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How Did Hominids Obtain Meat Prior To Hunting?


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#1 IamJoy

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 02:45 PM

Hello.

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.

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. 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.

It's very important that I find this out and it's not just an idle query, so I hope someone can help. Thank you very much.

EDIT: I APOLOGISE ABOUT MY DATE ERROR ABOVE - A slip of the fingers, or something, yes the correct date for wooden spears is 400,000 years ago and not 40,000 years ago (oops) yes, those found in Germany.

Edited by IamJoy, 21 September 2012 - 06:27 PM.


#2 Buffy

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 05:37 PM

Actually the generally accepted date for the earliest stone tools go back to 2.5 million years ago, and are mostly things with edges on them which would primarily be useful for carving up animals.... By 40,000 years ago we had pretty sophisticated weapons!

A bunch of guys with unmodified rocks and maybe some pointy branches would have no problem bringing down a gazelle even if they used techniques that we know are used by coyotes and wolves to encircle prey.

The biggest trap in Anthropology/Archaeology is imagining that people "that long ago" "could not possibly be able to figure out X"....


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#3 JMJones0424

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 07:13 PM

Another point is that while humans aren't particularly adept at sprinting, especially when compared to typical prey animals, we have superior natural endurance. Persistence hunting is a remarkable technique to capture prey; at the end of the hunt, the prey animal is suffering from hyperthermia and can do nothing but watch as you approach to dispatch it. No hunting tools are necessary for this style of hunt other than a large flat rock and a lot of endurance running.

#4 Moontanman

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 09:03 PM

Hello.

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.

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. 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.

It's very important that I find this out and it's not just an idle query, so I hope someone can help. Thank you very much.



Here is some information..

http://tolweb.org/tr...eehouse_id=4438

There has also been a shift in opinion with respect to the potential hunting abilities of early hominids, with a move towards viewing them as being incapable of competing with larger carnivores due to their limited cognitive abilities, crude toolkit and relatively small size (e.g. Potts, 1984). However, given the amplitude of evidence for hunting behavior in Pan that has emerged over the past forty years (Stanford, 1996, 1999; Takahata et al., 1984; Teleki 1973; Wrangham and van Zinnicq Bergmann-Riss, 1990), it is unreasonable to suggest that early hominids were incapable of hunting behavior. Furthermore, an analysis of the physiology of the gastrointestinal tract and scavenging behavior in contemporary chimpanzees and baboons reveals a staunch avoidance of carrion due to the increased risk of internal parasites (Ragir et al., 2000).

Scavenging does become a plausible means of subsistence when cooking food is an option (Ragir et al., 2000), but there is no reason to believe that early hominids were able to control fire for cooking (Klein, 1999). Based on these data, it is reasonable to suggest that some species of early hominid were hunting and consuming meat from small mammals, reptiles and birds, in a way similar to modern chimpanzees. However, stronger zoo-archaeological evidence for this behavior must be discovered before anything conclusive can be said about meat-consumption in early hominids.


The entire article seems to cast doubt on extensive scavenging by early hominids...

We seem to have some disagreement on what you mean by early hominids, by 40,000 years ago we were human, to me early hominids would be more like 1,000,000 years ago or earlier, anatomically correct humans are thought by many to have been around as early as 200,000 years ago. Fire using hominids, above article would seem to indicate would be necessary for them to have used scavenging as a source of meat.

Modern Chimps hunt and kill small game but they avoid carrion...

Edited by Moontanman, 04 September 2012 - 09:08 PM.


#5 IamJoy

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 12:23 PM

Hello...

In reply to the answers above...

I know that we have discovered cutting tools dating back to early hominids and that we've discovered bones even earlier that display cut marks; however, there is no evidence of actual hunting weapons until very much later. The two types of tool are completely different. You cannot hunt a beast with a cutting tool unless you intend to throw the rock at its head and knock it out - though maybe it's a possibility with a sling-shot.

I do find it implausable that "A bunch of guys with unmodified rocks and maybe some pointy branches would have no problem bringing down a gazelle" - I'd like to see them try! Early hominids were small, not much bigger than chimps, and gazelles are big and very fast - it simply doesn't make sense. Even modern tribes who are taller and more robust do not bring down gazelles using pointy sticks and rocks! They primarily use a bow and arrow, or blowpipe, sometimes a light throwing-spear.

By 'scavenging' I'm not implying the eating of rotten meat - obviously that makes no sense. I'm suggesting that like many animals who do not hunt, early hominids ate the recent remains of fresh kills that had been hunted by other much more capable animals.

I'm well aware that chimps hunt and do not use tools to do so - however there's a massive world of difference between the physical capabilities of chimps and those of early hominids who would not have been able to swing through the trees at speed chasing monkeys and then killing them by tearing them apart with their hands or teeth as chimps do.

I appreciate the response so far, but nothing has been of help yet.

#6 CraigD

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 05:26 PM

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).

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.

Hunter-Gatherers and Human Evolution (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?

#7 Moontanman

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 08:12 PM

Hello...

In reply to the answers above...

I know that we have discovered cutting tools dating back to early hominids and that we've discovered bones even earlier that display cut marks; however, there is no evidence of actual hunting weapons until very much later. The two types of tool are completely different. You cannot hunt a beast with a cutting tool unless you intend to throw the rock at its head and knock it out - though maybe it's a possibility with a sling-shot.


I can see a significant exception to your assertion, a baby gazelle, just born would be easy prey, as would almost any new born animal. I can see no reason why humans couldn't have hunted opportunistically killing the weak and young. I think it is also nesesarry to say that sharpened sticks would leave little or no trace in the historical record...

I do find it implausable that "A bunch of guys with unmodified rocks and maybe some pointy branches would have no problem bringing down a gazelle" - I'd like to see them try! Early hominids were small, not much bigger than chimps, and gazelles are big and very fast - it simply doesn't make sense. Even modern tribes who are taller and more robust do not bring down gazelles using pointy sticks and rocks! They primarily use a bow and arrow, or blowpipe, sometimes a light throwing-spear.


And why would a gazelle be the metric with which you judge the hunting prowess of early humans? Lots of other vulnerable animals to be had, large tortoises were quite common until humans come along...


By 'scavenging' I'm not implying the eating of rotten meat - obviously that makes no sense. I'm suggesting that like many animals who do not hunt, early hominids ate the recent remains of fresh kills that had been hunted by other much more capable animals.


That is a distinct possibility... large bones ignored by many predators would be a good source of food by merely breaking them open.


I'm well aware that chimps hunt and do not use tools to do so - however there's a massive world of difference between the physical capabilities of chimps and those of early hominids who would not have been able to swing through the trees at speed chasing monkeys and then killing them by tearing them apart with their hands or teeth as chimps do.

I appreciate the response so far, but nothing has been of help yet.



Um what do you know about the physical capabilities of early hominids? Why would they necessarily be weak? Living on the ground would almost certainly mean they would be quite strong...

#8 belovelife

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 08:54 PM

i thought i posted to this earlier, hmmmm


anyway, i think we just lost our taste for ants,

imagin hanging out at the local ant hills, for lunch

all you need is a stick, mabe even a fruit from a tree or something

after that, all you have to do is hang out and eat ants