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Ancient Humans Ate Eachother Then Took The Day Off

December 13, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Several examples of bent ends of bones chewed by Koi people. From the Journal of Human Evolution

The results of this study, to be published in January in the Journal of Human Evolution, were derived from experiment to identify patterns in teeth marks on bones after chewing.

The authors actually had 4 groups of people chew and gnaw the bones of barbecued short ribs and boiled sheep, as well as some raw pork rib bones and sheep leg bones. They also studied the chewing patterns of Koi people from an experiment done in the 1960s, and studied the patterns of the bite marks on the bones.

The study claims that there are several types of markings left on bones after chewing. A certain combination of markings is indicative of human chewing. The results of the study state:

The main traits that characterize a pattern of human chewed bones from this experimental study are ends of bone bent, crenulated edges of bone or chewed ends, and punctures and linear marks on the bone surfaces.

The results from these experiments, i.e. the pattern of chewing thought to belong to humans, was then compared to fossils to determine if the bite marks are human, or if they belong to some other animal. And in a couple of cases, they were a match.

So why would ancient humans want to eat each other? From Discovery News,

“Think that a member of your group dies,” Fernandez-Jalvo told Discovery News. “The body can give one day off from hunting, which was always dangerous at that time, and what to do with the dead body that may attract other dangerous carnivores that may attack the group.”

“This could be a good solution,” she added, reminding that cannibalism does not always mean the cannibal killed the consumed individual.

So this was more about an efficient means of getting nutrition and disposing of a body that could potentially attract predators, than any kind of ritualistic killing of fellow tribe members.

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