Why not subscribe?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Primitive man ... or not?

There's new, if controversial, evidence that our ancestors may have been using tools for longer than we thought.

By MALCOLM RITTER, AP Science Writer Malcolm Ritter, Ap Science Writer – Wed Aug 11, 5:26 pm ET


NEW YORK – Two ancient animal bones from Ethiopia show signs of butchering by human ancestors, moving back the earliest evidence for the use of stone tools by about 800,000 years, researchers say.

The bones appear to have been cut and smashed some 3.4 million years ago, the first evidence of stone tool use by Australopithecus afarensis, the species best known for the fossil dubbed "Lucy," says researcher Zeresenay Alemseged..... Alemseged said afarensis probably scavenged carcasses rather than hunting live animals, and ate the meat raw. The researchers said it's not clear whether the stone tools were made or were simply stones that were used as tools.
This story about "primitive" man makes we ponder how far I've from this world. I can run statistical models, but would have little idea how to bring down an antelope or deal effectively with a carcass.  It's even been 35 years since I cleaned a fish I caught.

Many of these skills aren't 800,000 years away, but one generation away. I remember my father hunting small game (rabbits and squirrels, mostly) that we'd have for supper, and killing chickens that had stopped laying and whose only remaining purpose in life was to provide Sunday dinner. My grandparents had a smokehouse that was the final resting place for parts of their pigs.

During the bike trip, I wondered whether I might carry a fishing pole on a future trip, and combine vigorous exercise with sitting quietly on a bank waiting for a fish to bite. It doesn't seem like such a bad combination.