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No. 35: Sep-Oct 1984

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Man The Scavenger

Some 2 million years ago, man's supposed ancestors were meat-eaters. But were they noble hunters with dominion over other life forms? Probably not! The analysis of tool marks on ancient animal bones tells us that human tool marks predominate in regions of the bones where there was little meat, as if ancient humans were dismembering the animals for skins and other products. On the meat-bearing portions of the bones, the tooth marks of non-human carnivores predominate. Where the tool marks overlap the tooth marks of other carnivores, the tool marks are mostly on top of the tooth marks. The gist of the tool-mark analysis is that humans got to the animals second -- after the non-human carnivores. In other words, ancient humans were probably meat scavengers -- opportunists rather than the noble hunters often portrayed. As a matter of fact, one characteristic of a scavenger species is its ability to cover wide areas with little expenditure of energy, like the vultures. Now, human bipedalism is pitifully poor for running down game but great for searching far and wide with minimum physical effort. Tooth-wear studies of ancient human skulls indicate that humans were vegetarians first and meat-eaters second. This situation was suddenly reversed when Homo erectus came along. Then, according to toothwear patterns, there was a shift to a mainly meat diet. This was also the time when human territory expanded greatly geographically. The reason for these changes is unknown.

(Lewin, Roger; "Man the Scavenger," Science, 224:861, 1984.)

From Science Frontiers #35, SEP-OCT 1984. 1984-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:

Quotes

  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987