Ancient Cutmarks Reveal Far Earlier Origin of Butchery

Wednesday, August 11, 2010 - 15:35 in Paleontology & Archaeology

Researchers working in Ethiopia's remote Afar region have recovered evidence that humans began using stone tools and eating meat far earlier than previously thought. The finds--cutmarked animal bones dating to nearly 3.4 million years ago--push the origin of butchery back a stunning 800,000 years. Furthermore, these ancient butchers were not members of our own genus, Homo , but the more primitive Australopithecus , specifically A. afarensis , the species to which the celebrated Lucy fossil belongs.Scientists have typically viewed tool use as the purview of Homo . Indeed, in 1964 Kenyan paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey and his colleagues named the earliest Homo species, H. habilis ("handy man"), for its association with stone tools. Subsequent finds have since extended the evidence of stone tool use back to between 2.5 million and 2.6 million years ago. But exactly which member of the human family made...

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