Early Pleistocene aquatic resource use in the Turkana Basin

Will Archer, David R. Braun Jack W.K. Harris, Jack T. McCoy, Brian G. Richmond

Source - http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0047248414000566

Journal of Human Evolution



Evidence for the acquisition of nutritionally dense food resources by early Pleistocene hominins has implications for both hominin biology and behavior. Aquatic fauna may have comprised a source of highly nutritious resources to hominins in the Turkana Basin at ∼1.95 Ma. Here we employ multiple datasets to examine the issue of aquatic resource use in the early Pleistocene. This study focuses on four components of aquatic faunal assemblages (1) taxonomic diversity, (2) skeletal element proportion, (3) bone fragmentation and (4) bone surface modification. These components are used to identify associations between early Pleistocene aquatic remains and hominin behavior at the site of FwJj20 in the Koobi Fora Fm. (Kenya). We focus on two dominant aquatic species: catfish and turtles. Further we suggest that data on aquatic resource availability as well as ethnographic examples of aquatic resource use complement our observations on the archaeological remains from FwJj20. Aquatic food items provided hominins with a valuable nutritional alternative to an exclusively terrestrial resource base. We argue that specific advantages afforded by an aquatic alternative to terrestrial resources include (1) a probable reduction in required investment of energy relative to economic return in the form of nutritionally dense food items, (2) a decrease in the technological costs of resource acquisition, and (3) a reduced level of inter-specific competition associated with carcass access and an associated reduction of predation risk relative to terrestrial sources of food. The combined evidence from FwJj20 suggests that aquatic resources may have played a substantial role in early Pleistocene diets and these resources may have been overlooked in previous interpretations of hominin behavior.