Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Evidence Of Ancient Butchering May Actually Be Due To Crocodiles

There are a few instances in the archaeological record of anomalously early apparent usage of stone tools by hominins where hominins weren't expected to have such tools.  A new study may explain these anomalies. According to Science News:
Recent reports of African and North American animal fossils bearing stone-tool marks from being butchered a remarkably long time ago may be a crock. Make that a croc. 
Crocodile bites damage animal bones in virtually the same ways that stone tools do, say paleoanthropologist Yonatan Sahle of the University of Tübingen in Germany and his colleagues. Animal bones allegedly cut up for meat around 3.4 million years ago in East Africa (SN: 9/11/10, p. 8) and around 130,000 years ago in what’s now California (SN: 5/27/17, p. 7) come from lakeside and coastal areas. Those are places where crocodiles could have wreaked damage now mistaken for butchery, the scientists report online the week of November 6 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
It cites the following papers for its report:

* Y. Sahle et al. Hominid butchers and biting crocodiles in the African Plio-Pliocene. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Published online the week of November 6, 2017. doi: 01.1073/pnas.1716317114.

* S.R. Holen et al. A 130,000-year-old archaeological site in southern California, USA. Nature. Vol. 544, April 27, 2017, p. 479. doi:10.1038/nature22065.

* S.P. McPherron et al. Evidence for stone-tool-assisted consumption of animal tissues before 3.39 million years ago at Dikika, Ethiopia. Nature. Vol. 466, August 12, 2010, p. 857. doi:10.1038/nature09248.

* J. Njau. The relevance of crocodiles to Olduwan hominin paleoecology at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. Ph.D. dissertation, Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, N.J., May 2006.

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