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JamesThursday, December 3, 2020 2:15-4:00pm 

 

 Rethinking the Origins of the Human Predatory Pattern

 

Jessica Thompson, Ph.D.

  Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Yale University  
Ph.D. Anthropology, Arizona State University

 

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Rethinking the Origins of the Human Predatory Pattern

Abstract: The habitual consumption of large animal resources (e.g., similar sized or larger than the consumer) separates human and nonhuman primate behavior. Flaked stone tool use, another important hominin behavior, is often portrayed as being functionally related to this by the necessity of a sharp edge for cutting animal tissue. However, new empirical evidence suggests that both may have occurred earlier than previously known, before the origin of our genus Homo. This demands a critical and theoretical re-evaluation of the significance of an earlier origins of these two behaviors, their proposed interrelationship, and how we should structure future research. Through this exercise, it is apparent that concepts of meat-eating and tool use are too loosely defined: outside-bone nutrients (e.g., meat) and inside-bone nutrients (e.g., marrow and brains) have different macronutrient characteristics (protein vs. fat), mechanical requirements for access (cutting vs. percussion), search, handling and competitive costs, encounter rates, and net returns. Thus, these different resources – together often encompassed under the overly-general term of “meat-eating”, would have demanded distinct technological and behavioral solutions. This suggests that the exploitation of large-animal resources—the “human predatory pattern”—began with an emphasis on percussion based scavenging of inside-bone nutrients, independently from the emergence of flaked stone tool use. It was only at a later threshold that large-animal exploitation with cutting tools became a key hominin adaptation. 

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Last Updated: 11/24/20