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22 December 2010
Cannibalism among prehistoric re-colonisers of Britain

New research methods show that tooth marks on prehistoric human bones were made by other humans. The findings, to be released in January's issue of The Journal of Human Evolution by Yolanda Fernadez-Jalvo and Peter Andrews, were made at Gough's Cave in Somerset, England. The article supports earlier theories that the first humans to re-colonise Britain after the first Ice Age, 12,000 years ago, practiced nutritional cannibalism.
     "Think that a member of your group dies," Fernandez-Jalvo said, "The body can give one day off hunting, which was always dangerous at that time, and what to do with the dead body may attract other dangerous carnivores that may attack the group. This could be a good solution."
     The scientists led a comparative study into the patterns that humans make when chewing and gnawing on bones by comparing contemporary European groups of people, the discarded bones left by the Koi of Namibia from the 1960s and fossilised bone collections from ancient hominid sites in Spain, the UK and the Caucasus region. They were able to determine that humans leave distinctive patterns on bones that include double arch punctures, peeling, and crenulated ends.
     The findings also help to reveal which animals prehistoric animals ate.  There are already "indications of Homo habilis eating hedgehog and using tools  to eat them", said Fernandez-Jalvo.

Edited from Discovery News (13 December 2010)

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