Bone Appétit : Early Humans in Israel Invented Food Storage 400,000 Years Ago, Scientists Find

pAlmost half a million years ago, early humans had apparently discovered the principle of squirreling away food for a rainy day.

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The hominins living in Qesem Cave in central Israel during the early Palaeolithic, around 400,000 to 220,000 years ago,seem to have preserved long bones of fallow deer which they would only break to extract the nutritious marrow after weeks, possibly longer, suggests a team of Israeli and Spanish scientists.

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Experiments with latter-day dead deer indicate that the marrow inside skin-covered bones could have remained edible and nutritious for up to nine weeks, under some conditions, Dr. Ruth Blasco of Tel Aviv University and the team reported Wednesday in Science Advances. “The nine weeks is under modern conditions,” points out co-author Dr. Ran Barkai of Tel Aviv University to Haaretz. “That’s a minimum. They may have stored their bones for longer.”

And how did the archaeologists figure this out? By noticing atypical cut marks from stone tools on fossilized deer metapodial bones that couldn’t be explained at Qesem. No such marks had ever been seen, or at least noticed, before. Metapodials (the bones between the ankle and the hoof) is as long as the other parts of the legs in ungulates, and they are not meat-bearing bones. There’s nothing to eat there.