TEMPE, Ariz. Two Arizona State University researchers conducting zooarchaeological and archaeometric analyses of four fossilized animal bone fragments found by the Dikika Research Project in northeastern Ethiopia within walking distance of the discovery of the hominin skeleton "Lucy" (Australopithecus afarensis) confirm that unusual marks on the bones were inflicted by stone tools. Their conclusion weighs in on findings reported in the Aug. 12 journal Nature, that A. afarensis used sharp-edged stones and a strong striking force to cleave flesh and marrow from large-sized animal carcasses some 3.4 million years ago.
That evidence pushes back the origins of technology the use of stone tools and carnivory by some 800,000 years, from 2.6 Myr to 3.4, explained Curtis Marean, a paleoanthropologist at ASU's Institute of Human Origins and one of the world's leading experts in the study of animal bones from archaeological sites.
Marean, a professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is a member of the international team made up of experts in paleoanthropology, archeology, geology, paleontology and materials science who reported the findings in the Nature article "Evidence for stone-tool-assisted consumption of animal tissues before 3.39 million years ago at Dikika, Ethiopia."
The zooarchaeological analysis of the bone fragments, which included a femur shaft from an animal the size of a goat and a rib fragment from a much larger animal the size of a cow, was conducted at Arizona State University. Using a standard binocular microscope in ASU's zooarchaeology laboratory, Marean was able to provide evidence that sharp-edged stones and a strong striking force were used to remove flesh and marrow from the bones of large-sized animal carcasses.
To further determine that the markings were not modern, he turned to Hamdallah Barat, a senior researc
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Arizona State University