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Friday, August 16, 2013

Earliest Hominin Carnivory


The emergence of lithic technology by ~2.6 million years ago (Ma) is
often interpreted as a correlate of increasingly recurrent hominin
acquisition and consumption of animal remains. Associated faunal
evidence, however, is poorly preserved prior to ~1.8 Ma, limiting our
understanding of early archaeological (Oldowan) hominin carnivory.
Here, we detail three large well-preserved zooarchaeological
assemblages from Kanjera South, Kenya. The assemblages date to ~2.0
Ma, pre-dating all previously published archaeofaunas of appreciable
size. At Kanjera, there is clear evidence that Oldowan hominins
acquired and processed numerous, relatively complete, small ungulate
carcasses. Moreover, they had at least occasional access to the
fleshed remains of larger, wildebeest-sized animals. The overall
record of hominin activities is consistent through the stratified
sequence � spanning hundreds to thousands of years � and provides the
earliest archaeological evidence of sustained hominin involvement with
fleshed animal remains (i.e., persistent carnivory), a foraging
adaptation central to many models of hominin evolution.

"Paleoenvironmental analyses indicate that the assemblages
formed on a grassy plain set between a freshwater lake and the
wooded slopes of nearby hills and mountains. The recovered
faunas consist primarily of grassland-adapted bovids (Parmularius,
Antidorcas), equids (Equus), and suids (Metridiochoerus), with
waterdependent taxa (e.g., Hippopotamus, Crocodylus, and reduncine
bovids) also present in limited numbers. Isotopic analyses of
dental enamel and pedogenic carbonates concordantly indicate a
grassland setting at KJS."

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