Facultative Carnivore

Facultative Carnivore describes the concept of animals that are technically omnivores but who thrive off of all meat diets. Humans may just be facultative carnivores - who need no plant products for long-term nutrition.

Facultative Carnivore

Recent History

January 1, 325

Claudius AElianus His Various History

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Ancient Spartans would only eat flesh, and their black broth was made of animal blood.

Claudius Aelianus, a Roman author and teacher of rhetoric who lived between c. 175 – c. 235 AD, wrote in his "Various History":


"The cooks at Lacedemon might not dress anything but flesh. He who was skilled in any other kind of cookery was cast out of Sparta. Son of Polybiades, for being grown too fat and heavy through luxury and idleness, they took out of the public Assembly, and threatened to punish him by banishment, unless he altered that blamable and rather Ionic than Laconic course of life: For his shape and habit of body was a shame to Lacedemon and our Laws". - Source


"The dish that was in the highest esteem among the Spartans was called melas zomos, or "black broth" a name which has long excited the curiosity of the learned. What were the precise ingredients of this mess has never been determined with certainty. We remember an old traveler, who, on observing the use of coffee for the first time in the East, conjectured that it was the black broth of the Lacedaemonians! Julius Pollux the preceptor of the Emperor Commodus in his "Onomasticon" says that this famous mess consisted of blood thickened in some particular way. Dr. Lister in his "Notes to Apicius" supposes it was hog's blood; and if so the dish must have had no remote resemblance to the black puddings of our own times. Whatever it was, it could have formed no very alluring dish. We are informed that a citizen of Sybaris having tasted their fare, declared that it was no longer astonishing to him that the Spartans should be so fearless of death in battle, since any one in his senses would much sooner die a thousand deaths than continue to exist on such miserable food. Plutarch relates that a king of Pontus having heard of this celebrated broth purchased a Lacedaemonian cook to make some of it for him. But when he came to taste it he expressed his detestation of the mess in very strong terms on which the cook observed, "Sir, to acquire a relish for this broth it is necessary first to bathe in the Eurotas;" meaning that the hardy habits of the Spartans gave a zest to this fare which it could not otherwise possess. The same writer informs us that the old men were so fond of it that they ranged themselves on one side to eat it leaving the meat to the young people". - Source


Nowadays, it is believed that melas zomos was made of boiled pigs' legs, blood, salt and vinegar. It is thought that the vinegar was used as an emulsifier to keep the blood from clotting during the cooking process.

January 1, 1295

Marckalada: The First Mention of America in the Mediterranean Area (c. 1340)

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Marco Polo mentioned the Mekrit people of Mongolia who lived on hunted meat, fish, and birds, and could not grow corn, wheat, or wine.

[Our] authorities say that under the equator there are very high mountains, where there are temperate settlements, made possible by winds, or by the shadow of the mountains, or by the remarkable thickness of the walls, or by underground caves in valleys. At the equator there are also many islands that are truly temperate because of the rivers, or the marshes, or the winds, or for reasons that are unknown to us.

And for a similar reason there are settlements beneath or around the Arctic pole, despite the very intense cold. These settlements are so temperate that people cannot die there: this fact is well known for Ireland. The reasons why this happens are unknown to us. Marco Polo speaks explicitly about this, when he says that there is a certain desert 40 days across where nothing grows, neither wheat nor wine, but the people live by hunting birds and animals, and they ride deers.


When you leave Karakorum and the mount Altai, you go north for 40 days through the plain of Bangu. The people who live there are called Mekrit, and they are subject to Great Khan; their customs are like those of Tartars. They are a very wild people. They feed on the meat of the animals they hunt, especially of deer, of which they have an abundance; actually, they tame the deers and, after taming, ride them. They are lacking in both wheat and wine. In summer, they hunt birds and wild animals in abundance; in winter, they eat cooked animals and birds, and move from those lands because of the excessive cold.


