Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

First clear evidence of organized feasting by early humans

Date:
August 30, 2010
Source:
University of Connecticut
Summary:
Community feasting is one of the most universal and important social behaviors found among humans. Now, scientists have found the earliest clear evidence of organized feasting, from a burial site dated about 12,000 years ago. These remains represent the first archaeological verification that human feasting began before the advent of agriculture.

This is a view of excavation area at Hilazon Tachtit Cave, Israel.
Credit: Naftali Hilger

Community feasting is one of the most universal and important social behaviors found among humans. Now, scientists have found the earliest clear evidence of organized feasting, from a burial site dated about 12,000 years ago. These remains represent the first archaeological verification that human feasting began before the advent of agriculture.

"Scientists have speculated that feasting began before the Neolithic period, which starts about 11.5 thousand years ago," says Natalie Munro of the University of Connecticut, and author of a research article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "This is the first solid evidence that supports the idea that communal feasts were already occurring -- perhaps with some frequency -- at the beginnings of the transition to agriculture."

At a burial cave in the Galilee region of northern Israel, Munro and her colleague Leore Grosman of Hebrew University in Jerusalem uncovered the remains of at least 71 tortoises and three wild cattle in two specifically crafted hollows, an unusually high density for the period. The tortoise shells and cattle bones exhibited evidence of being cooked and torn apart, indicating that the animals had been butchered for human consumption.

Each of the two hollows, says Munro, was manufactured for the purpose of a ritual human burial and related feasting activities. The tortoise shells were situated under, around and on top of the remains of a ritually-buried shaman, which suggests that the feast occurred concurrently with the ritual burial. On their own, the meat from the discarded tortoise shells could probably have fed about 35 people, says Munro, but it's possible that many more than that attended this feast.

"We don't know exactly how many people attended this particular feast, or what the average attendance was at similar events, since we don't know how much meat was actually available in the cave," says Munro. "The best we can do is give a minimum estimate based on the bones that are present."

A major reason why humans began feasting -- and later began to cultivate their own foods -- is because faster human population growth had begun to crowd their landscape. In earlier periods of the Stone Age, says Munro, small family groups were often on the move to find new sources of food. But around the time of this feast, she says, that lifestyle had become much more difficult.

"People were coming into contact with each other a lot, and that can create friction," she says. "Before, they could get up and leave when they had problems with the neighbors. Now, these public events served as community-building opportunities, which helped to relieve tensions and solidify social relationships."

But when a once-nomadic group of humans settles down, that can put tremendous pressure on the local resources. Munro notes that humans around the time of this feast were intensively using the plants and animals that their descendants later domesticated.

"The appearance of these feasts at the beginnings of agriculture is particularly interesting because people are starting to experiment with domestication and cultivation," she notes.

This combination of increased social interaction and changes in resources, says Munro, is what eventually led to the beginnings of agriculture.

"Taken together, this community integration and the changes in economics were happening at the very beginning when incipient cultivation was getting going," she says. "These kinds of social changes are the beginnings of significant changes in human social complexity that lead into the beginning of the agricultural transition."


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

University of Connecticut. "First clear evidence of organized feasting by early humans." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 August 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100830152526.htm>.
University of Connecticut. (2010, August 30). First clear evidence of organized feasting by early humans. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100830152526.htm
University of Connecticut. "First clear evidence of organized feasting by early humans." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100830152526.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Mich. Boy Unearths 10,000-Year-Old Mastodon Tooth

Newsy (Apr. 20, 2014) — A 9-year-old Michigan boy was exploring a creek when he came across a 10,000-year-old tooth from a prehistoric mastodon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Couple Finds Love Letters From WWI In Attic

Couple Finds Love Letters From WWI In Attic

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) — A couple found love letters from World War I in their attic. They were able to deliver them to relatives of the writer of those letters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Erotic Art Offers Glimpse of China's 'lost' Sexual Philosophy

Erotic Art Offers Glimpse of China's 'lost' Sexual Philosophy

AFP (Apr. 16, 2014) — Explicit Chinese art works dating back centuries go on display in Hong Kong, revealing China's ancient relationship with sex. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
French Historians Fight to Save Iconic La Samaritaine Buildings

French Historians Fight to Save Iconic La Samaritaine Buildings

AFP (Apr. 15, 2014) — Parisians and local historians are fighting to save one of the French capital's iconic buildings, the La Samaritaine department store. Duration: 01:42 Video provided by AFP
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:
from the past week

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