Did Early Man Go Meatless?

Northern Ethiopia was once home to a vast, ancient lake. Saber-toothed cats prowled around it; giant crocodiles swam within. The streams and rivers that fed it—more than 3 million years ago, during the Pliocene—left behind trails of sediment that have now hardened into sandstone.

Deposited within these layers are fossils: some of early hominins, along with the bones of hippos, antelope, and elephants. The anthropologist Jessica Thompson encountered two of these specimens, from an area named Dikika, in 2010.

At the time, she was a visiting researcher at the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University. Given no explanation as to their history, she analyzed the bones and found signs of butchery. Percussion marks suggested someone may have accessed the marrow; cut marks hinted that flesh was stripped from bone. To her surprise, the specimens …

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