On meat eating and human evolution: A taphonomic analysis of BK4b (Upper Bed II, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania), and its bearing on hominin megafaunal consumption
Recent archaeological work at BK has uncovered abundant taphonomic evidence of megafaunal exploitation by 1.34 Ma hominins. Butchery of small, medium-sized and large carcasses at the site indicate that meat consumption was a crucial adaptive element in the behavior of Homo erectus. Current debates on the role played by meat in this early stage of the evolution of the genus Homo confront cost signaling interpretations against dietary/physiological interpretations of meat eating and its relation to brain evolution. BBK (including all the archaeological levels) contains the largest amount of hominin-modified bones and butchered animals documented in the Early Pleistocene archaeological record. This evidence supports that meat consumption was tightly linked to the physiology that shaped the evolution of our genus. Hunting was an integral part of the adaptive behavior of H. erectus although megafaunal exploitation may have included more opportunistic behaviors. Site organization also suggests that this species may have exhibited a different within-site spatial organization, which differed from previous hominins, as documented at sites such as FLK Zinj. This unveils the need of new behavioral models to explain the functionality of Acheulian central-place sites.