On Thursday, January 16, the meeting of the Huron Valley Chapter of the Michigan Archaeological Society will include a lecture by John D. Speth, emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan. Speth will speak on the importance of rotted (putrid) meat in the diet of modern hunter-gatherers throughout the northern latitudes. Putrefaction ‘pre-digests’ meat without the need for cooking. Anaerobic bacteria rapidly colonize decomposing meat, inhibiting germination of pathogens such as Clostridium botulinum (botulism). Bacterial fermentation also prevents fats from becoming rancid, and preserves vitamin C, eliminating the threat of scurvy. Psychological studies indicate that the revulsion shown by Euroamericans toward putrid meat is learned, not hard-wired, and emerges surprisingly late in children (after about age 5). Prior to that, children mistake the mother’s expressions of disgust as anger. Abundant ethnohistoric evidence shows that rotted meat was not a starvation food, but a prized and nutritionally vital component of forager diets in northern environments. Speth suggests that, by extension, such practices would have been of similar importance to Eurasian Neanderthals and modern humans occupying broadly similar environments and subsisting on heavily meat-based diets. He will briefly explore the implications of these ideas for understanding the later Pleistocene archaeological and isotopic record in northern Eurasia.
7:30 p.m. at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. The meeting and the lecture are free and open to the public.