Sundry Particulars on the Plain Beyond Caracoron

And when you leave Caracoron and the Altay, in which they bury the bodies of the Tartar Sovereigns, as I told you, you go north for forty days till you reach a country called the PLAIN OF BARGU. The people there are called MESCRIPT; they are a very wild race, and live by their cattle, the most of which are stags, and these stags, I assure you, they used to ride upon. Their customs are like those of the Tartars, and they are subject to the Great Kaan. They have neither corn nor wine.[They get birds for food, for the country is full of lakes and pools and marshes, which are much frequented by the birds when they are moulting, and when they have quite cast their feathers and can't fly, those people catch them. They also live partly on fish.]

January 1, 1339

Cronica universalis, written by the Milanese friar Galvaneus de la Flamma

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A Milanese friar named Galveneus de la Flamma writes about the Arctic people who survive off of a carnivore diet, and who live in fear of the 'huge white bears.' "In this land, there is neither wheat nor wine nor fruit; people live on milk, meat, and fish."

Further northwards there is the Ocean, a sea with many islands where a great quantity of peregrine falcons and gyrfalcons live. These islands are located so far north that the Polar Star remains behind you, toward the south. Sailors who frequent the seas of Denmark and Norway say that northwards, beyond Norway, there is Iceland; further ahead there is an island named Grolandia, where the Polar Star remains behind you, toward the south. The governor of this island is a bishop. In this land, there is neither wheat nor wine nor fruit; people live on milk, meat, and fish. They dwell in subterranean houses and do not venture to speak loudly or to make any noise, for fear that wild animals hear and devour them. There live huge white bears, which swim in the sea and bring shipwrecked sailors to the shore. There live white falcons capable of great flights, which are sent to the emperor of Katai. Further westwards there is another land, named Marckalada, where giants live; in this land, there are buildings with such huge slabs of stone that nobody could build with them, except huge giants. There are also green trees, animals and a great quantity of birds. However, no sailor was ever able to know anything for sure about this land or about its features.

January 1, 1732

Samuel Hearne

Lachesis Lapponica - A Tour in Lapland

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Legendary scientist Carl Linnaeus (von Linne) spent 6 months living with the northern Laplanders in Sweden and witnessed their exclusive meat and dairy diet and happy and healthy demeanor.

I never met with any people who lead such easy happy lives as the Laplanders. In summer they make two meals of milk in the course of the day, and when they have gone through their allotted task of milking their reindeer, or making cheese, they resign themselves to indolent tranquillity, not knowing what to do next. In winter their food is cheese, taken once or twice a day, but in the evening they eat meat. A single reindeer supplies four persons with food for a week.


Such of the male reindeer as are destined to serve for a stock of provision, are killed before the rutting-time, and their carcases hung up to be exposed to the air and frost before flaying. The flesh is smoked and a little salted, and then laid upon sledges to dry in the sun, that it may keep through the winter till spring. About the feast of St. Matthias (Feb. 24.) the reindeer begin to be so incommoded with the gad-fly, that they are not in a fit condition to be slain for eating. From that period therefore, till the milking season, the Laplanders are obliged to live on this stock of preserved meat. At other times of the year the females are killed for immediate use, according as they are wanted. The blood is kept fresh in kegs, or other vessels, and serves for food in the spring, being added to the _välling_, with a small proportion of milk and water. The blood of these animals is thick in consistence, like that of a hog. The Laplanders carry a portion of it along with them from place to place, in bladders or some kind of vessels. A stock of this and all other necessaries is collected as late as possible, before the melting of the snow, while there still remains a track for the sledges. 


A kind of blood pudding or sausage is made, in general without flour, and with a large proportion of fat. This the Laplanders call _marfi_. 


The liver of the reindeer, which is of a considerable bulk, is boiled and eaten fresh. The lungs, being salted and moderately dried, are eaten occasionally, or else given to the dogs. The intestines, which abound with fat, are cut open, washed, and boiled fresh; nor are they unpalatable. The brain and testicles are never eaten.


