ARCL140 Summer2020/TermProject Group1

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CONTRIBUTORS & ROLES

Alison was responsible for writing the introduction as well as the first site.

Francesca was responsible for writing the second site.

Maya was responsible for writing the third site

Lara was responsible for writing the fourth site.

Francesca, Maya, and Lara created the map as well as wrote the conclusion. All group members edited the term project and worked to create a cohesive end product.

MAP

"https://www.google.com/maps/d/embed?mid=1jZRxSrCnnGoz6P2KGevicClLcbb4UFLR"


ARCL 140 Group 1 Map 2020.png


Longitude and Latitude of each site

Site 1: -2° 58’ 59.99” S, 35° 20’ 59.99” E

Site 2: 41°19'49.1" N, 44°12'27.8" E

Site 3: 40°13′30″ N, 114°39′48″ E

Site 4: 42°21′9″ N, 3°31′6″ W

INTRODUCTION

Through cultural innovation and changes in habitat and ecology, there have been a number of major dietary shifts in human evolution. These include meat eating [1], cooking, and those associated with plant and animal domestication.[2]

The identification of signatures of adaptations to such dietary changes in the genome of extant primates, including humans, may shed light not only on the evolutionary history of our species but also on the mechanisms that underlie common metabolic diseases in modern human populations.

Some say that we are what we eat.[3] Archaeological studies is increasingly compelling evidence demonstrating how the evolution of our species has interacted with the availability of different kinds of nutrition to shape the genetic framework of our metabolism.[4]

Some remarkable discoveries that we will mention include inventions like the use of fire for cooking, and the spear and other related stone tools for hunting that set us on the evolutionary path that led us away from the other great apes. By introducing more meat into hominin diets, the early species of Homo adapted significantly by increasing brain and body size, developing bipedalism, and creating tools to extract animal protein.[5]

As well, the energy needed to allow the development of our abnormally large and complex brain, for instance, may have only become accessible when our more ape-like ancestors started treating food before putting it in their mouth.[6]

Four sites will be presented to further demonstrate the significance of our evolutionary history and what it can tell us about how we should structure our modern-day diets.

The first site focuses on evolutionary adaptations to dietary changes is in eastern Africa, in the Olduvai Gorge, in Tanzania. The discovery in this site looks into a child’s pathological cranial fragments which indicate that some hominins experienced scarcity of animal foods during various stages of their life histories.

The second site looks at the adaptive purposes of early H. Erectus species in Dmanisi, Georgia, after migrating out of Africa. The site contains 5 nearly complete craniums, as well as early stone tools used extracting bone marrow from prey, hinting at the significant increase in meat as dietary subsistence.

The third site focuses on the adaption of early Homo species diets based on found faunal remains as well as Oldowan tool technologies. This site suggests early Homo species adapted to surviving changing and cooler climates by consuming more animal foods. It is thought that this consumption led to higher dietary fats essential to human growth.  

The fourth site focuses on the discovery of the first human presence in Europe and how this discovery has led to linking the H. Erectus and the H. heidelbergensis. This site in Atapuerca, Spain contains thousands of early human fossils and has let researchers look further into how the dietary shift and constant migration affected the evolution of the Homo species and what kind of tools were used in hunting as well as suspected acts of cannibalism.

As presented in each case, the evolution of the human diet over time will be examined, looking at how it can provide insight into what an optimal diet entails, as evolution likely selects for diets that maximize nutrition.


SITE 1: OLDUVAI GORGE

AUTHOR: Alison Boudet

LOCATION:

Africa - Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania

Olduvai Gorge is a steep-sided ravine in the Great Rift Valley that stretches through eastern Africa. It is in the eastern Serengeti Plains in Arusha Region, Tanzania and is about 48 km long.

Latitude: -2° 58’ 59.99” S

Longitude: 35° 20’ 59.99” E

Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania site location on the map

















AGE:

The site was formed about 30,000 years ago. Our species Homo sapiens, is dated to have occupied it 17,000 years ago.

