Research ArticleANTHROPOLOGY

Bone marrow storage and delayed consumption at Middle Pleistocene Qesem Cave, Israel (420 to 200 ka)

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Science Advances  09 Oct 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 10, eaav9822
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav9822

Abstract

Bone marrow and grease constitute an important source of nutrition and have attracted the attention of human groups since prehistoric times. Marrow consumption has been linked to immediate consumption following the procurement and removal of soft tissues. Here, we present the earliest evidence for storage and delayed consumption of bone marrow at Qesem Cave, Israel (~420 to 200 ka). By using experimental series controlling exposure time and environmental parameters, combined with chemical analyses, we evaluated bone marrow preservation. The combination of archaeological and experimental results allowed us to isolate specific marks linked to dry skin removal and determine a low rate of marrow fat degradation of up to 9 weeks of exposure. This is the earliest evidence of such previously unidentified behavior, and it offers insights into the socio-economy of the human groups who lived at Qesem and may mark a threshold to new modes of Palaeolithic human adaptation.

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