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Hunter-gatherer societies refer to a way of life that prevailed for most of human history, where people relied on hunting wild animals, fishing, and gathering edible plants, fruits, and nuts for their subsistence. This lifestyle was common before the development of agriculture around 10,000 years ago.


Recent History

June 10, 1772

Samuel Hearne

A Journey from Prince of Wales's Fort in Hudson's Bay to the Northern Ocean in the Years 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772


Hearne describes the methods of killing caribou employed by the Northern Indians, who were now dependent on trapping caribou and shooting them at a bottleneck with bows and arrows or simply using the newly introduced rifles in other parts of the year.

Our Northern Indians who trade at the Factory, as well as all the Copper tribe, pass their whole Summer on the barren ground, where they generally find plenty of deer; and in some of the rivers and lakes, a great abundance of fine fish.

Their bows and arrows, though their original weapons, are, since the introduction of fire-arms among them, become of little use, except in killing deer as they walk or run through a narrow pass prepared for their reception, where several Indians lie concealed for that purpose. This method of hunting is only practicable in Summer, and on the barren ground, where they have an extensive prospect, and can see the herds of deer at a great distance, as well as discover the nature of the country, and make every necessary arrangement for driving them through the narrow defiles. This method of hunting is performed in the following manner:

When the Indians see a herd of deer, and intend to hunt them with bows and arrows, they observe which way the wind blows, and always get to leeward, for fear of being smelled by the deer. The next thing to which they attend, is to search for a convenient place to conceal those who are appointed to shoot. This being done, a large bundle of sticks, like large ramrods, (which they carry with them the whole Summer for the purpose,) are ranged in two ranks, so as to form the two sides of a very acute angle, and the sticks placed at the distance of fifteen or twenty yards from each other. When those necessary arrangements are completed, the women and boys separate into two parties, and go round on both sides, till they form a crescent at the back of the deer, which are drove right forward; and as each of the sticks has a small flag, or more properly a pendant, fastened to it, which is easily waved to and fro by the wind, and a lump of moss stuck on each of their tops, the poor timorous deer, probably taking them for ranks of people, generally run straight forward between the two ranges of sticks, till they get among the Indians, who lie concealed in small circular fences, made with loose stones, moss, &c. When the deer approach very near, the Indians who are thus concealed start up and shoot; but as the deer generally pass along at full speed, few Indians have time to shoot more than one or two arrows, unless the herd be very large.

This method of hunting is not always attended with equal success; for sometimes after the Indians have been at the trouble of making places of shelter, and arranging the flag-sticks, &c. the deer will make off another way, before the women and children can surround them. At other times I have seen eleven or twelve of them killed with one volley of arrows; and if any gun-men attend on those occasions, they are always placed behind the other Indians, in order to pick up the deer that escape the bow-men. By these means I have seen upwards of twenty fine deer killed at one broadside, as it may be termed.

Though the Northern Indians may be said to kill a great number of deer in this manner during the Summer, yet they have so far lost the art of shooting with bows and arrows, that I never knew any of them who could take those weapons only, and kill either deer, moose, or buffalo, in the common, wandering, and promiscuous method of hunting. The Southern Indians, though they have been much longer used to fire-arms, are far more expert with the bow and arrow, their original weapons.

June 11, 1792

David Thompson's narrative of his explorations in western America, 1784-1812 / edited by J.B. Tyrrell - Chapter 5


THE Natives of this Stoney Region subsist wholly by the chase and by fishing, the country produces no vegetables but berries on which they can live. The flesh of a Moose in good condition, contains more nourishment than that of any other Deer; five pounds of this meat being held to be equal in nourishment to seven pounds of any other meat even of the Bison, but for this, it must be killed where it is quietly feeding; when run by Men, Dogs, or Wolves for any distance, it's flesh is altogether changed.

THE Natives of this Stoney Region subsist wholly by the chase and by fishing, the country produces no vegetables but berries on which they can live. The term " hunting " they apply only to the Moose and Rein Deer, and the Bear; they look for, and find the Beaver, they kill with the Gun, and by traps the Otter and other animals. Hunting is divided into what may be termed " tracking " and " tracing." Tracking an animal is by following it's foot-steps, as the Rein Deer and the Bear and other beasts; tracing, is following the marks of feeding, rubbing itself on the ground, and against trees, and lying down: which is for the Moose Deer, and for other animals on rocks and hard grounds. My remarks are from the Natives who are intimately acquainted with them, and make them their peculiar study. 

The first in order is the Moose Deer, the pride of the forest, and the largest of all the Deer, [it] is too well known to need a description. It is not numerous in proportion to the extent of country, but may even be said to be scarce. It is of a most watchful nature; it's long, large, capacious ears enables it to catch and discriminate, every sound; his sagacity for self preservation is almost incredible; it feeds in wide circles, one within the other, and then lies down to ruminate near the centre; so that in tracking of it, the unwary, or unskillful, hunter is sure to come to windward of, and start it; when, in about two hours, by his long trot, he is at the distance of thirty or forty miles, from where it started; when chased it can trot, (it's favorite pace) about twenty five to thirty miles an hour; and when forced to a gallop, rather loses, than gains ground. In calm weather it feeds among the Pines, Aspins and Willows; the buds, and tender branches of the two latter are it's food: but in a gale of wind he retires among the close growth of Aspins, Alders and Willows on low ground still observing the same circular manner of feeding and lying down. If not molested it travels no farther than to find it's food, and is strongly attached to it's first haunts, and after being harassed it frequently returns to it's usual feeding places. 

