Analysis on a small bone fragment found in Africa’s famous Olduvai Gorge suggests that our pre-human ancestors may have been hunting a lot longer than scientists previously thought. The small piece of bone is estimated to be 1.5 million years old, and was found by a team of scientists on an anthropological dig. But when examined under a microscope, the bone fragment bore the signs of anemia, which according to the story, is an indication of a meat-rich diet.

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In a study published in the current issue of the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One, the scientists argue that the child belonged to a clan that depended on hunting for a major part of its diet. Hunting 1.5 million years ago is a surprise, since many scientists believe active hunting emerged much later in human evolution, possibly less than 100,000 years ago.

Prior to hunting, our ancestors were scavengers, capturing small animals or eating whatever meat was left behind by other carnivores. But the damage to the bone was found to be porotic hyperostosis, a disease caused by a lack of vitamin B12 and B9, so the child must have been accustomed to a diet rich in meat protein. Either the child, or its nurturing mother, must have suddenly been deprived of meat, causing anemia, malnutrition and ultimately death, the scientists contend.

According to the story, researchers argue that the meat dependency could not have come from scavenging because early humans simply couldn’t compete with other scavengers to get enough meat to sustain themselves. If true, scientists say the finding should prompt a reevaluation of the role hunting has played in human evolution, since it is believed that hunting clans and cultures were predecessors of modern civilization.