Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. Earth Science News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

Tracking down the first chefs
by Staff Writers
Leioa, Spain (SPX) Aug 05, 2016

Image showing marks produced by humans when eating meat in the experiment carried out in this research. Image courtesy Antonio J. Romero / UPV/EHU. For a larger version of this image please go here.

Archaeological sites speak about the everyday lives of people in other times. Yet knowing how to interpret this reality does not tend to be straightforward. We know that Palaeolithic societies lived on hunting and gathering, but the bones found in prehistoric settlements are not always the food leftovers of the societies that lived in them. Or they are not exclusively that.

Peoples of this type were nomads and used to be constantly on the move across the territory, so other predators, such as hyenas or wolves, lurking around in search of food remains left by humans would be a common occurrence.

Or even at a specific moment, carnivores could have sheltered in a cave abandoned by Prehistoric peoples and there raise their puppies and bring in the bones of the animals caught to feed them. These predators used to bite the bones leaving their teeth marks on them.

So it is very difficult to identify, for example, a roasted shoulder of mouflon eaten several thousand years ago from a few bone fragments that remain of it today. To be able to identify cases like this one, a novel way is to analyse the marks that we humans leave on bones when eating meat today.

Human beings not only alter the bones when using stone knives on them and exposing them to fire to cook them, but like other animals, we also leave bite marks on the surface of the bone when we remove the meat to feed ourselves.

In this respect, the researcher at the UPV/EHU's Department of Geography, Prehistory and Archaeology of the Faculty of Arts Antonio J. Romero has led a piece of experimental research in which ninety lamb bones - phalanges, radii and scapulae - were studied and the meat of which was consumed by ten volunteers using only hands and teeth. To control the variables resulting from the processing of the food beforehand, a third of the sample was eaten raw, another third roasted and the rest boiled.

What did they eat and how?
The results, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, show that over half of the bones bore the marks of human bites, teeth marks as well as fractures caused by chewing. These marks, analysed under a binocular magnifying glass have a set of characteristics (size and morphology) that allows them to be differentiated from those produced by other animals.

Furthermore, as the researcher explained, "although the men produced more marks than the women, according to these data, it is not possible as yet to differentiate between them." On the other hand, cooking the meat beforehand affects the appearance of marks: "the teeth marks tend to appear more regularly in the roasted or boiled specimens," pointed out the researcher, "while the damage on the tips, edges and crushing tends to be more usual in the bones eaten raw".

"There are various similar studies that have explored in depth the damage caused by animals on bones when feeding, but not dealing with the marks that we humans leave behind," explained Antonio Romero. Studies of this type have a clear application in the analysis of archaeological remains, in particular for historical eras.

So in each case a whole set of characteristics is studied, such as the location of the damage left on the bones, its morphology and dimensions, which is not always easy to apply to the archaeological record, but "together with other prints of human activity that are more reliable, such as the marks of stone knives, etc., it is possible to complete the interpretation," he insisted.

This research constitutes a real breakthrough in the possibility of finding out what kind of meat foods hominids consumed and in what circumstances (whether or not they cooked the meat before they ate it).

"It allows us to find out more about human beings in the past and the origin of our modern behaviour, about the way we process foods (cooking them or not) and about our way of eating," he concluded.

Antonio J. Romero, J. Carlos Diez, Palmira Saladie, 2016. "Mammal bone surface alteration during human consumption: An experimental approach", Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 8, 82-89. DOI: 10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.05.061

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
University of the Basque Country
All About Human Beings and How We Got To Be Here

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
Volunteers chew bones to help identify marks of earliest human chefs
Barcelona, Spain (UPI) Aug 2, 2016
Ancient archaeological sites are also often ancient paleontological sites, too. Animal bones found there may have been brought and deposited there by non-human predators. The search for the earliest human chefs and meat eaters depends on accurately recognizing the marks on animal bones left by humans and their tools. That means differentiating between the marks of stone tools and human ... read more

Study shows heat dangers of inflatable bounce houses

Search for 20 feared dead after India bridge collapse

False megaquake alert shakes Tokyo

Study highlights electric grids' vulnerabilities to extreme weather

Lattice structure absorbs vibrations

Study looks at future of 2D materials

Self-organizing smart materials that mimic swarm behavior

Flexible building blocks of the future

CO2 rise makes night fall

The oceans are full of barriers for small organisms

China sinkhole swallows passers-by: report

Abundant and diverse ecosystem found in area targeted for deep-sea mining

Antarctic sea ice may be a source of mercury in southern ocean fish and birds

Lack of water likely caused extinction of isolated Alaska mammoths

St. Paul Island mammoths most accurately dated 'prehistoric' extinction ever

Alaskan woolly mammoths died of thirst: study

Reinventing French fizz in face of climate change

Rice crops that can save farmers money and cut pollution

Brazilian restaurants turn waste back into food

Ancient rice DNA data provides new view of domestication history

Volcanic eruptions in Indonesia hit air travel

Flooding, mudslide warning as hurricane aims for Belize

Airport chaos after typhoon Nida hits Hong Kong

Southern China braces for Typhoon Nida

US, Senegal troops wind up first-ever emergency exercise

Libya unity government demands explanation over French troops

Five missing soldiers found in Nigeria: army

Tide turns against Liberia's biggest slum

Tracking down the first chefs

Population boom preceded early farming

The great evolutionary smoke out: An advantage for modern humans

Volunteers chew bones to help identify marks of earliest human chefs

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement