The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

The way of all flesh? 'The other faunivory' revisited


Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, UK

Saturday 8:00-8:15, Galleria South Add to calendar

Ten years ago, I sought to explore the possible role of invertebrates in the diets of extinct hominins, proposing some tentative modelling based on the foraging and diet of living nonhuman primates, especially hominoids. Subtopics that were raised included various modes of insectivory (or entomophagy), taxonomic contrasts across the Order Primates, the role of technology in harvesting prey, sex differences, and ethnographic comparisons with living Homo sapiens in traditional societies. Here I update and expand that approach, including new findings on: Ecological details of predator-prey relations between primates and insects; similarly detailed analyses of the nutritive content of invertebrate dietary components; cognitive, developmental and social learning processes involved in the acquisition and performance of insectivory; insights into the role of elementary extractive technology, including lithics; cultural transmission of exploitative skills and techniques; key role of an animal product, honey, as a universally-prized foodstuff, for both humans and apes. Some tests of proposed hypotheses have fared better (microwear, stable isotope) than others (coprolite, residue). Much research remains to be done, and crucial aspects of the ‘other faunivory’ remain to be clarified.

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