Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A consensus on the evolution of hominid diets?

What I've been looking for!! (kind of). This review by John Shea of a conference (in the latest issue of Evolutionary Anthropology) held this past May at The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. It was entitled "The Evolution of Hominid Diets: Integrating Approaches to the Study of Paleolithic Subsistence".

Some of the more interesting tidbits:

"Inception of Meat-Eating":
Evidence from the earliest Homo fossils from 2.5 Mya, indicating a mixed woodland/savanna habitat, suggesting many "opportunities for hunting and scavenging" along with evidence of reduction in molar size, and encephalization "underwritten by higher qualtiy diets"... also some biogeochemical evidence of increased meat eating in Homo.

Scavenging versus Hunting:
Not much here, except a consensus that there was "complex variation in subsistence strategies"

Resource Intensification:
"The Upper Paleolithic subsistence strategy dealt with high risks and costs by reduced residential mobility, increased investment in technology, and broader prey spectra, particularly the in-bulk collection of what would otherwise be low-ranked resources (for example, birds, fish and shellfish)."

Mismatches among lines of evidence: projectiles and fishing:
projectiles: who knows?
fish: "fish are a major source of long-chain fatty acids essential to brain growth", and fishing evidence appears in Upper Paleolithic Homo sapiens, but not Neanderthals.

check out this Max Planck website for more information, including names of participants and abstracts.

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