« Reply #251 on: September 09, 2008, 08:37:39 AM »
I'm no longer convinced that paleo humans ate as much plant material as we've been lead to believe. Take a look at this link: http://www.biblelife.org/woman7700.htm and 7,000 years was not all that long ago. I have no idea if there is anything further on this subject, however, it is interesting that the idea that humans have always included significant amounts of plant foods, especially seasonal fruits, in their diet, is seldom challenged. If the information in the above link is accurate, then maybe we are really top level carnivores and not omnivores at all.
I have been moving toward that same conclusion, Lex. When I first started Paleo-style eating I thought that Cordain was right that most Stone Agers probably ate lots of plant foods along with flesh foods. The !Kung San are a favorite hunter-gatherer group for the plant-oriented Paleolithic nutrition scientists to point to, because they eat the most plant foods of any modern HG people.
Increasingly I am coming to the conclusion that most Stone Age humans from around 500,000 years before the present to around 7,000 yrs BP were essentially opportunistic carnivores. I now think that the current diet of the !Kung San is likely a forced innovation in response to the decline of game in their territories, and that likely ate much more flesh food in the past. Stone Agers probably tried to get meat every day, but if they couldn't get any then they ate plant foods. I'm thinking that perhaps women spent more time hunting small game than we have been led to believe, and only gathered significant plant foods if they didn't catch anything. The bones of that carnivorous woman discussed in the article above suggest that even female Stone Agers ate much more meat than plants.
As recently as a year ago I would have considered the carnivorous view too farfetched. I laughed when my brother-in-law joked about his family becoming carnivores because of the plentiful meat they were eating from his successful hunts. I made sure at that time that he understood that Stone Agers ate plenty of plants too. Now I take carnivory seriously and think that plant foods were a very small (though not nonexistent) part of the diet.
Around 500k yrs BP, the giant hyenas and giant cats declined in numbers, creating a boom in megafauna on the fertile Eurasian steppes along the edges of the glaciers. Hominids, including ancestors of homo sapiens, filled the void that those great predators left behind, scavenging and hunting for brains, marrow, meat and other organs. Over time, their hunting skills increased greatly, to the point where they rarely had to scavenge any more. They became the most skilled hunters in the history of the planet, killing vast numbers of prime-age (reproductively fertile years) mammoths, aurochs, bison, reindeer, stags, etc. to the point where they eventually drove some megafauna species to extinction (likely in combination with climate change and other factors).
Evolutionary scientists believe that animals are best adapted to the foods that were plentiful at the time of the last great evolution of species in their family tree and for some time thereafter. These species evolving events are often associated with bottlenecks in which only those that can survive well on the major foods of the time survive. The last two great species changes in human history were the evolution of homo sapiens around 250,000 years ago and the evolution of homo sapiens sapiens over a period covering around 40-70,000 years or more BP. Both of these periods fall well within the period of opportunistic carnivory in human history.
They not only ate the flesh of these animals, they made homes, weapons, ornaments, and clothing out of their bones, skins and hides, connective tissues, teeth, claws, feathers and quills. They wore their hides and skulls in religious ceremonies and believed that they became one with the animals by eating them--that they ingested their spirits as well as their flesh, and that in so doing they ensured that the animal spirits lived on. Their whole lives revolved around the following, hunting, butchering and eating of the megafauna.
Humans are not quite as carnvirous as obligate carnivores like tarsiiform primates and cats (like lions) or canines. But we seem to be more carnivorous than most if not all of the omnivores (like bears and boars). In other words, Stone Age humans appear to have been the greatest consumers of plants among the carnivores, but carnivores nonetheless. Perhaps this will eventually lead to an official reclassification of homo sapiens sapiens as an opportunistic carnivore rather than an omnivore with a fairly meat-heavy original diet.