Research Paper on Behavior of the Homo Habilis
During the 1970s and 1980s, an archaeologist by the name of Glynn Isaac hypothesized that there was an association of stone tools and faunal remains which showed that the behavior of the Homo Habilis’s resembled contemporary hunter-gathers in hunting, sexual division of labor, food sharing, and central place foraging. Isaac’s arguments were investigated with site taphonomy, experimental archaeology and ethnoarchaeology.
Glynn Isaac and his team went out to Koobi Fora to see this connection. After collecting evidence, he hypothesized that these sites could be divided into 3 categories: Stone tool accumulations without bones, which meant these sites served as tool creation sites; stone tool accumulations with bones of one animal, which were considered to be butchering sites; stone tool accumulations with the bones of many animals, meaning these were the home bases (Lecture 5a). Later, the site taphonomy of the home bases of Isaac’s research was criticized by an archaeologist named Lew Binford. He criticized and pointed out that the home bases that Isaac acknowledged were near water and continued to say that all these animals came to drink water from these sites, which became an easy kill for the carnivorous animals (Lecture 5a). Thus, leading to all the faunal remains in that area. From this, Binford released four alternative hypotheses: hydraulic amenity, which was that the bones and tools washed up the stream together; common amenity, which meant the tools and bones had nothing to with one another; home base foraging, where hominins hunted these animals and brought them back to their home bases; Scavenging, where hominins were scavenging prey near the water from animals. Isaac would return back to FxJj50 in Koobi Fora and excavate this site, in response to Binfords criticism, and began with experimental archaeology to prove his arguments.
Experimental archaeology played an important role in providing further evidence for Isaac’s arguments. Isaac and his team used Oldowan tools to cut and butcher animals. They found that not only were these tools great for butchering (Toth, page 121), but also that the cut marks they had produced from their experiment were similar to the cut marks that were identified on archaeological specimens. This demonstrated that the tools and bones were associated with one another, which caused Binford’s hypothesis of common amenity to be rejected(Lecture 5a). Isaac was also able to reassemble the stone flakes and bones in the area, debunking hydraulic amenity. With scavenging and home base forging the only hypotheses left, Isaac conducted an experiment where he would break the bones with an Oldowan tool and saw that it resembles the percussion pits of archaeological bone. This ultimately led to Binford’s scavenging hypothesis being supported and Isaac’s hypothesis of homo habilis hunting these animals in a state of unknown (Lecture 5a).
Ethnoarchaeology also played a huge part in Isaac’s arguments. The Hadza, which were a contemporary group based in Tanzania, South Africa, were studied to get a look into how Homo habilis hunted, their division of labor, and food sharing. The Hadza men were centered around hunting large animals, while the women and children gathered foods that were reliable such as berries, honey, and tubers, which demonstrates sexual division of labor (Guts: Origins of us, Segment 8). The hunting technology of the Hadza group compared to the Homo habilis was far greater (Lecture 5a). With that being said, catching and killing these large animals was rare, making women the individuals who could reliably bring food to eat. It is likely that Homo Habilis’ scavenged low utility parts off animals that were killed by other animals and ate things such as berries and tubers. One of the three types of sites that Isaac concluded was the area with stone tools and many animals. This site was considered to be the home base for these Homo habilis species. Ethnoarchaeology of the Hadza supports this hypothesis because once the Hadza are done hunting and gathering, they would bring back the food to the home base and share with the group members (Blumenschine and Cavallo, page 3) and leave all the faunal remains within a small radius.
Majority of Glynn Isaac’s arguments were supported by experimental archaeology, site taphonomy, and ethnoarchaeology. Though individuals such as Binford challenged Isaac’s arguments, many of the original arguments are still valid today. The only argument that was refuted was the theory that Homo Habilis’ hunted large animals as they lacked the tools to do so. With the study of the Hadza group, it reveals that large game was rather difficult to apprehend, indicating that Homo Habilis likely relied on foods such as berries, tubers, and etc.
“Guts: Origins of Us.” Films On Demand, Films Media Group, 2011, fod.infobase.com/PortalPlaylists.aspx?wID=106564&xtid=52549. Accessed 12 Jan. 2021.
Toth, Nicholas. “The First Technology .” Scientific American, Scientific American, 1987, www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-first-technology/.
Blumenschine, Robert J, and John A Cavallo. “Scavenging and Human Evolution .” Scientific American, www.scientificamerican.com/article/scavenging-and-human-evolution/.