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Ancient Humans Hunted 2M Years Ago, U.S. Paleontologists Claim

Our distant ancestors had begun hunting by two million years ago — rather than scavenging on the leftovers of carnivores like big cats — a study has found, Ian Randall reported for MailOnline of the UK.

Photo Insert: Meat-eating by Oldowan hominins is well evidenced at Pleistocene archaeological sites in eastern Africa by butchery marks on bones.

Researchers from the University of San Diego studied animal bones from Kanjera South, an archaeological site near Lake Victoria in western Kenya. They found traces of butchery marks on gazelle and wildebeest bones in places where they would only been left if humans were the first to get at the carcasses.

The remains, the team said, therefore represent some of the oldest strong evidence for hunting among ancient humans. However, she continued, a likely candidate is Homo habilis, whose remains have been found from other sites in the vicinity.

Paranthropus is another hominin known from the east Africa of the time — but its big back teeth indicate that it likely mostly ate plants, although it is possible that it also had some hunting ability. The full findings of the study were published in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews.

Bones with cut marks have been found that date back to around 3.4 million years ago — but it is unclear whether these marks were left by hominins or other animals. Oldowan (also referred to as Mode I) is the name given to ancient hominin cultures who used a characteristic style of simple stone tools.

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These tools were typically made by chipping a few flakes of one stone by means of hitting it with another. Oldowan tools were in use from around 2.6–1.7 million years ago across much of Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia. The name is derived from the site where the first Oldowan tools were discovered back in the 1930s — the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania.

The study was carried out by zooarchaeologist and paleoanthropologist Jennifer Parkinson of the University of San Diego, California, and her colleagues. “The shift to increased meat consumption is one of the major adaptive changes in hominin dietary evolution,” the team wrote in their paper.

Science & technology: Scientist using a microscope in laboratory in the financial district.

Meat-eating by Oldowan hominins is well evidenced at Pleistocene archaeological sites in eastern Africa by butchery marks on bones. However, they continued, “the methods through which carcasses were acquired (i.e., hunting versus scavenging) and extent of their completeness (fleshed versus defleshed) is less certain.”

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