The flesh of a Moose in good condition, contains more nourishment than that of any other Deer; five pounds of this meat being held to be equal in nourishment to seven pounds of any other meat even of the Bison, but for this, it must be killed where it is quietly feeding; when run by Men, Dogs, or Wolves for any distance, it's flesh is altogether changed, becomes weak and watery and when boiled; the juices separates from the meat like small globules of blood, and does not make broth; the change is so great, one can hardly be persuaded it is the meat of a Moose Deer. The nose of the Moose, which is very large and soft, is accounted a great delicacy. It is very rich meat. The bones of it's legs are very hard and several things are made of them. His skin makes the best of leather. It is the noblest animal of the Forest, and the richest prize the Hunter can take. In the rutting season the Bucks become very fierce, and in their encounters sometimes interlock their large pal-mated horns so strongly that they cannot extricate them, and both die on the spot, and [this is a thing] which happens too often: three of us tried to unlock the horns of two Moose which had died in this manner, but could not do it, although they had been a year in this state, and we had to use the axe. In the latter end of September [1804] we had to build a trading house at Musquawegun Lake/ an Indian named Huggemowequan came to hunt for us, and on looking about thought the ground good for Moose, and told us to make no noise; he was told no noise would be made except the falling of the trees, this he said the Moose did not mind; when he returned, he told us he had seen the place a Doe Moose had been feeding in the beginning of May; in two days more he had unraveled her feeding places to the beginning of September. One evening he remarked to us, that he had been so near to her that he could proceed no nearer, unless it blew a gale of wind, when this took place he set off early, and shot the Moose Deer. This took place in the very early part of October. This piece of hunting the Indians regarded as the work of a matchless hunter beyond all praise. The Natives are very dextrous in cutting up, and separating the joints, of a Deer, which in the open season has to be carried by them to the tent, or if near the water, to a canoe; this is heavy work; but if the distance is too great, the meat is split and dried by smoke, in which no resinous wood must be used; this reduces the meat to less than one third of its weight. In winter this is not required, as the flat sleds are brought to the Deer, and the meat with all that is useful is hauled on the Snow to the tent. The Moose Deer, have rarely more than one Fawn at a birth, it's numbers are decreasing for, from it's settled habits a skillful hunter is sure to find, and wound, or kill this Deer, and it is much sought for, for food, for clothing and for Tents. The bones of the head of a Moose must be put into the water or covered with earth or snow.

August 5, 1804

Lewis and Clark Journals


Quotes from the Lewis and Clark expedition show how reliant upon meat the explorers were, and would especially look for fattier animals, finding others "very poor, meager, or lean & unfit for to make use of as food." Meanwhile, beaver tail was loved.

Nov 19: Monday — a Cold day the ice continue to run our Perogue of Hunters arrive with 32 Deer, 12 Elk & a Buffalow, all of this meat we had hung up in a Smoke house, a timeley supply. Several Indians here all day. the wind blew hard from the N.W. by W, our men move into their huts, Several little Indian aneckd" [anecdotes] told me to day 20':' 

Nov 20 Tuesday 1804 — Cap Lewis & my Self move into our hut,^ a very hard wind from the W. all the after part of the day a temperate day. Several Indians came Down to Eat fresh meat, three Chiefs from the 2*1 Mandan Village Stay all Day, they are verry Curious in examining our works.

Dec 7, 1804 - Cap Clark Set out with a hunting party Killed 8 Bulfalow & returned next day — a verry cold day wind from the NW. the Big White Grand Chief of the Village, came and informed us that a large Drove of Buffalow was near and his people was wating for us to join them in a chase. Cap Lewis took 15 men & went out joined the Indians, who were at the time he got up, Killing the Buffalow on Horseback with arrows which they done with great dexterity,^ his party killed 10 Buffalow, /x'f of which we got to the fort by the assistance of a horse in addition to what the men Packed on their backs, one cow was killed on the ice after drawing her out of a vacancey in the ice in which She had fallen, and Butchered her at the fort, those we did 

Biddle gives a more detailed account of the Indians' buffalo hunt. Gass says (p. 89) that Lewis took eleven men with him, who killed 11 buffalo, while the Indians killed 30 or 40. — Ed. 

 AT FORT MANDAN not get in was taken by the indians under a Custom which is established amongst them i e. any person seeing a buffalow lying without an arrow Sticking in him, or some particular mark takes possession, many times (as I am told) a hunter who kills many Buffalow in a chase only Gets a part of one, all meat which is left out all night falls to the wolves which are in great numbers, always in the neighborhood of the Buffalows.

13th of January Sunday 1805 -- On a Cold Clear Day, a great number of Indians move down the River to hunt. Those people Kill a Number of Buffalow near their Villages and Save a great proportion of the Meat, their Custom of making this article of life General leaves them more than half of their time without meat.

 Their Corn & Beans & they keep for the Summer, and as a reserve in Case of an attack from the Soues, [of] which they are always in dread and seldom go far to hunt except in large parties, about the Mandans nation passed this today to hunt on of Tribe.

23rd January 1805 Wednesday A Cold Day Snow fell 4 Inches deep, the occurancies of this day is as is common. I went up with one of the men to the villages. They treated us friendly and gave us victuals. After we were done eating they presented a bowlful to a buffaloe head, saying, " eat that."' Their superstitious credulity is so great, that they believe by using the head well, the living buffaloe will come, and that they will get a supply of meat. — Gass (pp. 98, 99).

[Feb. 5 and two frenchmen who together with two others, have established a small hut and resided this winter within the vicinity of Fort Mandane under our protection, visited by many of the natives today, our stock of meat which we had procured in the Months of November & December is now nearly exhausted ; a supply of this articles is at this moment peculiarly interesting as well for our immediate consumption, as that we may have time before the approach of the warm season to prepare the meat for our voyage in the spring of the year. Capt. Clark therefore determined to continue his rout down the river even as far as the River bullet' unless he should find a plenty of game nearer, the men transported their baggage on a couple of small wooden sleighs drawn by themselves, and took with them 3 pack horses which we had agreed should be returned with a load of meat to fort mandane as soon as they could procure it. no buffaloe have made their appearance in our neighbourhood for some weeks {time shorter) ; and I am informed that our Indian neighbours suffer extremely at this moment for the article of flesh. Shields killed two deer this evening, both very lean, one a large buck, he had shed his horns.

Feb 8 - the chief dined with me and left me in the evening, he informed me that his people suffered very much for the article of meat, and that he had not himself tasted any for several days.

Feb 16 — The Buffalow Seen last night proved to be Bulls. lean & unfit for to make use of as food, the Distance from Camp being nearly 60 miles and the packing of meat that distance attended with much difficulty. Determined me to return and hunt the points above, we Set out on our return and halted at an old Indian lodge 40 miles below Fort Mandan, Killed 3 Elk, & 2 Deer. 

Feb 17 — a cold Day wind blew hard from the N.W. J. Fields got one of his ears frosed determined to lay by and hunt to day killed an Elk & 6 deer, all that was fit for use [of] this meat I had Boned and put into a Close pen made of logs.

Feb 22 Capt Lewis returned with 2 Slays loaded with meat, after finding that he could not overtake the Soues War party, (who had in their way distroyed all the meat at one Deposit which I had made & Burnt the Lodges) deturmined to proceed on to the lower Deposit which he found had not been observed by the Soues. He hunted two day Killed 36 Deer & 14 Elk, Several of them so meager, that they were unfit for use, the meat which he killed and that in the lower deposit amounting to about 3000 pounds was brought up on two Slays one Drawn by 16 men had about 2400 pounds on it.