Context

Olduvai Gorge is a site in Tanzania that holds the earliest evidence of the existence of human ancestors. Paleoanthropologists have found hundreds of fossilized bones and stone tools dating back to millions of years, leading them to conclude that humans evolved in Africa.[7] The gorge is located in the Great Rift Valley, between the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti National Park. It is about 50km from Laetoli, another fossil-rich area. As a result of aggressive geological activity and streams, the Olduvai Gorge was formed about 30,000 years ago.[8] Although it is not quite large enough to be classified as a canyon, the steep ravine is about 48km long and 100 meters deep.[9] A river cuts through several of its layers and has formed four individual beds, with the oldest estimated at about 2 million years old.[10]

History

Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania is one of the most important paleoanthropological sites in the world and has been crucial in furthering the understanding of early human evolution. It was occupied by Homo habilis approximately 1.9 million years ago, Paranthropus boisei 1.8 million years ago, and Homo erectus 1.2 million years ago. Homo sapiens is dated to have occupied the site only 17,000 years ago.[11]

Louis and Mary Leakey are often referred to as the first family of paleontology. Much of their lives, and later the lives of their children, revolved around Olduvai Gorge. In the 1930s, the Leakeys found stone tools in Olduvai Gorge. Among their most notable finds were several extinct vertebrates, including the 25-million-year-old Pronconsul primate, one of the first and few fossil ape skulls discovered.[12] Political unrest in nearby Kenya forced them to put their work on hold, but they went back in the late 1950s. While they had focused on tools in their previous work, they then looked for further evidence of human life.

In 1959, Mary discovered fossilized parts of a skull and upper teeth of a type of hominin that had not been previously identified, it brought them some notoriety and spurred public interest in the study of human origins. They dated the discovery as having lived 1.75 million years ago.[13] This made it the oldest hominin discovered to that point and was a convincing case that humans originally evolved in Africa.

By 1960, they uncovered a well-preserved fossil foot that had arches, giving credibility to the theory that hominids walked upright. During this time, Mary Leakey and son Jonathan found another, smaller form of hominin that they called Homo habilis, translated as "handy human," because it seemed he was able to use tools.[14] This fossil was dated at about 2 million years old and also supported the elder Leakey's theory that there were several lines of hominins developing simultaneously, demonstrating that the Homo genus did not evolve from Australopithecus.[15]

Relevance

Meat-eating was an important factor affecting early hominin brain expansion, social organization and geographic movement. Stone tool butchery marks on ungulate fossils in several African archaeological assemblages demonstrate a significant level of carnivory by Pleistocene hominins.[16]

The discovery at Olduvai Gorge of a child’s pathological cranial fragments indicates that some hominins probably experienced a scarcity of animal foods during various stages of their life histories. The child’s parietal fragments, dating from 1.5-million-year-old sediments, show signs of porotic hyperostosis, a pathology associated with anemia.[17] Nutritional deficiencies, including anemia, are most common at weaning, when children lose immunity received through their mothers’ milk.

From this discovery, two paths were looked into. The first identifying how the developmentally disruptive potential of weaning reached far beyond sedentary Holocene food-producing societies and into the early Pleistocene. The second, where a hominin mother’s meat-deficient diet negatively altered the nutritional content of her breast milk to the extent that her nursing child ultimately died from malnourishment.

Either way, this site highlights the discovery of the origin of men, looking at the oldest evidence of mankind’s evolution and evolutionary adaptations to dietary changes. When looking at how our diet changed our evolution, the site of Olduvai Gorge proves that at least 1.5 million years ago, early human physiology was already adapted to a diet that included the regular consumption of meat.[18]

SITE 2: DMANISI

AUTHOR: Francesca Schoettler

LOCATION:

Dmanisi is an archaeological site formed in the Kvemo Kartli region of Georgia, about 85 kilometers southwest of Tbilisi.[19] The excavation site is approximately 300 square meters, and is in the midst of the Masavera and Pinezouri rivers, below the ruins of a medieval castle.[20]

Latitude: 41°19'49.1" N

Longitude: 44°12'27.8" E

Dmanisi, Georgia site location on the map


















AGE:

The Dmanisi site is characterized by the Masavera Basalt, which - based on argon dating - is over 1.8 million years old. Faunal findings, related artifacts, and Homo erectus remains have been discovered and are thought to have existed at the end of the Pliocene or early Pleistocene eras.[21]

Context

The site is located in the Republic of Georgia, between Western Asia and Eastern Europe. Dmanisi is characterized by deep river canyons formed by the Masavera and Pinezaori Rivers. The Masavera Basalt provides the base of the site and was created over 1.8 million years ago by volcanic sedimentary rocks.

