500,000 years ago human ancestors were well on their way to becoming the dominant species on the planet. Human ancestors had rudimentary control of fire some 1.5 – 2 million years ago, and that was the single event that led to the inevitable journey to becoming the dominant species. But though fire made dominance inevitable, it was a slow process. A new paper shows that tooth marks on the bones of a 500,000 year old hominin were caused by a large carnivore and indicating that the hominin had been consumed. The carnivore must have been a hyena-like creature.
Daujeard C, Geraads D, Gallotti R, Lefèvre D, Mohib A, Raynal J-P, et al. (2016), Pleistocene Hominins as a Resource for Carnivores: A c. 500,000-Year-Old Human Femur Bearing Tooth-Marks in North Africa (Thomas Quarry I, Morocco). PLoS ONE 11(4): e0152284. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0152284
Past Horizons reports:
During the Middle Pleistocene, early humans likely competed for space and resources with large carnivores, who occupied many of the same areas. However, to date, little evidence for direct interaction between them in this period has been found. The authors of the present study in PLOS ONE (open access) examined the shaft of a femur from the skeleton of a 500,000-year-old hominin, found in the Moroccan cave “Grotte à Hominidés” near Casablanca, Morocco, and found evidence of consumption by large carnivores. …….
……. While the appearance of the marks indicated that they were most likely made by hyenas shortly after death, it was not possible to conclude whether the bone had been eaten as a result of predation on the hominin or had been scavenged soon after death. Nonetheless, this is the first evidence that humans were a resource for carnivores during the Middle Pleistocene in this part of Morocco, and contrasts with evidence from nearby sites that humans themselves hunted and ate carnivores. The authors suggest that depending on circumstances, hominins at this time could have both acted as hunter or scavenger, and been targeted as carrion or prey.
I suspect that by 500,000 years ago human ancestors were not regular “prey” for carnivores but more of an opportunistic “find” for a cackle of hyenas.