One area of paleoanthropological study involves the eating and dietary habits of hominids, erect bipedal primates — including early humans. It is clear that at some stage of history, humans began to carry their food to central places, called home bases, where it was shared and consumed with the young and other adults. The use of home bases is a fundamental component of human social behavior; the common meal served at a common hearth is a powerful symbol, a mark of social unity. Home base behavior does not occur among nonhuman primates and is rare among mammals. It is unclear when humans began to use home bases, what kind of communications and social relations were involved, and what the ecological and food-choice contexts of the shift were. Work on early tools, surveys of paleoanthropological sites, development and testing of broad ecological theories, and advances in comparative primatology are contributing to knowledge about this central chapter in human prehistory.
One innovative approach to these issues involves studying damage and wear on stone tools. Researchers make tools that replicate excavated specimens as closely as possible and then try to use them as the originals might have been used, in woodcutting, hunting, or cultivation. Depending on how the tool is used, characteristic chippage patterns and microscopically distinguishable polishes develop near the edges. The first application of this method of analysis to stone tools that are 1.5 million to 2 million years old indicates that, from the start, an important function of early stone tools was to extract highly nutritious food — meat and marrow — from large animal carcasses. Fossil bones with cut marks caused by stone tools have been discovered lying in the same 2-million-year-old layers that yielded the oldest such tools and the oldest hominid specimens (including humans) with larger than ape-sized brains. This discovery increases scientists’ certainty about when human ancestors began to eat more meat than present-day nonhuman primates. But several questions remain unanswered: how frequently meat eating occurred; what the social implications of meat eating were; and whether the increased use of meat coincides with the beginnings of the use of home bases.
古人类学研究的一个领域涉及人类的食物和饮食习惯，直立的双足灵长类动物 – 包括早期人类。很明显，在历史的某个阶段，人类开始将食物运送到中央地方，称为家庭基地，在那里与年轻人和其他成年人共享和消费。家庭基地的使用是人类社会行为的基本组成部分;在共同的壁炉旁供应的共同膳食是一个强有力的象征，是社会团结的标志。非人灵长类动物不会发生家庭基础行为，在哺乳动物中很少见。目前尚不清楚人类何时开始使用家庭基地，涉及何种沟通和社会关系，以及这种转变的生态和食物选择背景是什么。早期工具的研究，古人类学遗址的调查，广泛生态学理论的发展和测试，以及比较灵长学的进展，都有助于了解人类史前史这一中心篇章。 解决这些问题的一种创新方法是研究石材工具的损坏和磨损。研究人员制作的工具尽可能地复制挖掘出的标本，然后尝试使用它们，因为原木可能已被用于木材切割，狩猎或栽培。根据工具的使用方式，在边缘附近形成特征性的碎屑图案和显微镜可区分的抛光剂。这种分析方法首次应用于150万至200万年前的石材工具，这表明，从一开始，早期石材工具的一个重要功能是从大型动物尸体中提取高营养的食物 – 肉和骨髓。已经发现石头工具引起切割痕迹的化石骨骼位于相同的200万年前的层中，这些层产生了最古老的这种工具和最老的原始人类标本（包括人类），大于猿大脑。这一发现增加了科学家对于人类祖先何时开始比现今非人类灵长类动物吃更多肉类的确定性。但仍有几个问题没有答案：吃肉的频率是多少;吃肉的社会意义是什么;以及增加使用肉类是否与使用本垒的开始时间一致。