Outside of Africa, Dmanisi is the oldest Early Paleolithic site that has been discovered, and it held a diverse range of habitats including grasslands, savannahs, and a forested valley floor.[22] With such a diverse landscape - a variety of amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and carnivores occupied the area, providing numerous food resources for hominins also living in the Dmanisi. Supporting this observation, approximately 2000 identifiable vertebrate fossils have been found at the excavation site along with five nearly complete Homo erectus skulls.[23]

The climate was characterized by wet conditions with two distinct seasons; winter and summer. The current environmental context represents a Mediterranian climate, dry and arid in comparison to the Pliocene/Pleistocene eras.[24]

History

Before being destroyed in war during the 14th century, Dmanisi was a commercially-based town located along the Silk Road.[25] In present-day, Dmanisi features the ruins of medieval castles and cathedrals - which has influenced vast interest in the site since the 1930s.

The first archaeological explorations began in the 1930s, however, purposeful excavations didn’t take place until the early 1980s. The research team led by Abesalom Vekua and Nugsar Mgeladze [26] first searched for a medieval bell-shaped storage pit, but instead, found a rhinoceros tooth from the Plio-Pleistocene era and later, a plethora of Plio-Pleistocene fauna fossils and related artifacts.

In 1989, the Romisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum in Mainz, Germany and the Georgian National Museum began collaborating on excavations at the site and continue to do so today.[27]

Recent work done at the site has been directed by Daivd Lordkipanidze, an anthropologist at the Georgian National Museum. Lordkipaidze’s team consists of palynologists, paleontologists, taphonomists, geologists, archeologists, and physical anthropologists. They discovered four nearly complete hominin skulls, thought of to exist within the Homo erectus species, with varying morphologies. As of October 2013, the team found a fifth complete cranium, including its mandible.[28]

Relevance

This site has encouraged an influx of research and findings critical to our understanding of evolution, biogeography, adaptation and variation of the Homo genus.[29] Found at the site were five nearly complete Homo erectus craniums featuring physical distinctions similarly attributed to the African hominin species, H. Ergaster. These finds in particular suggest the dispersal of early H. Erectus specimens from Africa beginning around 1.8 mya.[30] Oldowan stone tools and an abundance of vertebrates were also found at the site, which has helped anthropologists better understand the diverse landscape and food sources that were available to the early hominins.

The H. Erectus species were likely to experience a reduction in metabolic activity and gut size due to their increasing consumption of animal protein.[31] With a much higher BMR than prelithic hominins, this reduction would have urged H. Erectus to travel out of Africa in search of more energy-dense foods. The site contains fossils of Acinonyx pardinensis (archaic cheetahs) and cats - both which may have been primary food sources for the hominins.[32] In a new environment, H. erectus members were also able to adapt well by consuming meat when unable to distinguish between edible and toxic plants.[33]

In relation to our topic, Dmanisi provides evidence of the genetic adaptations early H. Erectus species experienced to their diet becoming substantially more animal-based. With this reliance on meat, changes to BMR and body size, and the creation of Oldowan tools to extract bone marrow from large predators - this species clearly displays the story of human evolution and adaptation to survive. Adaptation along with migration was necessary for the survival of these hominins - and worked significantly in the evolution of their species from their possible parental population, H. Egaster, in Africa.

SITE 3: MAJUANGOU

AUTHOR: Maya Lappin

LOCATION:

The Manjuango site is located in North China. It lies within the eastern margin of the Nihewan Basin, in Yangyuen county, Hebei country [34]. It is located approximately 1.5 kilometres from the Donggutou village. Within the site of Majuangou, there are subsites I-III. Altogether they cover a combined 171m². The largest is Majuangou III at 85m² [35].

Latitude: 40°13′30″N

Longitude: 114°39′48″E

Majuangou, China site location on the map




















AGE:

The Manjuango site is one of the oldest well-dated sites in Northern China. The Manjuango section is predicted to be between 1.66 million years old and 1.55 million years old. It is a key early Pleistocene site that suggests the earliest evidence for the presence of hominins in China [36].

Context

The Majuangou site is located in Northern China within the eastern part of the Nihewan Basin. It was discovered in 1922 and was excavated multiple times. Other sites in close proximity include Xiaochangliang, Donggutou, Banshan, and Xianta. The Manjuangou site is a lacustrine sequence with brief breaks of wetland and lake-margin sediments [37]. Other findings imply dominant grasslands with patches of woodlands.

The Nihewan Basin had a relatively cool climate as well as perennial warm and humid periods. The combination of climate, water, food, and stones made it an attractive place for hominins in the early Pleistocene. Many layers have provided artifacts and animal bones that have helped gain insight into the ages and types of tools. Results of findings imply that a long yet brisk migration from Africa, allowed early human populations to live in northern latitudes of East Asia over a long period of time [38].

