There is a relevant factor in our diet that helped the progress of the human race. What were the extinctions that favored our evolution? In particular, that of large prey, on which human nutrition was based. This forced our ancestors to develop improved weapons to hunt small prey. And in the process, it prompted evolutionary adaptations.
A new Tel Aviv University study reviewed the evolution of hunting weapons. It went from spears tipped with wood and stone, to the sophisticated bow and arrow of a later era. This correlated with changes in prey size and human culture and physiology.
The researchers explain: “We needed to hunt smaller and smaller prey faster and faster. The changes in hunting weapons were a reflection of cognitive enhancement.” The study was led by Dr. Miki Ben-Dor and Prof. Ran Barkai of Tel Aviv University. The article was published in Quaternary.
Dr. Ben-Dor says in a statement, “We analyzed findings from nine prehistoric sites. We looked for a correlation between the occurrence of stone-tipped spears and the progressive decrease in prey size. A sophisticated method of stone carving known as the Levallois technique was examined. It is especially indicative of cognitive development. A good quality stone core is prepared and then a pointed object is cut in a single stroke. The process requires you to imagine the end result beforehand.”
An important coincidence was found. “Something was detected at all sites. Stone points made with Levallois technology appeared simultaneously coincident with another event. The relative decrease in the amount of large prey bones.”
At the end of the Upper Paleolithic, about 25,000 years ago, new means of hunting emerged. Dogs, traps and fishing hooks. Data have been known about this continuous evolution of hunting weapons. It was accompanied by an improvement in human cognition and skills.
The extinctions that favored our evolution, precisely, are that of large species. Mammoths were an important component of the human diet for a million years. Their disappearance coincided with humans developing new skills. It is ironic that we now dream of bringing mammoths back to life.