The people of this country boil their meat in water only, without any addition or seasoning, and drink the broth. _Jumomjölk_ kept for a whole year is delicate eating. Berries of all kinds are boiled in it. Some persons make a practice of boiling those berries by themselves, preserving them afterwards in small tubs, or other wooden vessels. They boil their fish more thoroughly than their meat, over a slow fire, drinking likewise the water in which it has been drest. The meat is never so much boiled as to separate from the bone. Fresh fish is sometimes roasted over the fire. Few people dry and salt it, though that method is sometimes practised. Meat is dried by the air, sun and smoke all together, being hung up in the chimney, or rather hole by which the smoke escapes through the roof. 


The Laplanders never eat of more than one dish at a meal. 


By way of dainty, the women occasionally mix the berries of the Dwarf Cornel (_Cornus suecica_) with _Kappi_ , which is made of whey boiled till it grows as thick as flummery. To this they moreover add some cream. That fruit is entirely neglected in the country of Medelpad. 


In Dalecarlia the people generally keep their cattle up in the mountains, twelve or sixteen miles from their own dwellings, on account of gad-flies and other stinging insects. There they have their dairies, and make cheese. The remaining whey is boiled till two thirds are wasted, when it becomes as thick as flummery. This is sometimes eaten instead of butter, sometimes mixed with dough, or serves for food in various other manners.


The mode of their entertainment is as follows. First, if the stranger arrives before their meat is set over the fire to boil, they present him either with iced milk, or with some kind of berries mixed with milk, or perhaps with cheese, or with _kappi_. Afterwards, when the meat is sufficiently cooked, and they have taken it out of the pot, they put into the water, in which it has been boiled, slices of cheese made of reindeer milk. This is a testimony of hospitality, and that they are disposed to make their guest as welcome as they can. They next serve up some of their dry or solid preparations of milk.


The reindeer are not slaughtered in the same manner as cattle usually are either at Stockholm or in Smoland. The animal being secured with a halter, the Laplander takes his spear and sticks it into the thorax behind the shoulder, so as to pierce the heart. By this means the blood collects in the cavity of the thorax, none of it appearing externally. After the skin is flayed off, the blood is found coagulated in the thorax, from whence it is extracted, and bruised into a soft mass. With this the poorer sort of people make a kind of soup, by boiling along with it the brains of the animal, which the rich do not eat. The testicles are never eaten by any sort of people. The penis serves to make a thong to draw the sledges.


Being exceedingly tired with this walk, I was glad to repose myself here in the desert, while my Finland conductor went in search of my future guide. Nor was I without considerable fears that this man, when he had met with the Laplander, might not be able to find me again. However, about noon he returned, accompanied by a Laplander, who took charge of me, inviting me home to his hut, where he treated me with fish, and fresh water. 


I was afterwards conducted from one Laplander to another, till I came to a part of the river, about twenty-five miles above Lycksele. I shall not dwell on the inconveniences I was obliged to undergo every time we had to seek for any of the Laplanders, while I was quite destitute of provisions. These poor people themselves had, at this season, nothing but fish to eat, as they had not yet begun to slaughter their reindeer, nor to go a fowling; neither had they, as yet, milked any of their reindeer.


The stone and gout are entirely unknown amongst the Laplanders.


I have not heard of a single instance of jaundice.

July 5, 1742

Arctic Passage

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"The sea cow's meat tasted like the finest beef, and its fat was equally succulent. Until harried out of existence, the beast was to provide the most favored sustenance of the Bering Sea fur traders. The largest sea cows were 35 feet long and 20 feet in girth, The sea cow which Steller dissected weighed 8,000 pounds"

