Lakeside scavenging/ambush, raw meat eating in Britain
Excavations took place in 2004
Bones and tusks dating back 400,000 years are the earliest signs in Britain
of ancient humans butchering elephants for meat, say archaeologists.
Remains of a single adult elephant surrounded by stone tools were found in
northwest Kent during work on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.
Scientists believe hunters used the tools to cut off the meat, after killing
the animal with wooden spears.
The find is described in the Journal of Quaternary Science.
The first signs of the Stone Age site were uncovered by constructors at
Southfleet Road in Ebbsfleet, Kent.
There does seem to be increasing evidence that they were focusing on hunting
only the larger animals with more meat.
[MV: evidence of butchering, not of hunting ]
Excavations revealed the skeleton of an extinct species of elephant
(Palaeoloxodon antiquus) lying at the edge of what would once have been a
Flint tools lay scattered around, suggesting the animal had been cut up by a
tribe of the early humans around at the time, known as Homo heidelbergensis.
"It is the earliest site of elephant butchery in Britain," Dr Francis
Wenban-Smith of the University of Southampton told the BBC News website.
"In fact it is the only such site in Britain and it is very rare to find
undisturbed evidence of this kind."
Dr Wenban-Smith believes the elephant, which was twice the size of those
living today, was probably brought down by a pack of hunters armed with
[MV: IOW, the usal biases]
The elephant was a fully-grown male, weighing 10 tonnes.
It was probably felled by spears, which early humans were using at the time.
Stone tools would have been gathered nearby; chips suggest they were used to
butcher the carcass.
"They either hunted it or possibly found it in an injured state and then
killed it," he explained.
"Then they got some flint tools from nearby and they would have swarmed all
over it and cut off the meat.
"They would have been carrying off armfuls of meat to their local base
The elephant would have been eaten raw, as there is no evidence that fire
was used for cooking at the time.
The hunter gatherers probably also feasted on other large mammals, as the
bones of buffalo, rhino, deer and horse were also found nearby.
"There does seem to be increasing evidence that they were focusing on
hunting only the larger animals with more meat and suggestions that they
were living in larger groups than we've generally thought," said Dr
The remains of the elephant - including parts of its upper torso, skull,
fore-limbs, tusks and some teeth - have been taken to the Natural History
Museum for further analysis.
The site itself has been covered over and now lies beneath a roundabout near
the Channel Tunnel Rail Link car park.