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Homo erectus probably wasn't the carnivore we thought

Still Waters

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Posted (IP: Staff) ·

Suggestions that the evolution of ancient humans was linked to meat consumption have been found to be a little tough to swallow.

For decades, one of the leading theories for the development of apes into early humans has proposed that eating more meat contributed to the development of larger brains and bodies. This has been backed up by archaeological evidence of meat eating increasing after the appearance of Homo erectus in the fossil record.

However, a recent analysis of archaeological sites in Africa, where H. erectus is believed to have evolved, suggests that the increased amount of evidence is a result of more research into this time period at the expense of others.



No sustained increase in zooarchaeological evidence for carnivory after the appearance of Homo erectus


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I think that regional diets may vary depending on whether there was water for a source of aquatic food available that were utilized. I seem to recall that fish and mollusk were also responsible for brain growth.


Anatomical differences between hominins have been studied extensively by scientists, and many features of our anatomy and physiology have been attributed to diet changes, particularly the consumption of ASFs, including fish. This dietary shift was documented in the H. erectus or H. ergaster group specifically, but likely occurred approximately two million years ago over many years and across different hominins. Anatomical differences in this hominin species included a taller stature, larger body mass, smaller teeth, and larger brain size — three times the encephalization quotient (brain mass: body mass) compared to their ancestors (Kuipers et al., 2012).



The first markedly bigger human brains appear with Homo erectus, about 1.8 million years ago, and researchers have long thought that our ancestors began eating more meat by 2 million years ago to fuel the dramatic boost in gray matter. Some have suggested that fish and shellfish must have appeared on the menu at about the same time because seafood is rich in docosahexaenoic acid and arachidonic acid, also known as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are essential for human brain growth. But except for the bones of two catfish dated to about 1.8 million years ago at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, there has been scant evidence of fish eating this early in human evolution. Surely, hominins were eating fish when they could catch or collect them easily—but where was the evidence?

Just north of H. erectus's home at Koobi Fora, Kenya, in fact. The new fossil site was discovered in 2004 when archaeologist David Braun was surveying the barren lands northeast of Koobi Fora as part of a field school run by Rutgers University in New Jersey, where he was a graduate student. He and his adviser Jack Harris found thousands of primitive stone flakes, cores, and modified fragments made of basalt and dated them to 1.95 million years ago. Braun, Harris, and their colleagues also found a diverse array of bones of at least 48 aquatic and terrestrial animals, including 10 butchered at the site over the course of several weeks or months. In addition to 41 bones of catfish and 15 from other fish, they found cut marks on the bones of other freshwater animals, including crocodiles and turtles.

"Here we see the first conclusive evidence of hominins eating fish before there were dramatic increases in brain growth," says co-author Brian Richmond, a paleoanthropologist at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. But apparently the diners weren't picky: They also ate antelopes, hippos, and rhinoceros—"any kind of animal tissue they could get their hands on," Richmond says.

Edited by jmccr8
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The killer ape, big game hunter motif is pretty much outdated as an overall descriptive of early man, as promoted in Dr. Desmond Morris' The Naked Ape. Across the vast territory of Homo Erectus, their diet varied, from region to region, based on the plant and animal food sources available. As an omnivore, early man was just as innovative and opportunistic in what edible food resources he processed as were/are his Homo Sapien descendants.

Edited by Hammerclaw
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Ötzi the Iceman: What we know 30 years after his discovery

Considered "Europe’s most famous mummy," the remains of the man who was murdered in the Alps 5,000 years ago continue to reveal details of Neolithic life—and insights into modern health.


SEPTEMBER 16, 2021

Thirty years ago this month, Europe’s most famous mummy was discovered lying face-down in the ice, on the edge of a lake nearly two miles high in the Ötztal Alps bordering Austria and Italy.





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