Early Hominid Activities at Olduvai
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The earliest sites at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania are among the best documented and most important for studies of human evolution. This book investigates the behavior of hominids at Olduvai using data of stone tools and animal bones, as well as the results of work in taphonomy (how animals become fossils), the behavior of mammals, and a wide range of ecological theory and data. By illustrating the ways in which modern and prehistoric evidence is used in making interpretations, the author guides the reader through the geological, ecological, and archeological areas involved in the study of humans.
Based on his study of the Olduvai excavations, animal life, and stone tools, the author carefully examines conventional views and proposals about the early Olduvai sites. First, the evidence of site geology, tool cut marks, and other clues to the formation of the Olduvai sites are explored. On this basis, the large mammal communities in which early hominids lived are investigated, using methods which compare sites produced mainly by hominids with others made by carnivores. Questions about hominid hunting, scavenging, and the importance of eating meat are then scrutinized. The leading alternative positions on each issue are discussed, providing a basis for understanding some of the most contentious debates in paleo-anthropology today.
The dominant interpretive model for the artifact and bone accumulations at Olduvai and other Plio-Pleistocene sites has been that they represent "home bases," social foci similar to the campsites of hunter-gatherers. Based on paleo-ecological evidence and ecological models, the author critically analyzes the home base interpretation and proposes alternative views. A new view of the Olduvai sitesâ that they represent stone caches where hominids processed carcasses for foodâ is shown to have important implications for our understanding of hominid social behavior and evolution.
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... suggest a time and a place for the origins of several distinctively human traits. The manufacture of tools has long been considered a product of manipulative skill and mental facility that is special to humans. The earliest human ...
... suggest, were areas for processing food—at least parts of animal carcasses—and the attraction of carnivores to these sites prohibited their use by hominids as the primary areas of social activity, that is, as home bases in the modern ...
... suggest that a semiarid climate prevailed in the Olduvai region during Bed I times, though it was generally wetter than occurs at Olduvai today (about 566 mm of rainfall per year) (Hay, 1976; Cerling, Hay, and O'Neil, 1977; Cerling and ...
... suggests a mean annual rainfall on the order of 350 mm. This very arid environment supported small herbaceous plants and a more saline lake than during earlier times (Bonnefille and Riollet, 1980). An overall change from humid to quite ...
... suggest that they differ from near contemporary specimens attributable to Homo from Koobi Fora, Kenya (Day, 1976; Wood, 1974). A hominid clavicle and hand bones from at least two individuals also were discovered in Level 3 at locality ...