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Human relatives butchered each other with tools 1.45 million years ago: study

Nine cuts in a fossilized shinbone are the earliest clear evidence that our relatives used stone tools to butcher and possibly eat each other. new research.

“Judging by the location of the cuts, the butcher most likely had skinned the leg and cut off the meat,” lead author paleoanthropologist Briana Poviner told slaughtered for its meat. This is the earliest solid evidence that hominins robbed other hominins of their flesh. “

The term hominin refers to humans, our evolutionary ancestors, and closely related species. As a research scientist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, Poviner’s research focuses on the evolution of human diets, including carnivory and cannibalism.

Poviner was poring over fossils at a museum in Nairobi, Kenya, looking for clues about prehistoric predators that ate our ancient relatives. When she first picked up a 1.45-million-year-old human tibia, or part of a shinbone, she used a magnifying glass to look for bite marks, but instead found cuts that appeared to be evidence of slaughter. rice field.

Poviner made bone molds and sent them to co-author Michael Pante of Colorado State University. Unaware of Poviner’s theory, Panthe used his 3D scans and compared them to a database of his 898 different teeth, carcasses and stomping marks created in previous experiments. Of the 11 traces he identified, 9 were clearly from stone tools. The remaining two are thought to have descended from one of the three extinct saber-toothed tiger species that roamed the region in the early Pleistocene.

While the cuts themselves don’t prove that human ancestors ate each other, Poviner believes this is the most likely scenario. According to her, the cuts are where the calf muscles attach to the bone, and they all point in the same direction, just like a Stone Age butcher holding down the bone with one hand while using a sharp tool with the other to cut the bone. It is said that it seems to have removed the meat.

“We interpret this slaughterhouse to be nutritious rather than ritualistic or ceremonial,” Poviner said, adding, “I am very much aware of this period and the northern Kenyan (Kobi Fora). We have studied hundreds of fossil animal bones with cut marks similar to this slaughterhouse at the site.” Human fossils, all of which have been interpreted as the result of slaughtering animals for food. “

Researchers are unable to determine whether this is evidence of cannibalism (specific species eating other species of the same species).at least three human species It is unknown if they all made and used stone tools, although they may have existed in the area at the time. The shin bone itself also does not provide enough information to identify a particular species. As for the large cat bite marks, it is unknown whether they were made before or after the death of an ancient relative.

“Perhaps the individual died naturally or by predation, and then its lower limbs were gnawed on by a large feline and slaughtered by another hominin,” Poviner said. “Anything more than that is just speculation.”

The research published on monday It was published in the peer-reviewed journal “Scientific Reports”.

Poviner says it’s not uncommon to find evidence of cannibalism in fossils of humans and relatives. The use of stone tools dates back to about 2.9 million years ago, but consistent evidence of death rituals can only be found well after the fossil dates, she added. Some have claimed that a supposedly ancient skull found in South Africa has similar marks, but the find has been disputed.
Poviner said her harrowing discovery also demonstrates the value of scouring museum collections for new research.

“I would like to emphasize that this discovery shows that not all paleoanthropological discoveries were made in situ,” she said. “Museum collections are precious treasures worth re-studying with new questions, tools and analytical techniques.”

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