The Evidence of Peking Mans Diet Brain and Hackberries Anyone

Ecology can tell us much about the behavior of Homo erectus, particularly its dietary behavior. Vegetable foods were undoubtedly important to this still semitropical species, but protein from meat was also demonstrated to be a major aspect of erectus s cuisine. Fire was therefore probably important. As we know from the archaeological data, some of the meat that Homo erectus scrounged in the cave and cut off of old kills of carnivores was less than fresh, and natural selection may have favored a taste for seared steak at this time. Certainly, as we now know from genetic studies, carnivore tapeworms had already colonized the hominid digestive tract. Any behavior that reduced this type of parasitism would have been beneficial to the species.

What of the rest of the diet of Homo erectus? Binford and Stone's discovery of the remnants of roasted horse heads at Locality 1 is important because it shows that organ meat—in this case, the brain—was also eaten. The brain is a fatty (lipid-rich) organ that mammalian carnivores tend to relish. We have already seen that hyaenids at Longgushan expended substantial effort to get at the brains of the hominids who fell into their clutches.

Ralph Chaney was a paleobotanist from the University of California at Berkeley who worked at Zhoukoudian in the 1930s. He discovered and subsequently identified an abundance of seeds belonging to the hackberry tree, Celtis sp.15 Fruits of the Celtis tree are eaten by primates in the wild, and Chaney surmised that the seeds found in the cave were remains of Homo erectus meals. But an equally plausible scenario is that a hackberry tree grew near the entrance of a vertical opening

Homo erectus from Nariokotome, west of Lake Turkana, Kenya, nicknamed "Turkana Boy." This almost complete skeleton is dated to 1.55 million years ago and is the most complete early evidence of the species. We term Turkana Boy's species Homo erectus ergaster, to distinguish it from the later Homo erectus erectus from Longus-shan and Java.

Homo erectus from Nariokotome, west of Lake Turkana, Kenya, nicknamed "Turkana Boy." This almost complete skeleton is dated to 1.55 million years ago and is the most complete early evidence of the species. We term Turkana Boy's species Homo erectus ergaster, to distinguish it from the later Homo erectus erectus from Longus-shan and Java.

into the cave, and berries simply fell in as they became ripe. Another possibility is that birds that roosted in the cave ate the berries, and deposited the seeds in their guano on the cave floor. So, unfortunately, we cannot say for sure from the fossil evidence that erectus dined on hackberry seeds, even if they may have been a regular or seasonal component of their diet.

Another way to assess what erectus ate at Longgushan is to reconstruct the plant life during the times that the species lived in the area. Pollen in the sediments has been identified and can give a general idea of what plants grew there. Food plants that modern Chinese primates eat are today found only in southern China and were likely present around Longgushan only during the warm interglacial periods. The replacement of these woody and forest-adapted species by the grasses and sedges of the glacial periods may have been a major impetus for Homo erectus to migrate as well.

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