• Early Humans

    The current consensus seems to be that early humans where big game hunters for a large part of their diet. However, there is not sufficient evidence to support that belief. It’s also agreed that we progressed from the “hunter-gather” stage of society to more of an agrarian one focused on domesticated crops and more advanced farming. If Humans were so focused on hunting game, why did we suddenly focus more on farming plants? It can’t be that we found a few select animals (i.e. cows, pigs, et al) to be easy to manage…

    There’s little dispute that early Humans were scavengers looking for anything easy to reach for food. That often meant we ate plants within arms’ reach. However, it’s believed that humans, like other scavengers, would use the remains of animals killed by other animals. If the killed game had any nutritional value left, perhaps Humans would have ate it in the absence of other readily digestible food sources. Otherwise, those bones would make great utility for tools.

    Current Consensus

    Here’s the current “evidence” that suggests that early humans were big game hunters:

    Fossil evidence: The remains of large animals, such as mammoths, bison, and deer, have been found at many archaeological sites alongside stone tools and other artifacts. This suggests that early humans hunted and butchered these animals for food.

    Bone fractures: Studies of bone fractures in early human remains suggest that they were caused by hunting accidents or close-range encounters with large animals.

    Hunting weapons: Early humans developed a range of hunting weapons, including spears, bows and arrows, and traps, which suggests that hunting played an important role in their culture and diet.

    Brain size: The brain size of early humans increased significantly around 2 million years ago, which some experts argue was a result of the increased need for cognitive abilities required for hunting and scavenging.

    Isotopic analysis: Isotopic analysis of early human remains suggests that they consumed a significant amount of animal protein, including meat.

    Next to fossils

    In the bones

    The “Bone fractures” evidence is weak at best in support of hunting animals.

    Isotopic analysis

    While isotopic analysis of early human remains could suggests that they consumed a significant amount of animal protein, it’s worth noting that some plants sources do have similar nitrogen isotopic ratios compared with animal protein. For example, legumes such as beans, lentils, and peas are known to be good sources of plant-based protein.

    Similarly, nuts and seeds can also provide significant amounts of protein, and some studies have found that the isotopic ratios of nitrogen in these foods can approach those of animal protein.

    Plants generally have lower concentrations of nitrogen compared to animal tissues, but there are some plant-based protein sources that can provide relatively high concentrations of nitrogen and other essential amino acids.


    The shift towards agriculture and domestication of crops likely occurred gradually over time and was influenced by a variety of factors, including environmental changes and population growth. Farming allowed for a more reliable and sustainable food source, which may have been particularly important as human populations began to grow and expand.

    How much protein?

    Determining the exact percentage of animal protein in the early human diet is a complex and ongoing area of research. The available evidence suggests that early humans were likely opportunistic omnivores, meaning that they ate a wide variety of plant and animal foods depending on what was available in their environment.

    Some studies have suggested that early human diets may have contained as much as 50-70% animal protein, based on analyses of bone collagen and other biomarkers. However, other studies have suggested that the proportion of animal protein in the diet may have been lower, perhaps around 25-35%.

    It’s important to note that the percentage of animal protein in the early human diet likely varied depending on factors such as geographic location, climate, and the availability of different food resources. For example, early humans living in colder climates with fewer plant-based food sources may have had a higher reliance on animal protein for their diets.

    Overall, while it’s difficult to determine the exact percentage of animal protein in the early human diet, the available evidence suggests that it was likely a significant part of the diet for many early human populations.

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