Anthropologist pushes back date of first humans hunting for meat to two million years ago

(Phys.org)—Henry Bunn, anthropologist from Wisconsin University, speaking at the annual European Society for the study of Human Evolution meeting in Bordeaux this year, has suggested that the date that humans began hunting down large prey for food needs to be pushed back over a million and a half years after studying evidence of carcasses of antelopes, gazelles and wildebeest left behind by Homo habilis at a site in Tanzania. He said evidence there indicates that early man was hunting in an organized fashion some two million years ago.

Up till now, most in the field have agreed that the most recent evidence of early man hunting animals for meat to eat was at a site in Germany that showed horses being brought down with long spears, likely thrown from trees, approximately 400,000 years ago. They've also agreed that early man was almost certainly eating meat before this time, but only from left over from other hunters such as lions.

In this new study, Bunn said that in comparing the types of animals and their ages eaten by lions and other carnivores today with the types of meat that were being eaten by early man, it's clear that our descendants were not eating leftovers, but were instead going out and getting their own meat.

When leopards and lions hunt down and eat the larger species of antelope, for example, they tend to go for the young or old, as they are generally easier to bring down. Evidence at the Tanzania site however shows that were eating such animals that were in their prime. On the other hand, when the go after the smaller species of antelope, they tend to capture those in their prime, while early man seemed to prefer the young and the old. These findings, Bunn said, show very clearly that the animals that early man was eating were not brought down by other animals but were killed by hunting them themselves.

The evidence brought forth by Bunn could mean the rewriting of some theories regarding how it was humans developed such complex brains, and why. Some have suggested it came about as a result of the evolution of social communities and the challenges it created, with early man eating a lot of vegetative material and the odd bit of meat that could be scavenged. If early man was hunting though, that would mean he was using his brain to development new ways to do it more efficiently, particularly if it was done in groups, which would seem the most likely scenario as it generally results in the most success.


Explore further

New book further supports controversial theory of 'Man the Hunted'

More information:

via Guardian

© 2012 Phys.org

Citation: Anthropologist pushes back date of first humans hunting for meat to two million years ago (2012, September 26) retrieved 20 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2012-09-anthropologist-date-humans-meat-million.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
0 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Sep 27, 2012
We already know that apes will kill and eat meat. So, if we are descended from them, it is quite natural to assume that we, too, have probably eaten meat from the emergence of humankind. I doubt we all of a sudden developed a taste for meat, along with the proper teeth to tear and chew it for proper digestion.

Sep 27, 2012
Torturing or killing life for the sole purpose of self-gratification (taste) is identical to the behavior of a pedophile� or rapist or murderer, other than the victim is not human.

Raising livestock is a 20 to 1 waste factor of grown food.

Arguments that state eating animals and their products are required for nutrition are not backed by the known scientific facts per the American Dietetic Association.

"We have killed each other since the stone age", is not a reason to keep killing.


In the case of domestic beef cattle, etc; if people were not eating them they would have no value and become extinct. Therefore, I ask you this; Is it more inhumane to raise animals for slaughter after experiencing at least some life. Or to deny them any existence at all?

Do you hate carnivorous/omnivorous animals too?

Sep 27, 2012
A nice big juicy steak has always tasted good, no matter how many years ago it was.

Raw?

Or maybe scavenged from a carcass, having seasoned under the hot African sun for a couple days? Would it taste better with the maggots, or would you brush them off before eating it?

Sep 27, 2012
all this talk of truth... truth is I'm hungry, I think I'll go have a delicious T-Bone or New York Strip!! Davie, you sould grab one too, they are yummy!

Sep 28, 2012

"This part assumes you made a point in the first statement, when in fact it is disproved by the truth completely."

Nothing I've said has been dis-proven. It's a simple economic reality that if people stop consuming meat farmers will stop raising cattle. Now unless you are suggesting these animals should be set loose into the wild or become pets or put on display in zoos it's pretty obvious to anyone with a working brain that they will simply disappear. i.e. extinct. What part of that don't you get? Your search for the "truth" would deny billions of animals their very existence you cruel and evil person you!

Sep 30, 2012
life is life, it's all molded from the same basic molecules and has the same basic imperative of survival and reproduction. these particular energy clumps we see as bodies are fleeting, materializing from the energy soup one day then dissolving back the next. all life is sacred, but in order to live we have to consume the energy in other living organisms. Life requires death. I think the way humans treat many of their food sources, from broiler chickens to genetically modified corn organisms is a crime, but that's the process that's flawed, not the underlying necessary exchange of energy. to draw arbitrary lines between organisms based solely on our Linnaean system of classification is ecologically and metagenomically dull. we are all one organism, the energy flows between nodes, we eat, we are et.

Sep 30, 2012
I was under the impression that mankind required meat during its development and evolution to derive the nutrition needed for our growing brains. Modern humans do not require meat but a taste for it has been selected over millions of years so it won't be going anywhere soon. If anyone has a background I'd love to hear from you.

Healthy diets generally require a near absence of meat relative to US cultural standards. Vegetarian food stuffs take less energy input for caloric output and have vast health benefits too numerous to mention. Positive stuff.

David you have some good points although your use of truthy truthness is a bit mind numbing and the connection of meat producers to pedophiles, rapists and murders was a bit of a stretch. I find that an argument is effective in relation to the quality of its delivery to the audience. If you can get a person to incorporate even a small aspect of your lifestyle you've won. If you turn them off you will reinforce the behavior you detest.

Sep 30, 2012
I would very much like more than the average portion of protein on my table. I don't eat red meat because I think it can cause cancer. Chicken and fish pass my lips often. I wish we could raise birds in a more humane fashion. And our fish are full of heavy metals. Tofu is fine, but has too much estrogen. David, if you can suggest a reasonable alternative, bring it. About life? Fish are alive. Plants are alive. Even algae are alive. Life is life. How should I decide who wins and who loses?

Sep 30, 2012
DavidW, here's the challenge: write a post that does not use a word derived from the word "true." Please. I know you can do it. We're all rooting for ya. And we're all hungry.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more