Early Homo at Olduvai and the Evolution of Hunting

Professor Henry Bunn from the University of Wisconsin, Madison will present the Department of Archaeology seminar with a talk entitled, "Early Homo at Olduvai and the Evolution of Hunting". 

Determining the level of humanity of Early Pleistocene Homo has challenged paleoanthropologists for decades. Did fundamental aspects of humanness, including food sharing, division of subsistence labor, and home bases, evolve early in our genus, or were these characteristics of modern humankind a relatively recent phenomenon of the Late Pleistocene? Is the answer even knowable from archaeological evidence? The documentation of stone tool butchery and other surface modifications on prey animal bones, and of skeletal patterns indicative of food transport, appeared to support a reconstruction of organized early human foraging behavior at key Oldowan sites, yet this same evidence prompted more debate than consensus.

Using hunting as a measure of human foraging capability, my current research at Olduvai Gorge reveals that the mortality, or age-at-death, patterns of butchered prey indicate that early Homo was probably an efficient ambush hunter of large (size group 3) bovids. These results compare well with younger Pleistocene sites and with ethnographic contexts in which hunting is undisputed. The evolutionary dynamics selecting for efficient meat foraging and related socioecological adaptations for humanness were likely initiated early in the Pleistocene.

Monday, June 12, 2017 - 13:00

Teaching Studio B3.10, Beattie Building, University Avenue, Upper Campus, UCT