Giant Prehistoric Elephant Slaughtered by Early Humans

Elephant hunt recreation

From Science Daily

Research by a University of Southampton archaeologist suggests that early humans, who lived thousands of years before Neanderthals, were able to work together in groups to hunt and slaughter animals as large as the prehistoric elephant.

Dr Francis Wenban-Smith discovered a site containing remains of an extinct straight-tusked elephant (Palaeoloxodon antiquus) in 2003, in an area of land at Ebbsfleet in Kent, during the construction of the High Speed 1 rail link from the Channel Tunnel to London.
Investigation of the area was carried out with independent heritage organisation Oxford Archaeology, with the support of HS1 Ltd.

Excavation revealed a deep sequence of deposits containing the elephant remains, along with numerous flint tools and a range of other species such as; wild aurochs, extinct forms of rhinoceros and lion, Barbary macaque, beaver, rabbit, various forms of vole and shrew, and a diverse assemblage of snails. These remains confirm that the deposits date to a warm period of climate around 420,000 years ago, the so-called Hoxnian interglacial, when the climate was probably slightly warmer than the present day.

Since the excavation, which took place in 2004, Francis has been carrying out a detailed analysis of evidence recovered from the site, including 80 undisturbed flint artefacts found scattered around the elephant carcass and used to butcher it. The pre-historic elephant was twice the size of today’s African variety and up to four times the weight of family car.

Dr Wenban-Smith comments:

Although there is no direct evidence of how this particular animal met its end, the discovery of flint tools close to the carcass confirm butchery for its meat, probably by a group of at least four individuals. Early hominins of this period would have depended on nutrition from large herbivores. The key evidence for elephant hunting is that, of the few prehistoric butchered elephant carcasses that have been found across Europe, they are almost all large males in their prime, a pattern that does not suggest natural death and scavenging. Although it seems incredible that they could have killed such an animal, it must have been possible with wooden spears. We know hominins of this period had these, and an elephant skeleton with a wooden spear through its ribs was found at the site of Lehringen in Germany in 1948.

These early humans suffered local extinction in Northern Europe during the great ice age known as the Anglian glaciation 450,000 years ago, but re-established themselves as the climate grew warmer again in the following Hoxnian interglacial.

An ability to hunt large mammals, and in particular elephants, as suggested by the Ebbsfleet find, would go some way to explaining how these people then managed to push northwards again into what is now Britain. The flint artefacts of these pioneer settlers are of a characteristic type known as Clactonian, mostly comprising simple razor-sharp flakes that would have been ideal for cutting meat, sometimes with notches on them that would have helped cut through the tougher animal hide.
The discovery of this previously undisturbed Elephant grave site is unique in Britain — where only a handful of other elephant skeletons have been found and none of which have produced similar evidence of human exploitation.

Dr Wenban-Smith explains the Ebbsfleet area would have been very different from today: “Rich fossilised remains surrounding the elephant skeleton, including pollen, snails and a wide variety of vertebrates, provide a remarkable record of the climate and environment the early humans inhabited.

Analysis of these deposits show they lived at a time of peak interglacial warmth, when the Ebbsfleet Valley was a lush, densely wooded tributary of the Thames, containing a quiet, almost stagnant swamp.

The layer of earth containing the elephant remains and flints is overlain by a higher level of sediment, rich in so-called Acheulian tool types — handaxes of various forms from later in the same interglacial. Controversy surrounds whether or not these represent a later wave of colonisation of Britain, or whether the Clactonians themselves evolved a more sophisticated tool-kit as they developed a more sustained occupation.

Imagen

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Filed under Acheulean, Homo heildebergensis, Lower Paleolithic

Who was eating salmon 45,000 years ago in the Caucasus?

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Were bears or lions involved in salmon accumulation in the Middle Palaeolithic of the Caucasus? An isotopic investigation in Kudaro 3 cave

Hervé Bocherensa; Gennady Baryshnikov & Wim Van Neerc

Abstract
Bone fragments of large anadromous salmon in the Middle Palaeolithic archaeological layers of Kudaro 3 cave (Caucasus) suggested fish consumption by archaic Hominins, such as Neandertals. However, large carnivores such as Asiatic cave bears (Ursus kudarensis) and cave lions (Panthera spelaea) were also found in the cave and could have been responsible for such an accumulation. The diet of these carnivores was evaluated using carbon, nitrogen and sulphur isotopes in faunal bone collagen. The results suggest that anadromous fish were neither part of the diet of either cave bear (vegetarian) or cave lion (predators of herbivores from arid areas) and therefore provide indirect support to the idea that Middle Palaeolithic Hominins, probably Neandertals, were able to consume fish when it was available.