April the 2nd, Friday (Tuesday) 1805 — a cloudy day, rained all the last night we are prepareing to Set out all thing nearly ready. The 2nd Chief of the 2nd Mandan Village took a miff at our not attending to him particularly after being here about ten days and moved back to his village. The Mandans Killed twenty one elk yesterday 15 miles below this, they were So Meager that they [were] Scercely fit for use. 

Biddle describes the manner in which the Indians capture buffaloes which, trying to cross the river, have become isolated on ice-floes. Mackenzie states that the Indians on the Missouri also search eagerly for the carcasses of buffaloes and other drowned animals that float down the river in the spring season ; these, although rotten and of intolerable stench, "are preferred by the Natives to any other kind of food. ... So fond are the Mandans of putrid meat that they bury animals whole in the winter for the consumption of the spring " — Ed.

Thursday April \ith. Set out at an early hour; I proceeded with the party and Capt. Clark with George Drewyer walked on shore in order to procure some fresh meat if possible, we proceeded on about five miles, and halted for breakfast, when Capt. Clark and Drewyer joined us ; the latter had killed, and brought with him a deer, which was at this moment excep[t]able, as we had had no fresh meat for several days, the country from fort Mandan to this place is so constantly hunted by the Mountainaries that there is but little game, we halted at two P.M. and made a comfortable dinner on a venison steak and beaver tails.

Capt. Clark walked on shore this morning, and on his return informed me that he had passed through the timbered bottoms on the N. side of the river, and had extended his walk several miles back on the hills; in the bottom lands he had met with several uninhabited Indian lodges built with the boughs of the Elm, and in the plains he met with the remains of two large encampments of a recent date, which form the appearance of some hoops of small kegs, seen near them we concluded that they must have been the camps of the Assinniboins, as no other nation who visit this part of the missouri ever indulge themselves with spirituous liquor, of this article the Assinniboins are pationately fond, and we are informed that it, forms their principal inducement to furnish the British establishments on the Assinniboin river with the dryed and pounded meat and grease which they do. they also supply those establishments with a small quantity of fur, consisting principally of the large and small wolves and the small fox' skins, these they barter for small kegs of rum which they generally transport to their camps at a distance from the establishments, where they revel with their friends and relations as long as they possess the means of intoxication, their women and children are equally indulged on those occasions and are all seen drunk together, so far is a state of intoxication from being a cause of reproach among them, that with the men, it is a matter of exultation that their skill and industry as hunters has enabled them to get drunk frequently, in their customs, habits and dispositions these people very much resemble the Siouxs from whom thev have descended. The principal inducement with the British fur companies, for continuing their establishments on the Assinniboin river, is the Buffalow meat and grease they procure from the Assinniboins, and Christanoes, by means of which, they are enabled to supply provision to their engages on their return from rainy Lake to the English river and the Athabaskey country where they winter ; without such resource those voyagers would frequently be straitened for provision, as the country through which they pass is but scantily supplyed with game, and the rappidity with which they are compelled to travel in order to reach their winter stations, would leave them but little leasure to surch for food while on their voyage. while the party halted to take dinner today Capt. Clark killed a buffaloe bull ; it was meagre, and we therefore took the marrow bones and a small propor- tion of the meat only, near the place we dined, on the Lard, side, there was a large village of burrowing squirrels.

April 18th - 1805 -- Went out to hunt, Killed a young Buck Elk, & a Deer, the Elk was tolerable meat, the Deer very poor. Butchered the meat and continued untill near Sunset before Cap' Lewis and the party came up, thev were detained by the wind, which rose soon after I left the boat from the N W. & blew very hard until very late in the evening.

in the after part of the day we passed an extensive beautiful plain on the Starside which gradually ascended from the river. I saw immense quantities of buffalow in every direction, also some Elk deer and goats ; having an abundance of meat on hand I passed them without firing on them ; they are extremely gentle, the bull buffalow particularly will scarcely give way to you. I passed several in the open plain within fifty paces, they viewed me for a moment as something novel and then very unconcernedly continued to feed. 

May 5 --In the evening we saw a Brown or Grizzly bear on a sand beech, I went out with one man Geo Drewyer & Killed the bear, which was verry large and a turrible looking animal, which we found verry hard to kill. We Shot ten Balls into him before we killed him, & 5 of those Balls through his lights. This animal is the largest of the carnivorous kind I ever saw we had nothing that could weigh him, I think his weight may be stated at 500 pounds, he measured 8 feet 7 In! from his nose to the extremity of the Toe, 5 feet around the breast, i feet 11 Ins: around the middle of the arm, 3 feet 11 In! arround the neck his tallents was 4 Inches long, he was [in] good order, and appeared very different from the common black bear in as much as his claws were blunt, his tail short, his liver & lights much larger, his maw ten times as large and contained meat or flesh & fish only, we had him skined and divided, the oil fried up & put in Kegs for use. we camped on the StarSide, our men killed three Elk and a Buffalow to day, and our Dog cought an antilope a fair race, this animal appeared very pore & with young.

There were three beaver taken this morning by the party, the men prefer the flesh of this animal, to that of any other which we have, or are able to procure at this moment. I eat very heartily of the beaver myself, and think it excellent; particularly the tail, and liver.

Sent out some hunters who killed 2 deer 3 Elk and several buffalow ; on our way this evening we also shot three beaver along the shore ; these animals in consequence of not being hunted are extremely gentle, where they are hunted they never leave their lodges in the day, the flesh of the beaver is esteemed a delicacy among us ; I think the tail a most delicious morsal, when boiled it resembles in flavor the fresh tongues and sounds of the codfish, and is usually sufficiently large to afford a plentiful meal for two men.

October 10, 1834

Osborne Russell

Journal of a Trapper


Native Americans provide trappers a gift "loaded with as much fat dried Buffaloe meat as our horses could carry which had been given as a gratuity" and then commence trading with them at a fort. The incredible value of fatty red meat is shown once more.

