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In PeerJ

Human carnivory is atypical among primates. Unlike chimpanzees and bonobos, who are known to hunt smaller monkeys and eat them immediately, human foragers often cooperate to kill large animals and transport them to a safe location to be shared. While it is known that meat became an important part of the hominin diet around 2.6-2 Mya, whether intense cooperation and food sharing developed in conjunction with the regular intake of meat remains unresolved. A widespread assumption is that early hominins acquired animal protein through klepto-parasitism at felid kills. This should be testable by detecting felid-specific bone modifications and tooth marks on carcasses consumed by hominins. Here, deep learning (DL) computer vision was used to identify agency through the analysis of tooth pits and scores on bones recovered from the Early Pleistocene site of DS (Bed I, Olduvai Gorge). We present the first objective evidence of primary access to meat by hominins 1.8 Mya by showing that the most common securely detectable bone-modifying fissipeds at the site were hyenas. The absence of felid modifications in most of the carcasses analyzed indicates that hominins were the primary consumers of most animals accumulated at the site, with hyenas intervening at the post-depositional stage. This underscores the role of hominins as a prominent part of the early Pleistocene African carnivore guild. It also stresses the major (and potentially regular) role that meat played in the diet that configured the emergence of early Homo.

Cobo-Sánchez Lucía, Pizarro-Monzo Marcos, Cifuentes-Alcobendas Gabriel, Jiménez García Blanca, Abellán Beltrán Natalia, Courtenay Lloyd A, Mabulla Audax, Baquedano Enrique, Domínguez-Rodrigo Manuel


Computer vision, Human evolution, Meat-eating, Paleoanthropology, Taphonomy, Tooth marks