DEATH AND LIFE ON BERING ISLAND The expedition members who had strength enough set about providing some shelter against the wind and snow flurries that swept the beach. Winter was fast approaching, and there was an immediate need to improvise some protection for Bering and the other seriouslv ill men who were carried ashore. The men instinctively constructed shelters which resembled the Aleut dwellings traditionally built in the same latitudes- pits hollowed out of the sand, roofed with canvas sails and other material from the St. Peter. Succor did not come soon enough for some of the seamen. Several expired soon after they were conveyed ashore- the death toll was mounting. Blue foxes, at first observed joyfully by the mariners as a potential food supply, soon proved to be a great nuisance. The animals, unawed by the presence of men, darted about the camp, thick as flies, stealing any tood left unguarded and terrorizing men too weak to drive them off. In one day, Steller and Plenisner killed sixty of the audacious beasts, felling some with axes and stabbing others with knives, using their carcasses as a temporary shelter wall. Each day the slaughter continued, until heaps of carcasses were strewn about the camp site, and still the foxes came, blind to their destruction in their mad quest for food. The bodies of the dead seamen were horribly mutilated before the surviving seamen could summon up enough energy to bury them in the sand. Even then, the The sows foxes desecrated the shallow graves, digging the bodies from the carth and farrying away bloody limbs. Foxes also marauded the rowinkat and stores which the Russians were gradually bringing ashore from the St. Peter. They scattered the provisions, carried off clothing, tools, and anything else that was not secured. Steller recalled the greed of the Russians for the furs of Kamchatka foxes during the preparated of the voyage and wondered whether they were being chastised for it by the Scourge of the Bering Island animals. Half crazed by the persistentche she thieving beasts, the Russians tortured and maimed as many rokee of They killed, gouging out eyes, slicing off ears and tails, half skinning some and half roasting others in their camp fires. Neither torture nor wholesale hutchering helped. The foxes infested the camp in increasing numbers and with unchecked audacity. 


On November 14, a week after the initial landing, Steller and other hunters clubbed to death four sea otters; the first ones killed on Bering island. From their Kamchatka experiences the Russians were familiar with the sea otter and knew the value of its pelt in the Chinese trade. But the precious skins meant nothing to them now; they stewed up the best parts of the otter flesh to make a dish more palatable than that from the despised foxes and left the pelts to be devoured by the camp robbers. In the wake of the Bering expedition, better-fed Russians were to visit Bering Island and the Aleutians for the primary purpose of hunting sea otters. The discovery of the sea otters in November 1741 initiated the conquest of the Bering Sea, the exploitation of its resources and people. For the succeeding century, the quest of the sea otter was to underlie every event that took place. On December 8, Commander Bering's long suffering came to an end. For days he had lain half buried in the sand that had drifted into his wretched hut, protesting any efforts to clear it away. "The deeper in the ground I lie," he told Waxell, "the warmer I am; the part of my body that lies above ground suffers from the cold." 1 Bering's body was dug from the sand, tied to a plank, and thrust down into the ground, after which the burial service was read over his remains. Throughout December other deaths followed that of Berings; a total of thirty men expired in November and December. "Our plight was so wretched," wrote Waxell, "that the dead had to lie for a considerable time among the living, for there was none able to drag the corpses away; nor were those who still lived capable of moving away from the dead."? For days a dead man shared the hut in which Waxell and Khitrovlay: Whil the only able-bodied men left took time from hunting and other larks to undertake burial. Weak as he was, Waxell offered some direction. Neither then nor later, when he had recovered his health, did he attempt to drive the men. That was not an acceptable way of exerting one's power and authority. ' "Severity would have been quite pointless. Discussions on courses of action were participated in by all; the distinction between officers and seamen was erased by the circumstances waxell was cheered when the sick seamen felt well enough to sit up for card games; their play helped them pass the time and overcome the melancholy that was as deadly as scurvy. All did not share his lenient view. There were, though, certain members of our company who criticized my attitude on this point and told me to my face that I was nor discharging my duties in accordance with the regulations." + These illiberal complaints did not originate with severe, regulation-minded Russian officers, but with the expedition's most notable civilian, Georg Steller. "The sickness," wrote Steller, "had scarcely subsided, when a new and worse epidemic appeared, I mean the wretched gambling with cards." In lurid terms he described the men's obsession with gambling, their constant conversation over gains and losses, a general debauchery that resulted in theft, hatred, quarrels, strife, and the wasteful killing of sea otters for their pelts. On this last result, Steller did have a point, if it was true that otters became scarce because their furs were used as gaming stakes. Yet it does seem that the naturalist overstated his case--whether out of concern for a dwindling food supply, his abhorrence of a mindless animal slaughter, or because of a revulsion at a recreation with which he had no sympathy. While lacking the sunny bliss of the palm-studded islands of the South Pacific Ocean, Bering Island was not an entirely unfortunate place to wash up upon. Though unpromising in its rock-girded appearance, the island was not by any means infertile and desolate. Sea and land birds nested there in prodigious numbers. Foxes abounded all over the island, and its shores were the refuge of teeming herds of seals, sea lions, sed cows, and sea otters. With the Pribilof Islands of St. Paul and St. George far to the east on the Bering Sea, the Commander Islands constituted the world's major breeding rookeries of the fur seal. Hunters had no difficulty finding plump ptarmigans, foxes, seals, and sea otters, and Steller busied himself gathering antiscorbutic herbs. By this time Lieutenant Waxell, one of the iron men of the expedition, Was ultering from scurvy and was nursed by seller. Steller was one of a handful of men who remained in good health, a blessing for the less fortunate. He had strength enough to turn his energies to the care of the sick, forgetting, for a time at least, the actual and imagined insults suffered on the voyage. For the first time, the young naturalist's word had weight; no one interfered with his supervision of the scurvy victims. For once Seller would have the leisure to make a close investigation of a newly discovered land, and the island seemed to offer more natural curiosities than had been noted on the two previous landings of the vovage. 