Why did anatomically modern humans replace Neandertals in Europe around 40,000 years ago?

Who Was Eating Salmon 45,000 Years Ago in the Caucasus? Neandertals Probably Not as Rigid in Their Diet as Thought.

One hypothesis suggests that Neandertals were rigid in their dietary choice, targeting large herbivorous mammals, such as horse, bison and mammoths, while modern humans also exploited a wider diversity of dietary resources, including fish. This dietary flexibility of modern humans would have been a big advantage when competing with Neandertals and led to their final success.

In a joint study, Professor Hervé Bocherens of the University of Tübingen, Germany, together with colleagues from the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Saint Petersburg, Russia and the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels, Belgium have found at a cave in the Caucasus Mountains indirect hints of fish consumption by Neandertals. The scientists challenge the hypothesis of evolutionary advantage of modern humans on basis of dietary choice. Bone analyses ruled out cave bears and cave lions to have consumed the fish whose remains were found at the Caucasian cave.

The hypothesis on dietary differences between modern humans and Neandertals is based on the study of animal bones found in caves occupied by these two types of hominids, which can provide clues about their diet, but it is always difficult to exclude large predators living at the same time as being responsible for at least part of this accumulation. One such case occurs in a cave located on the northern slopes of the Caucasus Mountains, called Kudaro 3.

There, the bone fragments of large salmon, migrating from marine water to their freshwater spawning places, were found in the Middle Palaeolithic archaeological layers, dated to around 42 to 48,000 years ago, and probably deposited by Neandertals. Such remains suggested that fish was consumed by these archaic Humans. However, large carnivores, such as Asiatic cave bears (Ursus kudarensis) and cave lions (Panthera spelaea) were also found in the cave and could have brought the salmon bones in the caves.

To test this hypothesis, the possible contribution of marine fish in the diet of these carnivores was evaluated using carbon, nitrogen and sulphur isotopes in faunal bone collagen, comparing these isotopic signatures between predators and their potential prey. The results indicate that salmons were neither part of the diet of cave bears (they were purely vegetarian, like their European counterparts) or cave lions (they were predators of herbivores from arid areas).

This study provides indirect support to the idea that Middle Palaeolithic Hominins, probably Neandertals, were able to consume fish when it was available, and that therefore, the prey choice of Neandertals and modern humans was not fundamentally different,

says Hervé Bocherens. He assumes that more than diet differences were certainly involved in the demise of the Neandertals.

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Filed under Homo neanderthalensis, Middle Paleolithic

New archaeological evidence suggests that America was first discovered by Stone Age people from Europe – 10,000 years before the Siberian-originating ancestors of the American Indians set foot in the New World.

A remarkable series of several dozen European-style stone tools, dating back between 19,000 and 26,000 years, have been discovered at six locations along the US east coast. Three of the sites are on the Delmarva Peninsular in Maryland, discovered by archaeologist Dr Darrin Lowery of the University of Delaware. One is in Pennsylvania and another in Virginia. A sixth was discovered by scallop-dredging fishermen on the seabed 60 miles from the Virginian coast on what, in prehistoric times, would have been dry land.

How Europeans first reached America: The migration route mapped out

How Europeans first reached America: The migration route mapped out.

Do tools belonging to Stone Age hunters found on U.S. east coast prove the first Americans came from Europe NOT Asia?

New discovery of European-style tools being heralded as among the most important archaeological breakthroughs for decades.

Supports the theory that Stone Age humans could make the 1500 mile journey across the Atlantic during Ice Age.

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18/09/2013 · 8:44 PM
This stone hand-axe was discovered in West Tofts (Norfolk, England). It is believed to be about 200,000 years old.

This stone hand-axe was discovered in West Tofts (Norfolk, England). It is believed to be about 200,000 years old.

The Earliest Art

Arguably the earliest example of art produced by humans is a necklace made of shell beads, dating to around 100,000 years ago. These beads were found in Israel (Vanhaeren et al., 2006) and are over twice the age of the more famous European cave art! Although this is the most ancient piece of human art, many examples of imagery and art have been found that predate the emergence of our species. Art, it would seem, is not uniquely human.

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18/09/2013 · 9:51 AM