History

The Manjuangou site was found in 1992 and was extracted on many occasions. The first extraction was in 2001 and was followed by additional field sessions in 2001, 2002, and 2003. There was a miscommunication in reporting and scientists from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology named the site Goudi while archeologists from the Hebei province referred to the locality as Majuangou III [39].

The majority of the work done on the Majuangou site was completed by the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology. They uncovered many faunal remains which included birds, rodents, carnivores, elephantids, rhinocerotids, and cervids. Later excavations done by the Hebei archeologists uncovered a floor of footprints that most likely belonged to the Mammuthus Trogontherii. The jaw, teeth, and ribs were discovered. The 2001 and 2002 excavations identified an area where natural rocks, hammerstones, and stone artifacts were densely integrated with a cluster of Mammuthus Trogontherii. This was an interpretation of a living floor. The artifacts and remains discovered indicated that the Majuangou site represented an early Pleistocene phase.

Relevance

When the Majuangou III was excavated it was found that it contained clear tool percussion damage which was indicative of marrow extraction. Marrow extraction represents the oldest known use of animal tissues for food. The hunting and eating of animals was suggested as crucial for surviving in the colder climate. In addition to the substantial body of water and abundant large mammals as food sources, the woodland and savannah habitats were looked at as another large attractor of human colonization in the early Pleistocene [40]. More evidence was discovered to support the idea that hominin species eventually leading to Homo began to include more animal food in their diet. Oldowan lithic technology was discovered in the fossil records. There is clear evidence that these tools were used to butcher and dismember animal carcasses. Oldowan tools dating back to 1.66 million years ago were discovered at the Majuangou site. Evidence was found to support that these tool-producing hominins would likely have consumed more animal food than pre-lithic hominins living in a more temperate climate because of the reduced availability to plants during the winter season. This brought in the idea that the consumption of saturated fats would have been higher. Quantitative estimates of saturated fat content in early Homo species are speculative due to the uncertain plant-animal subsistence ratio. However, there is suggestive isotopic data that indicates that the majority of energy in the more northerly living Homo species may have been obtained from animal food [41].

In relation to our topic, the discoveries at the Majuangou site provide evidence of the evolution of early Homo species diets to include more animal food and in hand more dietary fats. Dietary fats are essential to human growth as they play a main role in the growth, development, and maintenance of good health. Dietary fats are also the second most important energy-producing macronutrient. It was evidence at the Majuangou site that concluded the early Homo species here consumed more animal foods, which allowed higher dietary fat levels. With there not being many other options during the winter seasons the early Homo species relied more on animal foods to maintain their energy and health than any other pre-lithic hominins in the early Pleistocene period.

SITE 4: SITE NAME: SIERRA DE ATAPUERCA

AUTHOR: Lara Perlmutter

LOCATION:

Sierra de Atapuerca, or also known as the Atapuerca Mountains, are located in Northern Spain.[42] This archaeological site is located 14 kilometres east of Burgos, a city North of the Iberian Peninsula. The mountains span up to 702 acres.[43]

Longitude: 42°21′9″ N

Latitude: 3°31′6″ W

Atapuerca, Spain site location on the map
















AGE:

The fossils found in Atapuerca are the earliest humans being recorded in Europe that are dated to approximately one million years ago, and may even span into the Common Era.[44]

Context

The sites are located in Atapuerca,[45] a small town about 14 to 20 kilometres (km) from the city of Burgos in Northern Spain.[46] The mountains are made of foothills that stand 1,080 m above sea level. These mountains encompass a lot of space and are riddled with caves. The sites are North-East of the Douro basin, which connects to the Corridor, a mountain pass that allows the Ebro River to join the Mediterranean Sea and the Douro Basin.

Atapuerca consists of several different sites made up of pits and caves that contain the first recorded humans being in Europe. Out of the several sites that occupy Acapueraca, the most relevant are Sima de Los Huesos, or Pit of Bones, Sima del Elefante, or Pit of the Elephant, and Gran Dolina, which translates to Big Sinkhole.[47] Sima de Los Huesos was discovered in 1976 and has given up thousands of fossils ranging from 350,000 to over one million years old.[48]

Many railways South of Atapuerca have revealed caves, 15 to 25 meters thick. The deposits found in the caves consist of combinations of marls, clay and gypsum. It is made out of slopey valleys, with smooth overhangs and terraces. The landscape is rocky and mostly dry due to the climate of Spain and the caves which allowed the fossils to be well preserved.[49]