While on Bering Island, Steller did his most important work- dissecting and describing the sea cow- -a scientific task which would assure his fame for all time. Seller also devoted much attention to the bird life of Bering Island, much of which was familiar. One bird, however, followed the sea cow's road to extinction and was long known only through Steller's description. This was a large cormorant, unable to fly, hence a prime target for food hunters. This bird, which weighed 12 to 14 pounds, was seen by only one naturalist, Steller, and disappeared about 1850. Other birds he was the first to discover were Steller's Jay, Steller's Eider, the rare Steller's Eagle, and Steller's White Raven. Steller's botanical work was of equal distinction to his observations of marine life, birds, and land animals. He classified scores of unknown plants for the first time. 


Through the winter the castaways subsisted on birds and various mammals, and in May the hunters brought in the first of the sea cows that fulfilled all the needs of the expedition. The first was a 4-ton monster with enough meat to feed the men for two weeks. Its rich, red flesh tasted like excellent beef, and its snow white, almond-flavored fat was "of such exceptionally good flavor and nourishment that we drank it by the cupful without experiencing the slightest nausea."& Steller's enthusiasm for the sea cow's potential was unbounded. "These animals are found at all seasons of the year everywhere around the island in the greatest numbers, So that the whole population of the eastern coast of Kamchatka would always be able to keep itself more than abundantly supplied from them With fat and meat." Truly, Steller's sea cow, as it came to be called, was a marvelous beast; yet the naturalist's prediction for its future was based in a false estimate of its numbers. It is probable that the sole grounds of the mammal were the coasts of the Commander Islands. In the spring it was decided to build a small ship from the remains of the St. Peter. Dismantling the stoutly built St. Peter occupied all of April, and on May 6, the keel of the new ship was laid. All three of the St. Peter's carpenters had died earlier. However, by good luck, one survivor of the voyage, a Siberian Cossack, had some shipbuilding experience and supervised the construction. Twenty men constituted the building party. The others were responsible for providing food for all. In July, the ship was completed, and provisions- -mostly sea cow meat and water were laid aboard. On August 10, the launching of the new St. Peer took place, and three days later the survivors were ready for the sea. Severe restrictions had to be imposed on individual baggage because of the limitation of space. Space had to be reserved for the valuable sea otter pelts which, as Waxell pointed out, were the spoils that repaid the men somewhat for their sufferings. Proceeds from the otters were divided, apparently according to rank. Steller received 80 skins of the 900 which were carried back, but he was outraged by his weight allotment of 360 pounds. He had to abandon what we recognize today as the single most precious trophy of the expedition-_the stuffed skin of a young sea cow, as well as a sea cow skeleton and specimens of the sea otter, fur seal, and sea lion. Plant seeds, a pair of the sea cow's horny palatal plates, field notes, and personal items accounted for the 360 pounds he was allowed. Waxell's weight allowance was twice that of Seller's, but others' allowances must have been much less, since the total weight allowed the forty-six men was only 3½ tons. Steller stormed and raged, but to no avail. Crowded aboard, the men took a last look at their abandoned camp. New occupiers had already taken over. "We watched the foxes on shore ransacking our dwellings with the greatest glee and activity and sharing among themselves what was left of fat and meat." 8 Their passage to Petropavlovsk, the port they had left fifteen months earlier, took just two weeks. At long last the first American expedition had ended. Steller survived the voyage but died in Siberia shortly after reaching the mainland. Considering the limited landfalls of the expedition, Seller had gathered a comprehensive picture of the natural life of the Bering Sea. And despite his own reservations regarding his work, Steller deserves his high rating among the world's pioneer scientists. 


