Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Early Human Hunters Had Fewer Meat-sharing Rituals

Date:
August 18, 2009
Source:
University of Arizona
Summary:
An anthropologist has discovered that humans living at a Paleolithic cave site in central Israel between 400,000 and 250,000 years ago were as successful at big-game hunting as were later stone-age hunters at the site, but that the earlier humans shared meat differently.

This is UA anthropology professor Mary C. Stiner at Qesem Cave, Israel. Stiner analyzes faunal remains for the Qesem Cave Project.
Credit: Qesem Cave Project, Tel Aviv University

A University of Arizona anthropologist has discovered that humans living at a Paleolithic cave site in central Israel between 400,000 and 250,000 years ago were as successful at big-game hunting as were later stone-age hunters at the site, but that the earlier humans shared meat differently.

Related Articles


"The Lower Paleolithic (earlier) hunters were skilled hunters of large game animals, as were Upper Paleolithic (later) humans at this site," UA anthropology professor Mary C. Stiner said.

"This might not seem like a big deal to the uninitiated, but there's a lot of speculation as to whether people of the late Lower Paleolithic were able to hunt at all, or whether they were reduced to just scavenging," Stiner said. "Evidence from Qesem Cave says that just like later Paleolithic humans, the earlier Paleolithic humans focused on harvesting large game. They were really at the top of the food chain."

The Qesem Cave people hunted cooperatively, then carried the highest quality body parts of their prey to the cave, where they cut the meat with stone blade cutting tools and cooked it with fire.

"Qesem" means "surprise." The cave was discovered in hilly limestone terrain about seven miles east of Tel-Aviv not quite nine years ago, during road construction. Stiner was invited by Ran Barkai and Avi Gopher of Tel Aviv University's Institute of Archaeology to participate in the Qesem Cave Project.

Stiner analyzed the pattern of cut marks on bones of deer, aurochs, horse and other big game left at Qesem Cave by hunters of 400,000 to 200,000 years ago. Her novel approach was to analyze the cut marks to understand meat-sharing behaviors between the earlier and later cooperative hunting societies.

And the patterns revealed a striking difference in meat-sharing behaviors: The earlier hunters were less efficient, less organized and less specialized when it came to carving flesh from their prey.

"This is somewhat expected, since the tools they made took considerable skill and locomotor precision to produce," Stiner said.

Random cut marks, and higher numbers of cut marks, made by the earlier hunters show they attached little social ritual or formal rules to sharing meat, Stiner said. Many hands, including unskilled hands, cut meat off the bone during feeding.

By contrast, by later times, by the Middle and Upper Paleolithic, "It's quite clear that meat distribution flowed through the hands of certain butchers," Stiner said. "The tool marks made on bones by the more recent hunters are very regular, very efficient and show much less variation in the postures of the individuals cutting meat from any one bone. Only certain hunters or other fairly skilled individuals cut meat that was to be shared among the group."

Stiner stresses that her new findings need to be more broadly replicated before the implications of her research can be widely accepted.

Meat is one of the highest quality foods that humans may eat, and it is among the most difficult resources to harvest from the environment.

Archaeologists know that the roots of carnivory stretch deep into the past. But the details of carnivory and meat sharing have been sketchy. And they are important details, because they reflect the evolutionary development in human economic and social behaviors.

"It's interesting that these earlier people were skilled predators and very social, but that their social rules are more basic, less derived than those of the Middle Paleolithic.

"What might surprise most archaeologists is that I'm seeing a big difference between Lower and Middle Paleolithic social behaviors, not between Middle and Upper Paleolithic social behaviors.

"Neanderthals lived in the Middle Paleolithic, and they were a lot more like us in their more formal redistributions of meat than were the earlier hominids."

Stiner, Barkai and Gopher reported on the research in their article, "Cooperative hunting and meat sharing 400-200 kya at Qesem Cave, Israel" in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Arizona. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mary C. Stiner, Ran Barkai, and Avi Gopher. Cooperative hunting and meat sharing 400-200 kya at Qesem Cave, Israel. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2009; 106 (32): 13207 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0900564106

Cite This Page:

University of Arizona. "Early Human Hunters Had Fewer Meat-sharing Rituals." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 August 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090813142506.htm>.
University of Arizona. (2009, August 18). Early Human Hunters Had Fewer Meat-sharing Rituals. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090813142506.htm
University of Arizona. "Early Human Hunters Had Fewer Meat-sharing Rituals." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090813142506.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Dinosaur Species Found in Museum Collection

New Dinosaur Species Found in Museum Collection

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 27, 2014) A British palaeontologist has discovered a new species of dinosaur while studying fossils in a Canadian museum. Pentaceratops aquilonius was related to Triceratops and lived at the end of the Cretaceous Period, around 75 million years ago. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Reuters - Entertainment Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) The iconic piano from "Casablanca" and the Cowardly Lion suit from "The Wizard of Oz" fetch millions at auction. Sara Hemrajani reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) A multinational group of scientists have released the first ever detailed, high-resolution 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice. Using an underwater robot equipped with sonar, the researchers mapped the underside of a massive area of sea ice to gauge the impact of climate change. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ruins Thought To Be Port Actually Buried Greek City

Ruins Thought To Be Port Actually Buried Greek City

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) Media is calling it an "underwater Pompeii." Researchers have found ruins off the coast of Delos. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins