Welcome to hypograph, IamJoy! Please feel free to start a topic in the introductions forum
to tell us something about yourself.
Please could you tell me how hominids managed to eat meat prior to the use of hunting weapons? I have read that meat was a significant part of our ancestors' diet and this may have been a big factor in our brain size increasing. However, although we have found evidence of stone tool cut marks on bones indicating hominids were eating meat long before modern humans, there is no evidence from archeology or primitive art to show that hunting weapons were used prior to around 40,000 years ago.
I think you should reconsider at least a few of your premises First,
that the only animals early humans/hominids could prey upon were larger and faster than they, necessitating “speed and force multiplier” weapons.
Modern non-human apes such as chimpanzees prey on smaller animals, such as monkeys, simply by chasing and catching them. Although it’s somewhat culturally taboo, a single modern human in many habitats, such as eastern North American forests, can catch many pretty tasty animals without the aid of weapons or tools of any kind. We can do even better using simple improvised weapons, such as sharpened sticks (spears). (If you’re not bound by these taboos or other moral objections, you can test this yourself). Also, many present day apes and other primates eat a lot of insects, which are easy to catch with no or very simple implements.Second,
That meat was a significant part of our ancestors’ diet.
Where did you read this? If you can provide a source, we can scrutinize for accuracy. Not all paleoanthropology, even popular and respected works, are accurate according to the best present-day science.
Apes, including humans, are not obligate carnivores
such as cats – we can now, and one can reasonable guess could 100,000+ years ago, live on a diet nearly devoid of meat. We are, however, versatile omnivores, able to take advantage of the dense food value of meat when it’s available.Third,
there's no evidence of hunting weapons before about 40,000 years ago.
Thrown hunting spears have been dated to around 400,000 years ago, vs. the 200,000 years that’s commonly assumed to mark the appearance of the first “anatomically modern” humans – and also note how difficult to make and fortuitous this find – which consisted of only 3 spears, found in a German coal mine and published in 1997 – was. (source: German mine yields ancient hunting spears
, Science News Online 1 Mar 1997)
So how did early humans/hominids obtain their meat if there is no evidence of them hunting? Were they scavengers? I believe they must have been, but as yet can find nothing to back this up.
Your speculation seems reasonable to me, and agrees with many sources with which I’m familiar. the wikipedia article Hunter-gatherer
, for example, begins,
The earliest humans probably lived primarily on scavenging, not actual hunting
and cites a supporting reference,
The Last Rain Forests: A World Conservation Atlas
(1990 many contributors edited by Mark Collins), around page 91 of this poor-quality apparent scan.
Note, however, the "probably" qualifier. I know of no credible science that gives with high confidence very detailed accounts of early human/hominid behavior. Other than certain special behaviors, such as burying dead fellows and the making of durable artifacts such as stone cutters and hammers, it’s very difficult to conclude much in great detail about prehistoric human behavior.
As a result, anthropologists largely try to understand pre-agricultural humans by studying isolated recent human societies that don’t have many modern human practices. This approach has many shortcomings, and may be very wrong, as such societies may resemble pre-agricultural only superficially (see 2005 Marlow below).
Hunter-Gatherers and Human Evolution
So I'd be extremely grateful if anyone could supply me with further information and ideally a link to authoritative evidence that I could read.
(2005 Frank W. Marlow), which I read just now researching this post, describes some of these shortcomings, and also contains many tables and 94 references, including the one that I followed to the dating of throwing spears to 400,000 years ago, and a table dating (and failing to date) various other technologies. It’s the best I found in the short amount I time I spent researching. Another collection or references that might prove fruitful to you are those for the wikipedia article Hunter-gatherer
, which include the reference to 2005 Marlow.
It's very important that I find this out and it's not just an idle query, so I hope someone can help.
Now that you mention this, I’m curious – why is this question so important to you, IamJoy?