He said the Village would go to the Fort in three or four days to trade. We left them next morning loaded with as much fat dried Buffaloe meat as our horses could carry which had been given as a gratuity: we were accompanied on our return to the Fort by six of the men. On the 10th the Village arrived and pitched their Lodges within about 200 yards of the Fort. I now commenced learning the Snake Language and progressed so far in a short time that I was able to understand most of their words employed in matters of trade. Octr 20th a Village of Bonnaks consisting of 250 Lodges arrived at the Fort from these we traded a considerable quantity of furs, a large supply of dried meat, Deer, Elk and Sheep skins etc. - In the meantime we were employed building small log houses and making other nessary preparations for the approaching winter

November 28, 1834

Osborne Russell

Journal of a Trapper


A trapper meets some Snake Indians who "were all neatly clothed in dressed deer and Sheep skins of the best quality and seemed to be perfectly contented and happy." "They were well armed with bows and arrows pointed with obsidian."

The stream after running thro. the center in a NW direction rushed down a tremendous canyon of basaltic rock apparently just wide enough to admit its waters. The banks of the stream in the valley were low and skirted in many places with beautiful Cottonwood groves.

Here we found a few Snake Indians comprising 6 men 7 women and 8 or 10 children who were the only Inhabitants of this lonely and secluded spot. They were all neatly clothed in dressed deer and Sheep skins of the best quality and seemed to be perfectly contented and happy. They were rather surprised at our approach and retreated to the heights where they might have a view of us without apprehending any danger, but having persuaded them of our pacific intentions we then succeeded getting them to encamp with us. Their personal property consisted of one old butcher Knife nearly worn to the back two old shattered fusees which had long since become useless for want of ammunition a Small Stone pot and about 30 dogs on which they carried their skins, clothing, provisions etc on their hunting excursions. They were well armed with bows and arrows pointed with obsidian The bows were beautifully wrought from Sheep, Buffaloe and Elk horns secured with Deer and Elk sinews and ornamented with porcupine quills and generally about 3 feet long. We obtained a large number of Elk Deer and Sheep skins from them of the finest quality and three large neatly dressed Panther Skins in return for awls axes kettles tobacco ammunition etc. They would throw the skins at our feet and say "give us whatever you please for them and we are satisfied We can get plenty of Skins but we do not often see the Tibuboes" (or People of the Sun) They said there had been a great many beaver on the branches of this stream but they had killed nearly all of them and being ignorant of the value of fur had singed it off with fire in order to drip the meat more conveniently. They had seen some whites some years previous who had passed thro. the valley and left a horse behind but he had died during the first winter. They are never at a loss for fire which they produce by the friction of two pieces of wood which are rubbed together with a quick and steady motion One of them drew a map of the country around us on a white Elk Skin with a piece of Charcoal after which he explained the direction of the different passes, streams etc From them we discovered that it was about one days travel in a SW direction to the outlet or northern extremity of the Yellow Stone Lake, but the route from his description being difficult and Beaver comparatively scarce our leader gave out the idea of going to it this season as our horses were much jaded and their feet badly worn.

Ancient History




Environment and Behavior of 2.5-Million-Year-Old Bouri Hominids

By looking at 400 bones from 2.5 million years ago, paleoanthropologists can tell how rocks were used as some of the first tools to butcher and process meat and marrow processing of large carcasses. It's a clue that carnivory has been part of hominid evolution for at least 3 million years.


The Hata Member of the Bouri Formation is defined for Pliocene sedimentary outcrops in the Middle Awash Valley, Ethiopia. The Hata Member is dated to 2.5 million years ago and has produced a new species of Australopithecus and hominid postcranial remains not currently assigned to species. Spatially associated zooarchaeological remains show that hominids acquired meat and marrow by 2.5 million years ago and that they are the near contemporary of Oldowan artifacts at nearby Gona. The combined evidence suggests that behavioral changes associated with lithic technology and enhanced carnivory may have been coincident with the emergence of the Homo clade from Australopithecus afarensis in eastern Africa

We collected 400 vertebrate fossil specimens from the Hata Member (Table 1). Almost all of these come from within 3 m of the MOVT; most were found immediately above this unit. This assemblage largely reflects a mixture of grazers and water-dependent forms, which is broadly typical of later hominid-bearing Plio-Pleistocene occurrences and consistent with the sedimentological interpretation of the deposits as primarily lake marginal. Alcelaphine bovids are abundant and diverse. All indicators point to a broad featureless margin of a shallow freshwater lake. Minor changes in lake level, which were brought about by fluctuating water input, would probably have maintained broad grassy plains leading to the water’s edge. As discussed below, hominids were active on this landscape.

The bone modifications at these two excavated localities and at other localities from the same stratigraphic horizon across .2 km of outcrop demonstrate that stone tool–wielding hominids were active on the lake margin at 2.5 Ma. The bone modifications indicate that large mammals were disarticulated and defleshed and that their long bones were broken open, presumably to extract marrow, a new food in hominid evolution with important physiological, evolutionary, and behavioral effects. Similar patterns of marrow acquisition have been reported for younger sites such as Koobi Fora and Olduvai Gorge (12).

The situation on the Hata lake margin was even more difficult for early toolmakers. Here, raw materials were not readily available because of the absence of streams capable of carrying even pebbles. There were no nearby basalt outcrops. The absence of locally available raw material on the flat featureless Hata lake margin may explain the absence of lithic artifact concentrations. The bone modification evidence demonstrates that early hominids were transporting stone to the site of carcass manipulation. The paucity of evidence for lithic artifact abandonment at these sites suggests that these early hominids may have been curating their tools (cores and flakes) with foresight for subsequent use. Indications of tool curation by later hominids have been found at the more recent Pleistocene sites of Koobi Fora [Karari escarpment versus Ileret (13)] and Swartkrans [polished bone tools in a single repository (16)]. Additional research into the Hata beds may allow a determination of whether the butchery is related to hunting or scavenging. The Bouri discoveries show that the earliest Pliocene archaeological assemblages and their landscape patterning are strongly conditioned by the availability of raw material. They demonstrate that a major function of the earliest known tools was meat and marrow processing of large carcasses. Finally, they extend this pattern of butchery by hominids well into the Pliocene.




Palaeolithic and Mesolithic kill-butchering sites: the hard evidence

Lower Paleolithic hunting pratices are described, which represent scavenging large carcasses stuck near water holes and limited planning or hunting.


