Free-for-All Feasts of Flesh off the Bone

USA TODAY, September 2009 | Go to article overview

Free-for-All Feasts of Flesh off the Bone


Humans living at a Paleolithic cave site in central Israel between 400,000 and 250,000 years ago were as successful at big-game hunting as were later Stone Age hunters at the site, but the earlier humans shared meat differently, surmises an anthropologist from the University of Arizona, Tucson. "The Lower Paleolithic [earlier] hunters were skilled hunters of large game animals, as were Upper Paleolithic [later] humans at this site," says Mary C. Stiner.

"This might not seem like a big deal to the uninitiated, but there's a lot of speculation as to whether people of the late Lower Paleolithic were able to hunt at all, or whether they were reduced to just scavenging. Evidence from Qesem Cave indicates that, just like later Paleolithic humans, people of the earlier Paleolithic period focused on harvesting large game. They were really at the top of the food chain."

The Qesem Cave people hunted cooperatively, then carried the highest quality body parts of their prey to the cave, where they cut the meat with stone blade tools and cooked it with fire.

"Qesem" means "surprise." The cave was discovered nine years ago in hilly limestone terrain about seven miles east of Tel Aviv during road construction.

Stiner analyzed the pattern of cut marks on bones of deer, aurochs, horse, and other big game left by hunters. Her novel approach was to analyze the cut marks to understand meat-sharing behaviors between the earlier and later cooperative hunting societies. …

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