Just like in my earlier blog about the means of the names of our evolutionary ancestors (http://anthropologicalconcepts.weebly.com/blog/meanings-and-origins-of-evolutionary-ancestors-names), I will start with Ardipithecus ramidus. This species foods are interesting because they were most likely omnivoures. That means that their diets consisted of plants, meat, and fruit, but did not eat hard foods, such as nuts. How we know this is because of their enamel (the visible part of the tooth, covering the crown). The enamel of Ar. ramidus was not thick or thin; if it was thick that would imply they could eat tough foods. It is theorized they “probably also avoided tough foods, as they did not have the heavy chewing specializations of later Australopithecus species.”
That brings us to the next of our evolutionary ancestors, Australopithecus afarensis. These, unlike Ar. ramidus would eat hard foods, but soft ones as well. They had a diet of leaves, fruit, seeds, roots, nuts, and insects. This is the reason I said the foods of Ar. ramidus was “interesting,” because we do not see a meat eating (even though insects are seen as meat) evolutionary ancestor til we begin to speak of the family of Homo. Now unlike Ar. Ramidus, the way we know what Au. Afarensis ate is because of dental microwear (scratches and pits that can result from chewing) and the tooth size and shape. At the end of the previous paragraph I stated that the Australopithecus species had the ability to chew on hard foods. We know this because of their jaws; they were more robust and could take the chewing of hard foods.
In the 1940s and 1950s, the next evolutionary ancestor was thought to have eaten meat because the bones of Australopithecus africanus would be found next to broken animal bones. It was assumed these broken bones were used as weapons. But in the 1970s and 1980s other scientists recognized there were other predators alive at the same time Au. africanus was, so the bones they found of them were the remains of a meal. The actual meals of Au. africanus could not be further than meat. “...diet similar to modern chimpanzees, which consisted of fruit, plants, nuts, seeds, roots, insects, and eggs (although modern chimpanzees eat other apes, that is the difference in their eating habits).”
Now we will dive into the world of the meat eating Homo's. First we have Homo habilis. Seeing how the meaning of the name of this species is they could make tools, they did eat meat. But meat was not the only part of their diet. Because their dental microwear and because of their thick strong jaws (even though they had smaller teeth that those of the Australopithecus), they had a “broad range of foods.” These included leaves, woody plants, meat, and (bone) marrow eating. Notice how when I said “they could make tools,” I did not say “weapons.” Reason for this is because early Homo scavenged for meat, but for H. habilis to get to the bone marrow they had to have had some sort of tool to crack the bone open.
Next we have Homo ergaster. Not much is known about this Homo's diet, but we knew they definitely ate meat. How we know this is because of their skeletal make up. They had a “narrower pelvis and rib cage,” and this suggests they had a smaller gut that Australopithecus afarensis. That said, they had a bigger brain, which means they needed more nourishing foods, so this suggests they would have had more meat in their diets.
The Homo I will address next is the first to cook their food, mostly because they were the first to have discovered fire. This is Homo erectus. This was not only the first Homo to cook their food, but to hunt for it as well. They discovered fire just in time because they had relatively small teeth and jaws which were not suited for eating raw meat. Not only did H. erectus eat meat, but they got their fill of veggies; mostly leaves and crunchy foods (root vegetables, like carrots, celery, potatoes, or radishes). Their tools give insight on what kinds of foods they would eat. For example their hammers (big rounded and/or pointed stones) were most likely used for nuts and seeds.
Homo erectus may have been the first hunter, but Homo heidelbergensis was an even more skilled hunter. I say this because they hunted large animals, from rhinos, bears (they were not skilled enough to hunt mammoths because the Neanderthals were the first to hunt those). H. heidelbergensis would then use the hides of their kills for the colder temperatures. Even though they did eat other foods, such as grasses, fruits, and nuts, a good 70% of their diet was meat.
Last we have Homo sapiens. Not much is known about the foods of this Homo. Some eat meat, vegetables, and fruits, while others eat only vegetables and fruits. This is a very confusing species. Of course, I am speaking of our current species. It is interesting (but saddening) how some have an abundance of food in which they can not decide what to eat, while others have none.
Please feel free to comment on what you thought of the blog, or other physical anthropological subjects you would like me to cover.