The places where animals have been killed or at least butchered by our ancestors represent obviously the best expression of the relation between man and his prey. Isaac (Isaac, 1976; Isaac & Cradeq, 1981), referring to African deposits of Lower Palaeolithic age, defines a simple kind of such sites as containing the skeleton of a single, large animal, associated with lithic artefacts (his type B sites): they represent a unique episode. However such accumulations seem to be very rare: in fact near the carcass of the huge beast almost always other generally much more fragmentary remains of other animals are found. These can represent "background" material without direct relation with hominid activity, but we cannot be sure of this. Evidently, Isaac's definition does not cover the effective variability of all Palaeolithic and Mesolithic kill and/or butchering sites. Therefore, I have tried, in my tesi di laurea, to develop a typolo gy of the possible kinds of bone concentrations reflecting man's animal procurement behaviour. For this aim, I drew information from various authors discussing the topic (Binford, 1984; Clark & Haynes, 1970; Crader, 1983; Meignen & Texieq, 1956) and read a selected number of papers dealing directly, or indirectly through discussions or summaries, with some 30 sites, my reading assignment depending to some extent on the accessibility of the papers included. I am aware that my sampling of sites is limited and perhaps biased and that the evidence as presented by the various authors is often equivocal, but I hope that my attempt will stimulate the development of a site typology which could be a useful tool for classification and research. 

2. Suggested site typology:

a. Butchering sifes: places with animal natural deaths, later utilised by mary such as sites FLK N Lev. 6 (fig.1) and FLK N Deinotherium at Olduvai (Crader, 1983; Leakey, 1971), and site HAS (fig.2) at Koobi Fora (Cradeq, 1983). 

b. Killing and butchering sites 1: a single animal carcass representing a unique hunting episode. This kind of accumulation is similar to Isaac's type B sites. An American example is Pleasant Lake (Fishea 1984; fig. 3). 

c. Killing and butchering sites 2: extensive disarticulation and dispersion of the bones of a few big animals at the most associated with a comparatively small number of stone artefacts. Examples are Windhoek (Clark & Haynes, 1970) and perhaps Mwanganda (Clark & Haynes,1970). 

d. Hunting losses: animals killed but not utilised by man; High Furlong (Hallam et al., 1973) would be an example. 

e. Hunting stations: dense distributions of osseous remains reflecting the reutilization of the locality for a lorig period, often on a seasonal base. Examples of such palimpsests of archaeological remains could be Mauran (Farizy & David, in press; Girard-Farizy & Leclerc, 1981), Stellmoor (Rus! 1937) and La Cotte de Saint-Brelade, lev. 3 and 6 (Scott, 1980; ftg. q. A subtype of hunting stations could be represented by American mass kills, as for example the Casper Site (Frison, 1974). In these sites, not examined here, animals are normally killed with game drive techniques. 

f. Hunting stops: they can be relatively simple or quite complex: sometimes the hunters seek shelter behind a high rock and light a small fire as suggested by Binford (Binford, 1981). An example could be Phase IVA of the Grotte de l'Hortus (de Lumley, 1971). 

g. Sighting sites: they would be characterised by modest bone accumulations in locations with a panoramic position and allowing to detect game and its movements easily. Examples are the Mesolithic sites described by Bagolini and Dalmeri (Bagolini & Dalmeri,

3.1. Lower Palaeolithic Scavenging: exploitation of the carcasses of big animals that died for natural causes; they are often found near lakes or swamps, as the elephant and maybe the Deinotherium at Olduvai (Leakey, 1971), the hippopotamus of Koobi Fora (Isaac, 7976) and the elephants of Kathu Pan (Klein, 1988), Namib IV (Kleirr, 1988) and Mwanganda's Village (Clark & Haynes, 1970). 

Hunting: scanty traces of hunters' action are encountered. At Olorgesailie, occasional killing of some baboons with a head blow seems to have occurred (Shipman, Bosler & Davis, 1981). At Torralba and Ambrona, people may have killed elephants using wooden spears (fragments of wooden artefacts are present) and big stones (Allain" 1952). At Lehringen (Movius, 1950), hominids killed an Elephas antiquus with a wooden spear discovered in the site (see also Weber, this volume). 

Planning: very limited or absent. The exploitation of animals would have been occasional and opportunistic with short and limited occupation of sites by small groups, as at Olduvai (Cradeq, 1983), Koobi Fora (Cradeq, 1983), etc. 

Food transport: Acheulean people are said to have carried away the most useful and meaty parts of animal carcasses at Torralba (Freemary 1975), Ambrona (Freem an, 1975), Elandsfontein (Klein, 1988), etc. In earlier times, people apparently consumed the meat on the find spot. Specialised activities: at the already cited sites of Torralba, Ambrona and at Mwanganda distinct associations between certain bones and tools would occur: they may represent specialised activity areas. 

Butchering tools: hand-axes and hachereaux are sometimes associated with big animals at Olorgesailie (Shipman, Bosler & Davis, 1981), Elandsfontein (Klein, 1988), Kathu Pan (Klein, 1988), Namib IV (Klein, 1988) etc., suggesting that they were used for butchering.

Aïn Hanech, Khedara, Algeria



Strongest evidence of early humans butchering animals discovered in North Africa

Early humans butchered horses and antelopes on a high grassy plateau in Algeria 2.4 million years ago.


On a high grassy plateau in Algeria, just 100 kilometers from the Mediterranean Sea, early human ancestors butchered extinct horses, antelopes, and other animals with primitive stone tools 2 million to 2.4 million years ago. The dates, reported today, push back the age of the oldest tools in North Africa by as much as a half a million years and provide new insight into how these protohumans spread across the continent.

For decades, east Africa has been considered the birthplace of our genus Homo, and the epicenter of early toolmaking for almost 1 million years. The oldest known Homo fossils date back 2.8 million years in Ethiopia. Nearby, just 200,000 years later, scientists have found simple tools, such as thumb-size stone flakes, and fist-size cores from which such flakes were struck, in the nearby Rift Valley of Ethiopia.

After 25 years of excavations at the Ain Hanech complex—a dry ravine in Algeria—an international team reports the discovery of about 250 primitive tools and 296 bones of animals from a site called Ain Boucherit. About two dozen animal bones have cut marks that show they were skinned, defleshed, or pounded for marrow. Made of limestone and flint, the sharp-edged flakes and round cores—some the size of tennis balls—resemble those found in east Africa. Both represent the earliest known toolkit, the so-called Oldowan technology, named for the site where they were found 80 years ago at Olduvai in Tanzania.

