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Elephant v. Man

By Dave Armstrong - 14 Dec 2011 9:54:0 GMT
Elephant v. Man

Elephants via Shutterstock

The first "men", Homo erectus, are known to have eaten elephant. Instead of berries and nuts and shellfish from the shore, the steaks must have created a few full stomachs. While only 2.4% of the bones found at a H. erectus site, the calories provided by them seem to be in the order of 60% of the animal total.

As the elephant is easy to find and hunt and not a seasonal food, the Homo erectus population must have really missed the beast when it disappeared from their sites in the Middle East 400,000 years ago. It is now guessed that another hominid species took over from H.erectus partly because they could exist much better on an elephant-free diet!

As humans needed animal fats to supplement plant diets, elephants would have been highly regarded in early diets. Blades, food-sharing and fire were evidenced in caves likely to have belonged to Homo sapiens. This indicates they were better adapted to hunt smaller prey. Tel Aviv University researcher Dr. Ran Barkai, explained that the modern H. sapiens evolved in Africa 200,000 years ago and several elephant species there had recently become extinct, alongside the demise of Homo erectus. Our one remaining African elephant species was not hunted to the same extent, it seems.

The dig at Qesem Cave; Photo: Tel Aviv University

The dig at Qesem Cave; Photo: Tel Aviv University

A cave at Qesern in Israel presents a dilemma of sorts in this research. With implements believed to be from modern man, from 400,000 years ago, this shifts the origin of advanced Homo species further north than the previous finds." This sets the stage for a new understanding of the human story," says Prof. Avi Gopher of TAU's Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies. Contentious though that may be, it is down to more and more research to discover the human, and elephant, history.

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Topics: Elephants / Primates