PerspectivePaleontology

Reading Pliocene Bones

Science  06 Apr 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6077, pp. 46-47
DOI: 10.1126/science.1216221

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Summary

The human ability to make complex tools is unparalleled in the animal kingdom and is a key character of Homo sapiens. Flaked stone tools and cut-marked bones are the first traces of this behavior. Yet the interpretation of bone modifications is complicated by similar traces left, for example, by carnivorous animals (see the figure). Given the scarcity of butchered bones from the Pliocene (5.3 to 2.6 million years ago) and Early Pleistocene (2.6 to 0.76 million years ago), even a single misidentification can have profound effects on the interpretation of early hominid behavior.

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