Ain Hanech lacks volcanic minerals, which provide the gold standard for dating sites in eastern Africa. Instead, the researchers used three other dating methods, notably paleomagnetic dating, which detects known reversals in Earth’s magnetic field that are recorded in rock. The tools and cut-marked bones date as far back as 2.4 million years ago, the researchers report today in Science. They also used the identity of large, extinct animals, such as mastodons and ancient horses, to confirm the dates.

The cut-marked bones represent “the oldest substantive evidence for butchery” anywhere, says paleoanthropologist Thomas Plummer of the City University of New York’s Queens College, who was not involved with the study. Although other sites of this age in east Africa have stone tools, the evidence for actual butchery of animals is not as strong, he says.

At Ain Hanech, the dates provide “convincing evidence for stone tools and cut-marked bones at about 2 million years or more,” says geochronologist Warren Sharp of the Berkeley Geochronology Center in California. But he finds the 2.4 million date “less compelling,” because of potential issues with the dating methods.

Whether the tools are 2 million or 2.4 million years old, they suggest toolmakers had spread farther and wider across Africa earlier than previously known. “There must have been a corridor through the Sahara with movement between east Africa and North Africa,” says paleoanthropologist Rick Potts of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Alternatively, the new dates suggest hominins in at least two different parts of Africa, separated by 5000 kilometers, were sophisticated enough to independently invent rudimentary stone tools and habitually make them, Potts says.

Either way, the study suggests that by 2 million years ago or so, making stone tools and butchering meat with them was routine for human ancestors in distant corners of the African continent. And this technological revolution may have given them the tools they needed to travel farther and wider across Africa and beyond

Homa Bay, Kenya



Earliest Archaeological Evidence of Persistent Hominin Carnivory

Archeologists dig up collections of bones in Kenya dated to two million years ago that indicate that "hominids acquired and processed numerous, relatively complete, small ungulate carcasses" over hundreds of thousands of years showing "persistent carnivory." Also, of note, they point out that midsized heads were collected because they provide lots of fat.


The emergence of lithic technology by ∼2.6 million years ago (Ma) is often interpreted as a correlate of increasingly recurrent hominin acquisition and consumption of animal remains. Associated faunal evidence, however, is poorly preserved prior to ∼1.8 Ma, limiting our understanding of early archaeological (Oldowan) hominin carnivory. Here, we detail three large well-preserved zooarchaeological assemblages from Kanjera South, Kenya. The assemblages date to ∼2.0 Ma, pre-dating all previously published archaeofaunas of appreciable size. At Kanjera, there is clear evidence that Oldowan hominins acquired and processed numerous, relatively complete, small ungulate carcasses. Moreover, they had at least occasional access to the fleshed remains of larger, wildebeest-sized animals. The overall record of hominin activities is consistent through the stratified sequence – spanning hundreds to thousands of years – and provides the earliest archaeological evidence of sustained hominin involvement with fleshed animal remains (i.e., persistent carnivory), a foraging adaptation central to many models of hominin evolution.

We report here on the zooarchaeological record of bovid remains. These dominate the assemblages in terms of overall abundances (representing a minimum of 56 individuals), and are amenable to analysis using published protocols and experimental datasets [21][30], [56][63]. Analytically, we group remains by bed (e.g., ‘KS-1’, ‘KS-3’) rather than by excavation [49]. We further sort specimens by body size class [21], grouping animals into ‘small’ (e.g., Grant’s gazelle, Gazella granti) and ‘medium’ (e.g., Topi, Damaliscus lunatus) sizes. Extinct bovids of intermediate size and weight (e.g., Parmularius sp.) are treated as medium-size animals. Larger bovids (e.g., buffalo, Syncerus caffer) are poorly represented in the assemblages and are not treated in detail here. Following convention, we incorporate taxonomically-unidentifiable long bone fragments in all appropriate analyses.

In our study of bone surface modifications, three investigators (JVF, BLP, and JSO) jointly analyzed specimens, shared observations, and discussed interpretations before providing individual assessments of bone damage [17]. Analysts employed low–power magnification (10×-40×) and strong light sources to identify modifications. They attributed agency (e.g., hominin, carnivore) to modifications only after excluding all possible alternatives (including potential confounds detailed in [32], [64][69]).

Values for minimum numbers of skeletal elements (MNE) reflect considerations of animal size and developmental age, extensive refitting efforts, and, for long bones, element identification of shaft portions [21]. High-survival elements (HSE) include the cranium, mandible, humerus, radius, metacarpal, femur, tibia, and metatarsal [61]. Point estimates of Shannon evenness follow published methods [30], [70], whereas interval estimates are constructed using Bayesian models [71].

Bone surface modification frequencies are known to accurately reflect the timing and context of both hominin and carnivore involvement with animal remains. We use them here to assess the identity and sequence of actors and behaviors responsible for forming and modifying the assemblages.

Hominin-modified specimens (i.e., fossil bones bearing cut marks and/or hammerstone percussion damage) are present through the entire KS-1 through KS-3 sequence (Table 2 and Table S1). These specimens provide unambiguous evidence of hominin processing of bovid remains (Figure 2), and indicate a functional relationship between artifactual and faunal materials. When considering the anatomical placement of cut marks, we report bone damage consistent with both defleshing and disarticulation activities [17]. Frequencies of cut-marked limb specimens range from 1.9% to 6.3% in summed (i.e., total bed) assemblages, with similar frequencies observed irrespective of analyst, bed, or animal body size. The overall uniformity of these results suggests a relatively consistent pattern of carcass exploitation through time (within-analyst test for the homogeneity of cut mark frequencies across beds: homogeneity not falsified, all p-values >0.1).

With respect to the timing of hominin access to these smaller-sized individuals, actualistic studies in a modern East African grassland (the Serengeti) show that small bovid carcasses are, almost without exception, completely consumed by lions and/or hyenas within the first few minutes to hours following death [63]. Given the relative abundance of small bovid carcasses at KJS (Table S3), the relative dearth of carnivore tooth marks on their remains (Table S1), and the inferred rarity of such scavenging opportunities in grassland settings, our results strongly suggest that hominins acquired many of these animals very early in their resource lives (i.e., fairly close to the moment of death). At present, the summed evidence that Oldowan foragers acquired, defleshed, and demarrowed numerous, complete, small bovids throughout the formation of all three assemblages plausibly represents the earliest archaeological record of hominin hunting activities.

