The snake, almost certainly a type of rattlesnake, was swallowed without any kind of cooking or preparation – sugggesting that it was seated as part of a religious ritual or possibly for a bet.
Which is why we specified cave-MAN. Swallowing venomous animals for a laugh is very much a bloke’s thing.
A team led by archaeologist Elanor Sonderman from Texas A&M University re-examined a collection of coprolites – partly-fossilized turds – that had been collected from Conejo Shelter site in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands of southwest Texas.
One of the samples stood out because it contained not only an entire rodent that had been swallowed without cooking or even skinning, but also a complete rattlesnake including its fangs.
The sample dates from approximately 1,500 years ago.
The archaeologists’ research paper says: “Zooarchaeological analysis found the remains of a small rodent, evidently eaten whole, with no indication of preparation or cooking.
“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. “
The paper is headed “Potential ritualistic viperous snake consumption”
The samples would have been left by a group of hunter-gatherers known as Ancestral Puebloans. They were an ancient Native American culture that lived in parts of what is now Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado.
They thrived in Southwestern America for about 4 or 5 thousand years before being gradually supplanted by Navajo tribes.
US tech site Gizmodo asked Professor Sonderman whether it was possible that the snake remains found into the prehistoric poo by chance, rather than being eaten but she told them this was highly unlikely: “The indigestible materials include some fibrous portions of plants, fur, bones, and the like.” She told them.
“The indigestible materials in the coprolite were coated in fecal matter.
“Based on the archaeological context it is possible that large portions of plant materials might have adhered to the coprolite soon after deposition but these exterior materials were removed from the coprolite before analysis.”
Bottom line: “The fang was inside the coprolite. Not hanging around on it.”