Captain Moonlight: No vole-au-vent on the menu at Boxgrove

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The Independent Online
VOLES. A big week for mankind, what with the discovery of a 500,000-year-old shinbone at Boxgrove, Sussex, but a big week for voles, too. Vole fossils found near to Boxgrove Man were used to calculate his age. About 500,000 years ago voles had molar teeth with roots; later, the molars had no roots. As simple as that.

Much has been made of the copious presence of voles near Roger, as Boxgrove Man has been named. Humorous columns have been written about life on a vole diet. The Daily Telegraph attributed Roger's impressive size and physique to a diet of voles. But before you all rush out there in search of water, field and bank voles to convert into tasty, vitamin-rich voleburgers, a note of caution.

Andy Currant, curator of Ice Age mammals at the Natural History Museum, who worked on the Boxgrove find, says Roger didn't eat them. 'They weren't anything to do with a human diet at all,' he said. 'Small, brown, short ears, boring things. Nasty little things. I wouldn't eat one.'

Lisa Chaney, a food historian, agreed. In her view, they could only ever be used as famine food. Still, they are unprotected, so there is nothing to stop the burgers, or a sandwich. Tandoori, perhaps.

Anyway, Ms Chaney is planning a taste. A bit like pork (as is human flesh, apparently), she conjectures. Reports, please]

(Photograph omitted)