The skeletal remains of medium-sized bovids reflect a slightly different taphonomic history. Although specimens from all skeletal regions are represented, cranial remains predominate (Figure 5B). Within each assemblage, skeletal element abundances are positively correlated with bone densities (rs range: 0.401 to 0.666; all p-values <0.10) [59], and HSE abundances are not significantly correlated with either standardized food utility values (rs range: −0457 to −0.241; all p-values >0.20) [62] or within-bone nutrient values (rs range: 0.107 to 0.657; all p-values >0.10) [28], [29]. When considering the sum of surface modification data, Shannon evenness values (range: 0.808 to 0.944), and theoretical considerations of transport behaviors [61], [62], the record from KJS most parsimoniously indicates that Oldowan hominins introduced the partial remains of medium-sized carcasses to the site, with specific foraging behaviors varying with respect to body region (e.g., head versus postcrania) and timing of access to carcasses [63].

The overall taphonomic history of medium-sized postcrania is thus fairly equivalent to that of the smaller-sized carcasses. In both cases, remains are present at abundances that far exceed natural landscape accumulation norms (Table 1), and bone surface modification frequencies and skeletal part analyses indicate that hominins had primary access to soft tissues (Table 2, Figure 3, Figure 4). The evidence is consistent with scenarios in which hominins introduced a relative abundance of fleshed medium-sized postcrania to the site. In contrast to the record of smaller-sized bovids, however, skeletal element representation and element evenness scores suggest an increased measure of hominin selectivity in skeletal part choice and transport decisions when dealing with medium-sized remains (Table S3, Table S8). Long bone elements are fairly numerous relative to axial remains (as measured by %MAU) (Figure 5B, Table S3); and the more proximal limb elements (i.e., humerus, radio-ulna, femur, and tibia) are relatively more abundant than metapodials (Figure 5B, Table S3). This patterning differs substantially from that of the smaller-sized bovids. The latter’s remains are more evenly-distributed across the entire postcranial skeleton (HSE’s+low survival elements [LSE’s]), as well as across the six major long bones (Figure 5A, Table S3), and presumably reflects the introduction of numerous, fairly complete small bovids to the site. At issue here: what strategies did hominins follow when selecting and transporting medium-sized remains?

The record is potentially consistent with two main scenarios. In the first, hominins introduce an abundance of compete (or relatively complete) medium-sized carcasses to the site. This follows a ‘food maximizing’ strategy in which hominins face negligible-to-minor transport constraints and transfer most or all of the edible remains from death sites to KJS [75]. As a result, they treat both small and medium-sized bovids in a relatively similar manner when making carcass transport decisions. Observed differences in skeletal element records on-site (smalls vs. mediums) would then presumably reflect systematic differences in post-depositional carnivore scavenging behaviors. In the second scenario, hominins preferentially transport limb remains from medium-sized carcasses, plus some axial elements whenever possible. This follows a ‘weight minimizing’ strategy in which transport constraints (e.g., the number of available carriers, distance to destination, predation risk, etc.) limit hominins to carrying away only a subset of all edible tissues [75]. In this case, carnivore treatment of skeletal remains on-site would be relatively consistent across size groups [25], and observed differences in the skeletal element record (small vs. medium) would instead predominantly reflect systematic size-based differences in hominin transport practices.

Here, comparisons between size groups are particularly informative. For small bovids, LSE values are not grossly disproportionate to those of HSE’s (Figure 5A, Table S3). In fact, their overall skeletal record corresponds fairly well to expectations for dual-patterned hominin-first assemblages, [22], [25], [27], [29]. Note too that skeletal remains of smaller-sized individuals are usually at far greater risk of destruction than those of medium-sized animals, especially in grassland contexts [43], [63].This makes the latter’s record at KJS all the more interesting. In each of the assemblages, medium-sized bovids are fairly depauperate in postcranial axial remains relative to both head and limb elements (Figure 5B, Table S3). As the smaller-sized bovids are more evenly represented across the skeleton (both with and without considerations of cranial remains), we discount the possibility that hominins introduced a substantial amount of medium-sized postcranial axial elements to the assemblages (or, alternatively, that those remains were somehow introduced ‘naturally’; e.g., via mass death). In short, if an abundance of medium-sized axial remains were originally present on-site in substantial numbers, and they were largely deleted by scavenging carnivores, then the overall skeletal record of smaller-sized bovids should reflect a substantially more biased record (both in terms of head remains relative to postcrania, and HSE’s relative to LSE’s). The alternative, a null hypothesis in which all bovids were originally present on-site as similarly-apportioned carcasses, would require that medium-sized postcrania (LSE’s+HSE’s) were preferentially deleted by carnivores relative to all smaller-sized remains. We argue that this is unlikely (especially for the record of HSE’s), and note that tooth-mark frequencies are relatively similar across the remains of both size groups (Table S1). In turn, we argue that the KJS record provides robust evidence that hominins largely – but certainly not exclusively – followed a ‘weight-minimizing’ strategy at KJS when selecting and transporting remains from fleshed medium-sized carcasses.

The record of medium-sized cranial elements requires a bit more explanation. Specifically, these remains are disproportionately abundant within each of the assemblages (Figure 5B, Table S3). If hominins largely followed a ‘weight-minimizing’ strategy, and solely had access to complete medium-sized carcasses, they would not have preferentially transported crania and mandibles to KJS. The reason is clear: head remains are quite heavy given their tissue yields, and will often be ignored at death sites in favor of a slew of higher-ranked remains [75]. These same arguments hold when discussing medium-sized limb HSE’s. The preponderance of head remains on-site (as well as the paucity of long bone remains) is thus unlikely to reflect either simple utility or density-related phenomena. Instead, the record strongly suggests the purposeful introduction of a fair number of isolated heads to the site by Oldowan foragers.

But why acquire, transport, and process an abundance of medium-sized heads? In living animals, these remains contain a wealth of fatty, calorie-packed, nutrient-rich tissues: a rare and valuable food resource in a grassland setting where alternate high-value foodstuffs (fruits, nuts, etc.) are often unavailable [2], [3], [29], [49], [52], [63], [76][78]. Medium-sized heads are also relatively dense and durable elements, and their internal contents are generally inaccessible to all but hyenas and tool-wielding hominins [63], [79], [80]. As a result, they are often seasonally-available as scavengable resources in East African grasslands [63], [76], [79][83]. Additionally, bone surface modification studies at KJS clearly demonstrate that hominins accessed internal head contents: several cranial vault and mandibular fragments bear evidence of percussion striae. Considered in sum, the presumed availability of these isolated remains across the landscape, the relative abundance of these remains in the KJS assemblages, and unambiguous material evidence that hominins exploited their contents on-site is most parsimoniously interpreted as reflecting very early archaeological evidence of a distinct hominin scavenging strategy – one that included a strong focus on acquiring and exploiting fatty, nutrient-rich, energy-dense within-head food resources (e.g., brain matter, mandibular nerve and marrow, etc.) [e.g., 24,63,76,82,84–86].

