New data indicates that early humans have always hunted the largest animals available to total extinction over the past 1.5 million years.
According to a UN report , human activity over the past two centuries has pushed more than a million species to extinction in recent decades, but humans are responsible for the sixth major mass extinction since much earlier, according to a new Telaviv University study on hunting practices of early humans 1.5 million years ago.
The study shows that humans always hunted the largest animals available until they became scarce or extinct, and then moved on to the next largest available. When only small animals remained in their environment, then humans began to domesticate animals and develop agriculture.
The researchers hypothesize that technological advances throughout human evolution were driven by the need to hunt smaller and faster animals. According to the authors, “Since the arrival of mankind, humans have always devastated their natural environment, but they have also found solutions to the problems they created. However, the damage to the environment was often irreversible.
HUNT TO EXTINCTION, FROM THE LARGEST TO THE SMALLEST
The researchers say that, at any given time, early humans preferred to hunt the largest animals available in their environment, which provided the largest amounts of food for a unit of effort. The study, unprecedented in its scope and duration, presents a comprehensive analysis of data on animal bones discovered at dozens of prehistoric sites in and around Israel.
The findings indicate a continuous decline in the size of animals hunted by man as the main source of food: from giant elephants of 1-1.5 million years ago to gazelles of 10,000 years ago. According to the researchers, these discoveries offer an illuminating picture of the interaction between humans and the animals around them during the last 1.5 million years.
Study director Jacob Dembitzer considers the southern Levant (Israel, Palestine, southwestern Syria, Jordan and Lebanon) to be an ‘archaeological laboratory’ due to the density of prehistoric finds. In a relatively small area, evidence of the presence of humans is concentrated, starting with Homo erectus , who arrived 1.5 million years ago, through Neanderthals , who lived here from an unknown time until they disappeared about 45,000 years ago. , to modern humans, who arrived from Africa in several waves, starting about 180,000 years ago.
The results of the study indicate that a third of the bones left by Homo erectus in sites dated approximately one million years ago, belonged to elephants that weighed up to 13 tons (more than double the weight of the modern African elephant) and provided humans with 90% of their food. The average weight of