Friday, 11 June 2010

Biting back

A dig in the Turkana region of Northern Kenya six years ago has thrown some light on the diet of hominids living in that area 1.95 million years ago. A recently published report shows that the site contained butchered remains of at least ten different animals, with a few surprise inclusions. Alongside the bones of small birds, fish and antelope were those of hippos and even crocodile. Seems like these Homo habilis weren't content to play it safe. Must have been quite the feeling for the hero of the hunt to return to camp dragging a crocodile. I would probably have been the guy at the back of the party, shamefully hiding my haul of one sparrow and two trod-on lizards under my matted beard.

The site produced a huge number of bones and the stone tools that were used to prepare the meat and the findings provide a good insight into not only the diet but the habitat of the time. What's now a very hot, dry area would have been considerably wetter back then. It's thought the additional calorific intake provided by increasing the amount of meat in the hominid diet sped development of the brain. That will be my excuse from now on. Researchers think the meat was eaten raw, and it is unknown if there was garnish of any sort. Cooking was an important breakthrough in the story of human evolution.There was a great Horizon programme about it last year, I think. Well worth a look if you can find it.

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