The total abundance of remains on site, (Table 1), the number of animals represented (Table 1), the high taxonomic diversity present [17], [50], [52], the relatively low frequency of tooth-marked specimens (Figure 3, Figure 4, Table S1), and a sedimentological record wholly inconsistent with a fluvial accumulation of remains [49], [52] also combine to suggest that the KJS assemblages are unlikely to represent in situ death or ‘background scatter’ accumulations formed by non-hominin agencies. Similarly, the skeletal element record of medium-sized bovids suggests that they were unlikely to have been present on-site as complete carcasses, an expectation of most ‘kill-site’ and/or landscape accumulation models. When limiting discussion to medium-sized postcrania, the high abundance of limb remains (including many isolated epiphyses) relative to axial elements is also the inverse expectation for landscape assemblages (Figure 5B) [63].

Finally, as with many zooarchaeological assemblages, the KJS skeletal inventories are dominated by numerous unidentifiable long bone shaft fragments. At issue: who or what created these fragments from whole bones? The relative rarity of ‘dry bone’ fractures, coupled with abundant evidence of ‘green bone’ breakage, strongly suggests the involvement of behavioral agents of modification, especially given the inferred low-energy depositional setting at KJS [17], [49][52]. Bone surface modifications (e.g., percussion marks and notches; tooth marks and notches) indicative of access to within-bone resources, however, are found at relatively low frequencies in each of the assemblages (Figure 3; Figure 4; Table 2; Table S1; Table S2) [17]. This result is surprising as it is inconsistent with known outcomes of both hominin and carnivore bone breakage practices, where surface modification frequencies are, on average, substantially higher [e.g., 22,23,25,57,58]. A similar pattern of an abundance of shattered but largely unmodified long bone specimens is observed in many other Paleolithic assemblages [31,45,72,73; Table S2], suggesting to us that current bone breakage models may not fully account for all relevant variables. Notably, at KJS there is no evidence that post-depositional sediment compaction and/or bone weathering influenced the bone breakage record [17]. Further experimental research may be required to fully explain these observations.




Humans hunted for meat 2 million years ago - Evidence from ancient butchery site in Tanzania shows early man was capable of ambushing herds up to 1.6 million years earlier than previously thought

Evidence from ancient butchery site in Tanzania shows early man was capable of ambushing herds up to 2 million years ago and were selecting "only adult animals in their prime" which also tend to be the fattiest and we were picking what we wanted compared to other carnivores.


Ancient humans used complex hunting techniques to ambush and kill antelopes, gazelles, wildebeest and other large animals at least two million years ago. The discovery – made by anthropologist Professor Henry Bunn of Wisconsin University – pushes back the definitive date for the beginning of systematic human hunting by hundreds of thousands of years.

Two million years ago, our human ancestors were small-brained apemen and in the past many scientists have assumed the meat they ate had been gathered from animals that had died from natural causes or had been left behind by lions, leopards and other carnivores.

But Bunn argues that our apemen ancestors, although primitive and fairly puny, were capable of ambushing herds of large animals after carefully selecting individuals for slaughter. The appearance of this skill so early in our evolutionary past has key implications for the development of human intellect.

"We know that humans ate meat two million years ago," said Bunn, who was speaking in Bordeaux at the annual meeting of the European Society for the study of Human Evolution (ESHE). "What was not clear was the source of that meat. However, we have compared the type of prey killed by lions and leopards today with the type of prey selected by humans in those days. This has shown that men and women could not have been taking kill from other animals or eating those that had died of natural causes. They were selecting and killing what they wanted."

That finding has major implications, he added. "Until now the oldest, unambiguous evidence of human hunting has come from a 400,000-year-old site in Germany where horses were clearly being speared and their flesh eaten. We have now pushed that date back to around two million years ago."

The hunting instinct of early humans is a controversial subject. In the first half of the 20th century, many scientists argued that our ancestors' urge to hunt and kill drove us to develop spears and axes and to evolve bigger and bigger brains in order to handle these increasingly complex weapons. Extreme violence is in our nature, it was argued by fossil experts such as Raymond Dart and writers like Robert Ardrey, whose book African Genesis on the subject was particularly influential. By the 80s, the idea had run out of favour, and scientists argued that our larger brains evolved mainly to help us co-operate with each other. We developed language and other skills that helped us maintain complex societies.

"I don't disagree with this scenario," said Bunn. "But it has led us to downplay the hunting abilities of our early ancestors. People have dismissed them as mere scavengers and I don't think that looks right any more."

In his study, Bunn and his colleagues looked at a huge butchery site in the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. The carcasses of wildebeest, antelopes and gazelles were brought there by ancient humans, most probably members of the species Homo habilis, more than 1.8 million years ago. The meat was then stripped from the animals' bones and eaten.

"We decided to look at the ages of the animals that had been dragged there," said Benn. "By studying the teeth in the skulls that were left, we could get a very precise indication of what type of meat these early humans were consuming. Were they bringing back creatures that were in their prime or were old or young? Then we compared our results with the kinds of animals killed by lions and leopards."

The results for several species of large antelope Bunn analysed showed that humans preferred only adult animals in their prime, for example. Lions and leopards killed old, young and adults indiscriminately. For small antelope species, the picture was slightly different. Humans preferred only older animals, while lions and leopards had a fancy only for adults in their prime.

"For all the animals we looked at, we found a completely different pattern of meat preference between ancient humans and other carnivores, indicating that we were not just scavenging from lions and leopards and taking their leftovers. We were picking what we wanted and were killing it ourselves."

Bunn believes these early humans probably sat in trees and waited until herds of antelopes or gazelles passed below, then speared them at point-blank range. This skill, developed far earlier than suspected, was to have profound implications. Once our species got a taste for meat, it was provided with a dense, protein-rich source of energy. We no longer needed to invest internal resources on huge digestive tracts that were previously required to process vegetation and fruit, which are more difficult to digest. Freed from that task by meat, the new, energy-rich resources were then diverted inside our bodies and used to fuel our growing brains.

As a result, over the next two million years our crania grew, producing species of humans with increasingly large brains – until this carnivorous predilection produced Homo sapiens.


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