History

This historical site is home to fossils dating up to one million years. Railway lines were built in 1896 that allowed Bilbao steel mills to connect southeast [50] and while building these rail lines, cuts were made in the foothills revealing several limestone caves. The rail lines were abandoned and about a century later, a limestone quarry was exposed.[51] Before the exploration started, it was an unknown fact that the walls of the many trenches and caves held Pleistocene hominin fossils that has remained undiscovered, even during the construction of the railway.[52] Digging and exploration of the Atapuerta caves began in the 1960s and began to increase when the Edelweiss Speleological Group informed others of the fossil-filled caves, this led to Bronze Age artifacts being found in 1972.[53] The presence of the archeological site has brought a lot of economic, social, and demographic growth to the municipality. Almost a quarter of the population has a tourism-related occupation and has backpedalled depopulation.

Relevance

In 1976, Trinidad Torres excavated a human-like mandible, which was the first human hominin fossil to be found at Atapuerca sites. In the 1990s, thousands of human fossils were excavated which led to more international archeological attention.[54] Towards the Atapuerca sites. The hominin mandible found at the site Sima del Elefante has been dated to about 1.1 to 1.2 million years and is thought to be the first known hominin species from Europe. Other fossils found at the sites have been ascribed to the H. antecessor. This species has been associated as the Last Common Ancestor, or LCA, for Neanderthals and Modern Day Humans.[55] Sima de Los Huesos was most notably the place where thousands of H. heidelbergensis fossils were found. H. heidelbergensis dates back 200,000 to 700,000 years ago.[56]

The mandible that was found is consistent with the ones found in the H. antecessor. The H. antecessor have very robust teeth with tooth eruptions that are similar to those found in Modern Humans. This could be a sign of similar developmental rates.[57] The H. heidelbergensis had a larger braincase and were the first humans to adapt to colder climates. They were able to hold in heat, due to their short and wide bodies.[58] It is highly argued that the remains of the H. antecessor are actually those of the H. heidelbergensis. With the shape of the teeth being more robust, and the appearance of canines, it is suggested their diet was meat and marrow based. They had very crafted tools, though evidence of scraping on the bones of the human remains could lead to the conclusion that the H. antecessor could've practiced cannibalism.[59] The H. antecessor did not live in one permanent spot, but actually followed their food sources.[60]

In relation to our topic, the H. heidelbergensis and the H. antecessor do appear to have a meat-based focused diet. Their adaptation to the cold weather gave them a wider smaller shape and their tools allowed them to butcher their meat as well as break bones to obtain bone marrow. With the number of mammal bones found in the site, it does indicate more meat than plant food, though plants may be used as a supplement,[61] and with the evidence-based on the bones, cannibalism may have been a sort of last resort in order to obtain meat. The presence of meat in their diet allowed for the H. antecessor to survive the cold weather and provide them with energy to hunt for food. When it comes to the story of human evolution, the remains of the H. antecessor could be the key to tie it all together. The older bones in the pit were first thought to be those of the H. Erectus but they were indeed the H. antecessor.[62] The condition and preservation of the fossils were very good which allowed researchers to look into Middle Pleistocene evolution.[63]

CONCLUSION

Changes in the human diet have guided the evolution of our metabolism, and as a result of multiple changes and migrations, individuals now carry a patchwork of genetic traits that define what an individualized healthy diet looks like. As time went on and human evolution began to progress, it's clear based on the evidence found in archaeological sites, that humans began to have a meat reliant diet up to 700,000 years ago.[64] With the creation of tools, humans were able to hunt and kill animals and get more dietary nutrition that allowed their species to grow and adapt in order to maintain their health. With the rapid cooling of the planet, the effect on hominins became evident, especially in metabolism and diet.[65] Meat was a very minor component for chimps but became a crucial energy source for the modern human diet. Early hominins that had a lack of meat showed evidence of nutritional deficiencies and their children had a high mortality rate due to malnutrition. The addition of meat to the everyday diet made humans consume iron, vitamins and proteins that overall benefitted their quality of health and allowed them to learn different skills like cooking.[66] The presence of meat led to the presence of cooking. Cooking was a clear result of a dietary shift and allowed food, both meat and plant, to be digested, which aided humans in consuming tougher foods.[67] Overall Homo species that adopted meat into their diets were able to develop, and grow stronger and healthier, while learning new skills to help them survive in their changing environment. This dietary shift has allowed early hominins to boost their caloric intake and consume foods that provide nutrients, healthy fat and promote muscle, heart and brain growth.[68]

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