transition to a meat diet probably did not play a role in human evolution

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists have refuted the hypothesis that the reason for the emergence of many anatomical features inherent in modern people was the transition of ancestors to a meat diet. This erroneous conclusion could be drawn due to the increased attention of specialists to certain stages in the history of our species.

Many features inherent in modern man appeared in his ancestor Homo erectus almost two million years ago. Archaeologists often associated this evolutionary transition with a change in diet – the transition to a meat diet. However, a new study by scientists from the George Washington University has cast doubt on such a hypothesis.

According to the authors of an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a lot of archaeological evidence of the transition of Homo erectus to a meat diet is associated with increased attention of researchers to this period of human history.

Homo erectus – Homo erectus – the ancestor of Homo sapiens , which appeared in Africa about two million years ago. In addition to walking upright, he was also characterized by other features of a modern person – earlier scientists associated this with a change in nutrition.

Despite older evidence of human carnivory, Homo erectus was believed to be the first Homo species to switch to an all-meat diet, which caused an increase in the size of the brain and body, and also changed the structure of the intestine.

To test the hypothesis, scientists analyzed data collected at nine archaeological sites in East Africa, 59 of the studied sites date back to 2.6-1.2 million years ago. The researchers calculated how often preserved animal bones were found there with traces of cuts made by stone tools – evidence of the carnivorous nature of ancient people. They also traced the dependence of the number of such bones on the age of the layer in which they were found.

It turned out that the amount of evidence of carnivorous ancient people depends on the number of samples themselves, as well as on the thoroughness of excavations at the site.

When adjusted for the number of specimens, there is no increase in evidence of carnivory between 2.6 and 1.2 million years ago. Thus, much of the evidence for Homo erectus ‘ meat-eating is only due to increased scientific attention to this species, and not to a real change in behavior.

According to the authors of the article, their results provide a completely new reading of the archaeological record and emphasize the importance of questions of the evolution of our species.

Now archaeologists will need new explanations of why humans developed certain anatomical and behavioral traits that have survived to this day. Perhaps the reason lies in the use of fire or cooking. So far, however, no possible explanation has found exact confirmation in the archaeological record.

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