Hominid tool‐making versus carnivore scavenging

Pat Shipman, Jane Phillips‐Conroy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The effects of hyena scavenging on the remains of 75 animals in the Awash National Park, Ethiopia, were examined to provide a modern analogy to the fossil assemblage from Makapan. Brain's recent work ('70, '76) suggests that the actions of carnivores may account for the characteristics of the Makapan assemblage, a theory which contrasts with Dart's ('49, '55, '57, '59) interpretation of the fossils as osteodontokeratic tools and weapons manufactured, collected, and used by australopithecines. The modern assemblage was like that from Makapan in terms of relative representation of skeletal elements and patterns of bone breakage. Observations of hyenas in the Awash also lend support to the hypothesis that the Makapan assemblage may represent the uneaten remains of carnivore kills. The representation of major vertebrate groups at Makapan was compared with their representation at Awash and with their representation in hyena diets in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater (Kruuk, '72). This technique of faunal analysis was unable to detect differences between these groups, despite the fact that the three modern assemblages represent animals that died of different causes. Thus extreme caution must be used in deducing any specific information about the mode of death or taphonomic history of the animals represented in an assemblage on the basis of such faunal analyses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-86
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1977

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anatomy
  • Anthropology


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