Tech UPTechnologyEating meat did not make us human

Eating meat did not make us human

Did we manage to develop our brain and intelligence because we started consuming meat? A new study calls it into question. While there is archaeological evidence that Homo erectus ate more meat than earlier humans, the link to this factor and the presence of an exceptionally large brain for a creature of its size has been greatly exaggerated , according to research. by experts from George Washington University (USA) and published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


How important is meat consumption in our evolutionary history?

Recent analysis shows that this ancient association may be an illusion based on biased sampling of archaeological sites. The idea that animal proteins are required to achieve a larger brain is therefore related to the moment when Homo erectus began to eat meat two million years ago. But the numbers don’t quite add up.

“Generations of paleoanthropologists have gone to well-preserved sites in places like Olduvai Gorge looking for and finding impressive direct evidence of early humans eating meat, promoting this view that there was an explosion in meat eating after two million years ago. ”, comments Andrew Barr, assistant professor of anthropology at George Washington University, USA, and lead author of the article. “However, when you quantitatively synthesize data from numerous sites in East Africa to test this hypothesis, as we did here, the ‘meat made us human’ evolutionary narrative begins to unravel.”

The researchers compiled published data from nine major research areas in East Africa, including 59 levels of sites dating between 2.6 and 1.2 million years ago. They used various metrics to track the hominin carnivore, such as the number of zooarchaeological sites that preserve animal bones with stone tool cut marks, or the total count of cut-marked animal bones at the sites.



They found that there was no sustained increase in carnivorous evidence after the appearance of Homo erectus. That is, most of these sites show evidence that meat was part of the human diet in the form of animal bones with stone cut marks, but this did not necessarily increase over time.

A big surprise.

“This study changes our understanding of what the zooarchaeological record tells us about early prehistoric carnivores. It also shows how important it is that we continue to ask big questions about our evolution, as we continue to discover and analyze new evidence about our past, ” explains Briana Pobiner, of the Human Origins Program at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

The researchers believe it is important to investigate other explanations for the behavioral and anatomical differences in Homo erectus , such as the development of controlled fire for cooking. According to experts, none of the possible alternative theories currently have a solid basis in the archaeological record, so much work remains to be done.

Referencia: “No sustained increase in zooarchaeological evidence for carnivory after the appearance of Homo erectus” 24 January 2022, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2115540119

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