Man the fat hunter: The demise of homo erectus and the emergence of a new hominin lineage in the middle pleistocene (ca. 400 kyr) Levant

Miki Ben-Dor, Avi Gopher, Israel Hershkovitz, Ran Barkai*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The worldwide association of H. erectus with elephants is well documented and so is the preference of humans for fat as a source of energy. We show that rather than a matter of preference, H. erectus in the Levant was dependent on both elephants and fat for his survival. The disappearance of elephants from the Levant some 400 kyr ago coincides with the appearance of a new and innovative local cultural complex - the Levantine Acheulo-Yabrudian and, as is evident from teeth recently found in the Acheulo-Yabrudian 400-200 kyr site of Qesem Cave, the replacement of H. erectus by a new hominin. We employ a bio-energetic model to present a hypothesis that the disappearance of the elephants, which created a need to hunt an increased number of smaller and faster animals while maintaining an adequate fat content in the diet, was the evolutionary drive behind the emergence of the lighter, more agile, and cognitively capable hominins. Qesem Cave thus provides a rare opportunity to study the mechanisms that underlie the emergence of our post-erectus ancestors, the fat hunters.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere28689
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume6
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - 9 Dec 2011

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