Category Archives: Middle Stone Age

Human Hair Confirmed in Prehistoric Hyena Feces



Via News Discovery

Human hair found in fossilized hyena poop suggests that our ancestors satisfied the hunger of others during prehistoric times.

The fossilized dung, part of a “hyena latrine,” will be described in the upcoming October issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science. The latrine was first found a few years ago at Gladysvale cave in the Sterkfontein Valley of South Africa, but it recently went through an additional barrage of testing.

Our ancestors there lived around a literally wild bunch about 257,000 years ago.



“Based on the fossil hairs identified here, this research has established that brown hyenas shared the Sterkfontein Valley with hominins, warthog, impala, zebra and kudu,” authors Phillip Taru and Lucinda Backwell of the University of the Witwatersrand wrote.

They continued, “Apart from humans, these animals are associated with savanna grasslands, much like the Highveld environment of today.”

It sounds like there are three ways in which the hairs could have wound up where they did:

  1. The hyena ate a person(s). This happens even today, so it’s very possible.
  2. The hyena scavenged a dead person’s body.
  3. Somehow the hyena consumed a blob of human hair. Hey, you never know. If the hyena were hungry enough, it might have sampled all kinds of weird things.

What’s clear, at least, is that humans were at the site.

NEWS: Ancient Humans May Have Dined on Hyenas


As the researchers wrote, “Hair provides evidence of inland occupation by archaic Homo sapiens or modern humans.” The hair lacked scales, which could provide yet another useful clue.

“A lack of hair scales has been documented in human hair subject to pathology, a condition observed when studying our diabetic colleague’s hair as part of the human comparative sample,” Taru and Backwell explained.

Life in a cave could have led to many bad hair days, though. “Abrasion of the hair resulting from inhabiting rock crevices” could have led to lack of scales, according to the authors.

It’s impressive how valuable an old hair stuck in hyena poop can be. Future investigations will likely focus on the region in South Africa to learn more about our human ancestors there and how they interacted with other species.



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Filed under Human Evolution, Middle Stone Age, Paleolithic

Middle Stone Age human occupation and dispersals in the Messak plateau (SW Libya, central Sahara)

by Emanuele Cancellieri and Savino di Lernia

(Open access source: Quaternary International 300:142-152, 2013 via

Aterian artefacts from Messak: a-f: tanged point; g-m: tanged piece (see text for details).Scale bar: 5 cm (drawings: E. Cancellieri).

Research conducted since the 1990s in SW Libya has provided wide-ranging data on the Pleistocene archaeology of this vast region, which principally relies on surface scatters of lithic artefacts, a series of soundings and two MSA/Aterian dated sites. The Middle Stone Age of the region is thought to date from roughly MIS 6/5 to approximately 60 ka (the latest dated Aterian occurrence). Its distribution varies from sand seas to mountain ranges, with different states of preservation and archaeological visibility. This paper presents data from the last surveys (2010–2011) carried out on 46 transects across the Messak massif. One component of the research strategy was specifically designed to handle the impressive Pleistocene record through sampling a series of spots placed at fixed distances along predetermined survey strips. Field documentation of the techno-typological traits allowed the creation of a territorial data-set used to infer patterns of raw material exploitation, technological variability and the significance of the principal chrono-cultural markers. Quartzarenite, the most available and used raw material, is a diffusely distributed resource. This should have played a role in patterns of land use and mobility and, ultimately, in the composition of archaeological assemblages, mostly characterised by complete reduction sequences. Variability in the application of the Levallois method highlights widespread adoption of recurrent and lineal schemes. Among the latter, point production is extremely rare. The retouched blanks inventory is dominated by scrapers and notches, whereas more specialised tool classes (i.e., tanged pieces, points, foliates) are less common. The dimensions of a small sample of Aterian artefacts provisionally signal a higher degree of homogeneity among pointed tanged specimens than other types. Despite the overwhelming presence of roughly labelled MSA contexts, these show little evidence of a MSA stricto sensu chrono-cultural signature, among which scanty but precise elements are comparable with the sub-Saharan and Nile valley early Middle Stone Age, reinforcing the picture of multiple dispersals across the Sahara and North Africa around MIS 6/5. The evolution of MSA occupation and its cultural trajectories is difficult to assess, while the last phases, represented here by the Aterian, can be framed in hyperarid MIS 4 – after the dates from Acacus – and likely represent the adaptation of residual groups almost confined to mountain environments.

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20/09/2013 · 4:13 PM