Georg Wilhelm Seller's hard-won fame rests on the accurate descriptions of the sea cow and other marine mammals which were published in his De Besis Marims. His dissection of a female sea cow in July 1742 can easily be considered one of the high points of Pacific Ocean scientific activity. This great northern manatee is known only through Steller's notes and the few skeletons collected years later. For 100 years, the sea cow has been extinct. A living specimen was last seen in 1768, a mere 27 years after its discovery by the Bering expedition. Steller observed these mammals along the entire shore of the island. where they fed on seaweed near the mouths of streams. The sea cow's appetite was huge. When not mating or caring for their young, they were continuously occupied in feeding along the sea edge, usually with half their body above the surface. June was the mating season and a strict ritual ensued. "The female flees slowly before the male with continual turns about, but the male pursues her without cessation. When, however, the female is finally weary of this mock coyness she turns on her back and the male completes the mating in the human manner." In mating, the males penetrated their mates with a six-foot-long penis of corresponding thickness. Sea cows were unafraid of people and allowed their approach without showing any sign of alarm. Prior to the landing of the Bering party, they had never known an enemy, but, unfortunately for their survival, their bulk and shore-feeding habits were to make them a helpless prey. The Russians found the flesh of seals strong and coarse and liked that of the sea otter even less, but the sea cow's meat tasted like the finest beef, and its fat was equally succulent. Until harried out of existence, the beast was to provide the most favored sustenance of the Bering Sea fur traders. The huge mammal had instincts that seemed almost human. Although unwary in its own defense, the manatee tried to protect its kind from the butchering hunters. When the Bering men harpooned a sea cow and towed it to the beach, other animals formed a circle about the victim as if to prevent its sacrifice. "Some attempted to upset the yawl; others laid themselves over the rope or tried to pull the harpoon out of [his] body, in which they succeeded several times."  In astonishment, the Russians observed "that a male came two days in succession to its female Which was lying dead on the beach, as if it would inform himself about her condition. For all this sensitivity, the sea cows were otherwise obtuse. Regardless of the slaughtering that went on among the herd, they never shifted location to escape the bloody executions.


As a scientist, Steller's chief resources were his own intellizence and energy: While men like Johann Georg Mcclit and Louis Delisle held chorere traveled with servants, provisioned with European foods and wines, Steller traveled light eating native foods for convenience and wifetife interest. Typically, Steller tackled the problem of the dissection and description of the sea cow with dedication and energy. Handling the huge manatee was extremely difficult. In shape, the sea cow resembled a seal, though it had a large fluke like a whale. The largest sea cows were 35 feet long and 20 feet in girth, The sea cow which Steller dissected weighed 8,000 pounds. The heart alone weighed 36¼ pounds and the stomach was 6 feet long, 5 feet wide, and so stuffed with food and seaweed that four strong men using a rope could scarcely move the animal from its place and only with great effort were able to drag it out of the sea. Rain and cold impeded Steller's efforts, while Arctic foxes were tearing at the mammal's flesh and carrying off Steller's paper, books, and inkstand. This unpleasant work could not be performed without considerable manpower: Steller recruited seamen and paid them in tobacco. Fortunately Sneller was a nonsmoker. Not unexpectedly, the seamen's work did not meet Seller's standards; yet, at the time, he expressed satisfaction that they did not desert him altogether in this gigantic task. Steller complained often of a lack of assistance, but he seemed to have received a great deal of help from Plenisner, who made the six sea cow drawings that enhanced De Bests Marins, and from other members of the surgical staff, as well as the Cossack, Lepekhin. 


