England: signs of 400,000 years old elephant eating found


Palaeoloxodon antiquusFrom the BBC:

Early signs of elephant butchers

Bones and tusks dating back 400,000 years are the earliest signs in Britain of ancient humans butchering elephants for meat, say archaeologists.

Remains of a single adult elephant surrounded by stone tools were found in northwest Kent during work on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

Scientists believe hunters used the tools to cut off the meat, after killing the animal with wooden spears.

The find is described in the Journal of Quaternary Science.

The first signs of the Stone Age site were uncovered by constructors at Southfleet Road in Ebbsfleet, Kent.

Excavations revealed the skeleton of an extinct species of elephant (Palaeoloxodon antiquus) lying at the edge of what would once have been a small lake.

Flint tools lay scattered around, suggesting the animal had been cut up by a tribe of the early humans around at the time, known as Homo heidelbergensis.

“It is the earliest site of elephant butchery in Britain,” Dr Francis Wenban-Smith of the University of Southampton told the BBC News website.

“In fact it is the only such site in Britain and it is very rare to find undisturbed evidence of this kind.”

Early hunting ground

Dr Wenban-Smith believes the elephant, which was twice the size of those living today, was probably brought down by a pack of hunters armed with wooden spears.

“They either hunted it or possibly found it in an injured state and then killed it,” he explained.

“Then they got some flint tools from nearby and they would have swarmed all over it and cut off the meat.

“They would have been carrying off armfuls of meat to their local base camp.”

Rhino feast

The elephant would have been eaten raw, as there is no evidence that fire was used for cooking at the time.

The hunter gatherers probably also feasted on other large mammals, as the bones of buffalo, rhino, deer and horse were also found nearby.

Homo heidelbergensis in France: here. And here.

Around 150,000 years ago, Homo heidelbergensis cavemen ate ducks that they either roasted or consumed whole and raw. The feast happened at Bolomor Cave in Valencia, Spain, according to a recent study: here.

Age of earliest human burial in Britain pinpointed. The Red Lady remains are 4000 years older than previously thought: here.

Neanderthal man in evolution: here.

See also here.

South Africa: Paranthropus. Paranthropus: here.

Human food, 1,8 million years ago: here.

Ancient hominid species: here.

How a prehistoric ‘super river’ turned Britain into an island nation: here.

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11 thoughts on “England: signs of 400,000 years old elephant eating found

  1. Palaeoanthropology: A New Hominin Fossil Child.

    The fragile bones of infants rarely survive long enough to make
    it into the hominin fossil record. But if they do, they provide
    precious evidence about the growth and development of the
    individual and its species. This helps researchers not only to
    understand how such processes have changed during hominin
    evolution, but also to interpret the…

    Full report at http://scienceweek.com/2006/sw060929.htm

  2. 1. ANTHROPOLOGY: ON ANALYSIS OF TOOTH ENAMEL

    The following points are made by Stanley H. Ambrose (Science 2006
    314:930):

    1) Seasonal variations in temperature, rainfall, and food
    availability drive many animals to hibernate or migrate. Animals
    that are tethered to their home ranges and remain active in all
    seasons may need flexible adaptive strategies for survival,
    especially in arid African savannas, where seasonal and annual
    rainfall can vary widely. About 2.4 to 1.4 million years ago, our
    earliest stone tool-making ancestors, Homo habilis and H.
    erectus, shared African savannas with their close relatives,
    commonly referred to as “robust” australopithecines or
    Paranthropus species (1). How variable were their environments?
    How much did their diets overlap in different seasons? And how
    did these two bipedal hominins manage to coexist for 1 million
    years? New work (2) documents the seasonal variation in diet and
    climate of four robust australopithecines from Swartkrans Cave in
    South Africa. The authors use laser ablation of tooth enamel — a
    method that causes minimal damage to the precious fossils —
    followed by advanced methods of isotope analysis. They are
    literally blazing a new trail to answers to fundamental questions
    about early hominin paleoecology and evolution.

    2) With their huge molar teeth and massive jaw muscles, robust
    australopithecines are considered dietary specialists that fed
    mainly on small, hard, tough, fibrous plant foods. Their
    extinction between 1.0 and 1.4 million years ago is often
    attributed to their low-nutrient, high-fiber diets. However,
    systematic assessments of the cranial and dental anatomy (1) and
    dental microwear (3) suggest that their diets were less
    specialized than previously thought and more similar to those of
    their ancestors and hominin competitors.

    3) Dietary niche separation between closely related species is
    usually greatest when resources are scarce. For example,
    chimpanzees and lowland gorillas that live in the same area eat
    similar amounts of fruit for most of the year, but during the
    leanest season, gorillas rely entirely on herbaceous vegetation
    (4). The powerful teeth and jaws of Paranthropus may have been
    essential for survival only when they resorted to tough
    “fallback” foods to mitigate competition with Homo.

    4) How can stable-isotope variations in teeth provide insight
    into seasonality in diet and climate? The answer lies in the
    different 13C/12C ratios of different types of plants (5).
    Tropical grasses (and a few herbaceous broadleaf plants) fix
    atmospheric CO2 using the C4 photosynthetic pathway; these plants
    have high 13C/12C ratios. Conversely, most broadleaf plants,
    including trees, shrubs, and herbs, use the C3 pathway and have
    low 13C/12C ratios. The isotope ratio of the diet controls that
    of the consumer, such that grazing (grass-eating) and browsing
    (broadleaf-eating) herbivores — and the carnivores that prey on
    them — preserve the isotopic difference at the base of the food
    web. The carbon-isotope ratios of mixed feeders reflect the
    proportions of C3 and C4 plants in their diets.

    References (abridged):

    1. B. Wood, D. Strait, J. Hum. Evol. 46, 119 (2004).

    2. M. Sponheimer et al., Science 314, 980 (2006).

    3. R. S. Scott et al., Nature 436, 693 (2005).

    4. C. B. Stanford, J. B. Nkurunungi, Int. J. Primatol. 24, 901
    (2003).

    5. T. E. Dawson, Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 33, 507 (2002).

    Science http://www.sciencemag.org

    ScienceWeek http://scienceweek.com

  3. I understand the remains of that dig are safely under the car park?
    Ebbsfleet history has a mysterious past, it has been visited many times in our evoloution! Now return and putting a new railway station into what was a small old village.

  4. Pingback: Spanish elephant meat-eaters, 100,000 years before King Juan Carlos | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. Pingback: Throwing spears, 400,000-years-old? | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  6. Pingback: Piltdown Man hoax, 1912 | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  7. Pingback: Ancient Neanderthals, new research | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  8. Pingback: Prehistoric human discovery in England | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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