Systematic Butchery by Plio/Pleistocene Hominids at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania [and Comments and Reply]

Henry T. Bunn, Ellen M. Kroll, Stanley H. Ambrose, Anna K. Behrensmeyer, Lewis R. Binford, Robert J. Blumenschine, Richard G. Klein, Henry M. Mchenry, Christopher J. O'brien, J. J. Wymer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human origins research by archaeologists has expanded the evidence of the diet and subsistence activities of ancient hominids. We examine an important component of that evidence, the 1.75-million-year-old faunal assemblage from the FLK Zinjanthropus site at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. Skeletal-part frequencies are used to evaluate hominid access to and differential transport of carcass portions of differing nutritional value. Cut-mark frequencies and locations are used to evaluate butchery patterns including skinning, disarticulation, and defleshing of carcasses. In contrast to other recently published assessments of the FLK Zinjanthropus data, we conclude that (1) ancient hominids had full access to meaty carcasses of many small and large animals prior to any substantial loss of meat or marrow bones through other predator or scavenger feeding; (2) ancient hominids were butchering animal carcasses by an efficient and systematic technique that involved skinning, disarticulation, and defleshing; and (3) the FLK Zinjanthropus site represents a place where the secondary butchering of selected carcass portions and the consumption of substantial quantities of meat and marrow occurred.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)431-452
JournalCurrent Anthropology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 1 1986


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