What is Palaeo?

This page is under development.  Please e-mail your views [2], especially critical ones!

Almost everyone has their own understanding of what is legitimate, a compromise or illegitimate in terms of food, exercise or attitude as we endeavour to apply the lessons from our evolutionary past to our lives today.

Like our ancestors in the Pleistocene, we are influenced by our environment and what may be acceptable or desirable to some will be unrealistic or impossible for others.

There is no definitive position. 

Todd Moody points out "The problem is, our theories about actual paleo diets are grossly underdetermined by the evidence. That's why we must so often resort to inferences like, "Surely paleo people didn't walk by apple trees without taking some" and so on. Or we use our imagination to reconstruct how they used fire, or why they didn't.  And of course, it's not just we who do these things. The scientists do it too. The greater the degree of underdetermination of theory by evidence, the more contentious the science, and paleoanthropology is a very contentious science, with many bitterly disputed claims. They are bitterly disputed because they're so hard to settle." [1] We would add to Todd's observation by saying that they are contentious because they have real implications for our view of ourselves : Can I be blamed for my illness? How can I justify my vegetarianism?


So, rejoice in the diversity of perspectives - the more diversity among us, the more opportunities we give ourselves to successfully communicate our general message across to others who have not previously considered a Palaeo perspective.

Here are some considerations to help you sharpen your own understanding and to help understand where and why the views of others differ from your own. (The initials after some entries indicate sources - see the list of sources)

    Is this an academic exercise or are we recreating our personal Palaeo past?

    Palaeo ... Pleistocene ... stone age ... caveman - what's the difference?

    Is there only one uniform criterion to judge what is Palaeo?  Or should we use a range of criteria?

    Is this food (see list) considered Palaeo?

    What is a 'null hypothesis'?



List of foods - alphabetical


Cayenne pepper





Sunflower seeds


List of other topics - alphabetical

Adaptation - how long does it take
    for humans to adapt
    to new foods?
Aerobic exercise

Caloric restriction
Cooking - is it Palaeo?

Counting calories
Genotype and phenotype
How many years back must we go?
Omega-3s in Paleo food



List of tests, theories and hypotheses

The big picture
The 'foreign protein' theory

The 'high/low carb threshold'

The 'New World food' test

The 'sharp stick' test
Paleo food as the null hypothesis

The secondary compounds theory












List of sources - main internet forums

E - Evolutionary Fitness discussion list.  Use the 'Search past article archives' function to locate the source

P - Paleofood discussion list.  Use the 'Search past article archives' function to locate the source

List of sources - individuals (alphabetical)

Ray Audette, Neanderthin (1999)



1. Todd's contribution can be read in full here.

2. One e-mailed comment and question, together with our reply, can be found here. Back to text


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Page established 2003    Page updated 4 June 2009