(ORDO NEWS) — In the south of England, 10 kilometers from the coast of the English Channel, there is the town of Boxgrove, which has become an archaeological mecca since the 80s of the last century. Here were found the fossilized bones of a Heidelberg man (Homo heidelbergensis), who has long been considered the ancestor of Homo sapiens. According to scientists, this species originated in Africa about 800-700 thousand years ago, and half a million years ago ended up in Europe.
The best-preserved area in Boxgrove is known as the “Horse Slaughter Site” – the site where a large horse was slaughtered and processed by the Homo heidelbergensis group about 480,000 years ago. Having studied this place, researchers led by Matt Pope from the Institute of Archeology of the University of California received a lot of valuable data about the life and life of the Heidelberg man.
Horse-bone tools were found at the site, which is the earliest evidence of bone tool-making ever found in the history of European archeology. Fossil horses were used by people to work flint, which, in turn, was used to cut a horse carcass.
“It was an extremely rare opportunity to explore a place that was almost untouched by an extinct population. We see that the bones of this large female horse are completely shattered. We know that humans have also reached other parts of the body such as the brain and tongue.” – Matt Pope
“Before we could interpret what the ancients did at this site, we had to recognize the deposits that hold the remains. Research has shown that the sediments themselves were tidal swamps that formed at the edge of the lagoon during a period of warm climates. When the first humans slaughtered the horse, the tide came and left the site intact when the hominins left,” writes Pope.
Such preservation is very rare in any archaeological period, even the most recent one. Fine silt buried the site during one or more tides, without moving artifacts and bones any noticeable distance. This meant that scientists could reconstruct early human behavior with great precision.
Having carefully studied the pieces of flint, the participants in the excavations were able to understand how the Heidelberg man made flint knives from a large block. Researchers estimate that each tool took about 10-15 minutes to make, and a total of eight large cutting tools were made, suggesting that at least eight hominins were involved in butchering the carcass.
The researchers also found evidence that other people of all ages were nearby, ranging from 30 to 40 members of the group. Probably, the second part of the community joined the first in order to divide the meat among themselves. Archaeologists saw traces of people from both groups breaking off horse bones to get to the marrow. According to Pope, butchering meat could have been a social event for these ancient people.
“This is incredibly valuable information because we know so little about other aspects of the lives of the people of Boxgrove. For example, we do not know where they slept, how they looked after their dead, and what they ate besides horses. The archaeological record is mainly focused on places where durable materials such as stone and bones have accumulated in the course of their activities, which greatly influences our understanding of the first people.” – Matt Pope.
Some scholars speculate that Heidelberg man may have built primitive huts and used fire. Modern researchers recognize Homo heidelbergensis as the ancestor of the Neanderthal. The discovery of traces of a Heidelberg man in southern Italy allowed scientists to conclude that he was erect, and his height did not exceed one and a half meters.
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