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How did early humans get food?

The Paleolithic Era, or Old Stone Age, marked the first and longest period of human history. Beginning 4 million years ago and continuing to 10,000 B.C., it saw early hominids living as foragers, consuming whatever food sources were available. Scientists once believed these early human ancestors were mostly vegetarians, eating meat only very rarely. New research, however, complicates that. Although the earliest hominids were primarily herbivores, later groups turned more to fish and animal proteins. This alteration in diet went along with certain evolutionary changes, leading to the rise of modern humans.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read)

The Paleolithic Era began 4 million years ago and continued until 10,000 B.C. Early hominids lived as foragers then, consuming whatever food sources were available, gathering nuts, berries and other wild vegetation. Without tools, they were only able to consume meat by scavenging eggs or picking carcasses left by predators.

By 1.5 million years ago, Homo erectus had developed tools for hunting and butchering animals. Scientists believe it was then that meat overtook plant sources in the hominid diet. By the late Paleolithic Era, 65 percent of hominid’s diet came from animals. Some hominid species exploited deer, pigs, buffalo, sheep and even rhinoceroses, and Neanderthals also consumed large quantities of freshwater fish.

Early Foraging

The few existing dental remains reveal that the earliest hominids lived by gathering nuts, berries and other wild vegetation. Without tools, they were only able to consume meat by scavenging eggs or picking carcasses left by predators. Their body structure was that of an herbivore’s as well. A more prominent mandible with sizable grinding molars, such as those of Australopithecus anamensis, made it easier to break down plant fibers. A larger digestive tract with specialized enzymes aided their digestion. Yet, gradually, as primitive tool-making advanced, meat consumption rose dramatically.

Primitive Hunting

By 1.5 million years ago, Homo erectus had developed tools for hunting and butchering animals. Scientists believe it was then that meat overtook plant sources in the hominid diet. By the late Paleolithic Era, roughly 65 percent of all food intake came from animals. Various sites in China reveal that Peking Man exploited deer, pigs, buffalo, sheep and even rhinoceroses. Butchering marks have also been found on animal bones across Europe. In a very rare find, archaeologists in the 1950s discovered a red deer skeleton with a Neanderthal spear still intact.

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