Saturday, February 16, 2008

Deconstructing Olduvai
The Olduvai Paleoanthropological and Paleoecological Project (TOPPP) in which the the Universidad Complutense de Madrid participated aims to expose the false presumptions made by previous studies which concluded that the first humans were scavengers. This is a well established model that has stood unchallenged until recently. The discussion is on.

The Olduvai Paleoanthropological and Paleoecological Project directed by Manuel Domínguez-Rodrigo from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Audax Mabulla from the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Henry Bunn from the University of Wisconsin in the USA focuses on the excavation of the archaeological site I estimated to be two million years old and set at the famous Olduvai Gorge.

The contention with the Blumenschine team has led to discussions in magazines such as Nature nº 449 20th September 2007 and the Journal of Human Evolution nº 53, page. 427-433 October 2007, Domínguez-Rodrigo and his team have proved that what the other researchers interpreted as teeth marks made by carnivores on the fossils, are in reality biochemical marks with a very different origin, such as fungus and bacteria that were brought in to contact with the bones by the roots of plants that grew in the sediment in which they were buried.

Hard to decipher the article. They appear to be saying that most/all of the carnivore teeth marks on the faunal remains from Olduvai are not teeth marks at all. That implies that. . .well, it's difficult to say. They suggest that the assemblages aren't therefore related to anything the hominids were doing, i.e., that they weren't scavenging carcasses and leaving the remains all over the place.

I dunno, I'll have to read the original research. I kind of find it difficult to believe that taphonomists have been so wrong about tooth marks all this time. But, maybe on bones that old it's more difficult than I presume.