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date: 22 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the oldest known archaeological evidence from 2.6–1.5 million years ago (Ma) from several sites in East Africa, to improve understanding of the diet and related behavioural capabilities of early human ancestors (hominins) from that period. The archaeological evidence from the period consists of both small scatters and large, dense concentrations of flaked stone tools often found with fossil bones of large animals. The proportions of different skeletal elements, particularly once-meaty limb bones, and the abundance of stone-tool butchery damage on those bones, indicate that by 1.84 Ma at the FLK Zinj site at Olduvai Gorge, hominins had first access to prey carcasses. Moreover, mortality (age at death) profiles suggest active hunting by early Homo rather than secondary access to scavenged carcasses. Evidently, early Homo was repeatedly transporting meaty portions of large carcasses for delayed consumption and probable food sharing—behaviours characteristic of humans, not apes.

Keywords: cut marks, mortality profiles, ambush hunting, food sharing, Olduvai

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