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What Did Human Ancestors Eat?

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Kenya Bone Cut MarksWASHINGTON, D.C.—According to a statement released by George Washington University, W. Andrew Barr of George Washington University and his colleagues analyzed data collected at archaeological sites in eastern Africa to trace the prevalence of meat consumption by early human ancestors between 2.6 and 1.2 million years ago. The researchers looked at cut marks on animal bones made with stone tools, the total number of cut marks across the sites, and the number of separately reported stratigraphic levels. It had been previously suggested that modern humanlike traits such as large brains evolved with a dietary shift toward greater meat consumption during this period. And while archaeological evidence indicates that human ancestors did eat more meat after the appearance of Homo erectus some two million years ago, Barr claims this is because this time period has been widely studied. Barr suggests instead such evolutionary changes could have been driven by the development of cooking or the provisioning of plant foods, although more research is needed. “Our study undermines the idea that eating large quantities of meat drove evolutionary changes in our early ancestors,” he concluded. For more on hominin meat consumption, go to "Marrow of Humanity."

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