Early humans began eating meat earlier than thought

A fragment of a child’s skull discovered at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania shows the oldest known evidence of anemia caused by a nutritional deficiency, reports a new paper published in PLOS ONE…

The discovery, made by a global team of researchers led by Manuel DomĂ­nguez-Rodrigo from Complutense University, Madrid, suggests that early human ancestors began eating meat much earlier in history than previously believed. The skull fragment identified is thought to belong to a child somewhat younger than two and shows bone lesions that commonly result from a lack of B-vitamins in the diet.

Previous reports show that early hominids ate meat, but whether it was a regular part of their diet or only consumed sporadically was not certain. The authors suggest that the bone lesions present in this skull fragment provide support for the idea that meat-eating was common enough that not consuming it could lead to anemia.

Nutritional deficiencies such as anemia are most common at weaning, when children’s diets change drastically. The authors suggest that the child may have died at a period when he or she was starting to eat solid foods lacking meat. Alternatively, if the child still depended on the mother’s milk, the mother may have been nutritionally deficient for lack of meat.

Both cases imply that “early humans were hunters, and had a physiology adapted to regular meat consumption at least 1.5 million years ago,” say the authors.

All this speaks to is how human beings evolved. There weren’t too many heavy philosophical discussions of nutrition and appropriate sources at that level of evolution. The quest for scarce goods predates slave economies with sustenance central. Frankly, I doubt if the topic came up even at the level of agriculture sufficiently advanced for one person – a slave – to produce enough to keep them alive and have a surplus remaining for the common good.

Which is why I’m never surprised when researchers into earliest days of hominids discover something else that we consumed a bit earlier than previously accepted. We’re omnivores, folks. We evolved because we weren’t picky eaters. If we could catch it, kill it, take it away from some other critters – we ate it.

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