Science News

Researchers find evidence of animal butchering by Stone Age hominins

For the first time, researchers have discovered direct evidence of hunting and butchering of animals using stone tools by early hominins.

Over three years, a team of scientists extracted 10,000 stone tools from a Stone Age archaeological site in Jordan. The stone tools, including scrapers, flakes, projectile points and hand axes, were forged 250,000 years ago by a group of early humans. On several dozen of the stones, researchers confirmed the presence of protein residue from horse, rhinoceros, wild cattle, duck and other animals.

“Researchers have known for decades about carnivorous behaviors by tool-making hominins dating back 2.5 million years, but now, for the first time, we have direct evidence of exploitation by our Stone Age ancestors of specific animals for subsistence,” April Nowell, a paleoanthropologist with the University of Victoria, said in a news release. “The hominins in this region were clearly adaptable and capable of taking advantage of a wide range of available prey, from rhinoceros to ducks, in an extremely challenging environment.”

The findings show hominins were using sophisticated methods of hunting and butchering similar to those employed by Homo sapiens, which suggests the eventual demise of early humans wasn’t the result by technological inadequacy.

Scientists say the study, published this week in the Journal of Archaeological Science, will likely help researchers identify the purpose of even older hominin tools collected from disparate dig sites.