The preservation of the artifacts was so remarkable, in fact, that it allowed the team to meticulously and accurately reconstruct the environment, identifying numerous fossilized plant remains and extinct species that seem to be a sign that these early humans lived in a wet -- and possibly even a marshy -- environment.
"Results from stable isotopic analysis of the fossil teeth helped refine our picture of the paleoenvironment of the site, telling us that the majority of mammals at the site subsisted on grassy, well-watered resources," Levin said. "Today, the Turkana region in northern Kenya is an extremely dry and harsh environment. So, clearly, the environment of this butchery site was very different 1.95 million years ago -- this spot was much wetter and lush."
Using a variety of techniques, the team was able to conclude that the hominids butchered at least 10 individual animals -- including turtles, fish, crocodiles and antelopes -- on the site for use as meals. Cut marks found on the bones indicate that the hominids use simple, sharp-edged stone tools to butcher their prey.
"It's not clear to us how early humans acquired or processed the butchered meat, but it's likely that it was eaten raw," Levin said.
The team theorizes that the wet and marshy environment gave early pre-humans a way to increase the protein in their diets (and grow larger brains!) while possibly avoiding contact with larger carnivores, such as hyenas and lions.
|Contact: Lisa DeNike|
Johns Hopkins University