Monday, 17 December 2012

Why didn’t Neanderthals get scurvy?

A prehistorical novelist (as I became when writing SONG HUNTER) needs to be able to smell the smoke wafting through her Neanderthal characters' encampment, and feel the frozen grains of meat crunching between their teeth.

But then any novelist always has to do a great deal of wondering.

So. Why didn’t Neanderthals get scurvy?

Now, every schoolboy knows that if you don’t eat your five a day you’ll get this nasty disease called scurvy which gives you spots, spongy gums, depression, suppurating wounds, loss of teeth, jaundice, fever, neuropathy - and finally a nasty touch of death.

Oh - and this is less well-known - the loathsome adjective scorbutic, as well.

Every schoolboy also knows that sailors used to drink lime juice to keep themselves healthy on long voyages. But what did people do in the Ice Age, when there was almost no vegetation apart from grass and a few shrubs?

Well, the short answer is that we don’t really know. However, there are people alive nowadays who have had to solve the same problem, and it was to them that I looked for an answer.

The Inuit people of the Arctic don’t get scurvy, and they don't have much green stuff growing where they live. How do they stay healthy?

Well, as it turns out, they do it by eating reindeer brains and seal liver. These contain quite a lot of vitamin C as long as you eat them raw.

So the good news is that there’s no need for any of us to eat cabbage ever again! No, indeed. We can eat raw reindeer brains instead!


...does anyone have an orange?


STOP PRESS: HERE is the first review of Song Hunter, in The Bookbag, by the terrific and dedicated critic Jill Murphy.



  1. Congrats on this new blog. I am about to learn all kinds of fascinating things! This one is amazing. Raw Reindeer Brains....dear me. I am very glad I live in Orange Territory!

    1. You're very welcome indeed, Adele. I always enjoy researching books, but this one was mind-blowing and extraordinary and fascinating.