a vector for some pretty nasty diseases, it’s understandable that humans have become bitter about having to cohabitate with these beady-eyed vermin. Before you pass too much judgment, however, it turns out that at one point in history rats were, if not our friends, than at least our food, and may very well have helped the first humans in Southeast Asia flourish.

Although rats generally aren’t considered to be a healthy part of a balanced breakfast, the rodents that our ancestors were dining on weren’t your average New York gutter rats. As part of an ongoing project tracking the movement of the earliest humans in Southeast Asia, a team of archaeologists from the Australian National University have uncovered the fossils of seven species of giant rats on the island of Timor, the largest of which clocked in at around five kilograms.

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