Steller's description of the sea otters on Bering Island was the first comprehensive report on the mammals to be published. The stranded Russian mariners appreciated the value of the pelts enough to tan them carefully, but they also depended upon them for a food supply. Steller noted that the sea otter had been confused bv Russians in Kamchatka with the beaver, because its fur more closely resembled the beaver than that of the familiar, smaller, river otter. Indisputably, argued Steller, the sea otter was an American sea animal which only occasionally tound its way to the coast of Kamchatka. A full-grown prime skin is 5 feet long, and 24-30 inches wide, covered with a fine fur, the hairs of which are 3/4 inch in length. Its jet black, glossy surface revealed a silver tinge when ruffled, and the presence of scattered white hairs enhanced its beauty. Unlike other marine mammals, the sea otter does not depend upon a thick blubber layer under the skin to maintain its bodr emperature in the frigid waters of its habitat. Instead it relies upon the islation of air trapped in its hair; consequently the mammal"s constantly preening and grooming its hair. Seller was unaware of this and other findings of modern biologists that have made the uniqueness of the sea otter even more clear. Of all its singularities, none is more amazing than its use of a tool to aid feeding. As it floats on its back, the after breaks clams, crabs, and other crustaceans held in its front paws against a stone resting on its chest. Otter spend most of their existence on their backs feeding, preening, and sleeping. Females carry and suckle their offspring and copulate in this position. Despite its apparently leisurely habits the otter's appetite is ravenous. Each day it requires a quantity of crustaceans and fish equaling ¼ of its total body weight of up to 80 pounds. The Aleuts of the Aleutian Islands were skilled hunters of the sea otter long before the Russians enslaved them to that purpose. They Aleuts hunted at sea from their swift kayaks, using a spearlike weapon which was thrown from the cramped sitting position of the boatman. Hunting from such a platform was a difficult exercise even in the calmest seas. A keen eve and strong, steady throwing arm were essential to accuracy. Sea otters did not present a large target above the surface, and it required a consummate skill to strike them in the water. Once hit, the otter could offer little resistance. It could dive beneath the surface for a time, but if the spear had deeply penetrated its body, this evasion only exhausted and weakened the animal. Before long the otter had to return to the surface to breathe and die as its life's blood poured from the wound. As life ebbed away, the Aleut hunter guided his craft close and lifted his prey from the water. "The sea otter is the mildest of all marine animals. It never makes any resistance to hunters, and only saves itself by running away if it can." 12 Thus Stepan Krasheninnikov in his report on Kamchatka reported of the most important resource of the Bering Sea. Natives of Kamchatka hunted the sea otter off the island's shores by spreading nets among the kelp beds where otters fed, by harpooning the mammals at sea from their small boats, and sometimes by catching them on ice floes that grounded near the coast. Kamchadals did not prize the sea otter pelt as highly as that of foxes and sables, but the Cossacks who traded for them knew better. 


_____

From wikipedia:


When Europeans discovered them, there may have been only 2,000 individuals left.[19] This small population was quickly wiped out by fur traders, seal hunters, and others who followed Vitus Bering's route past its habitat to Alaska.[46] It was also hunted to collect its valuable subcutaneous fat. The animal was hunted and used by Ivan Krassilnikov in 1754 and Ivan Korovin 1762, but Dimitri Bragin, in 1772, and others later, did not see it. Brandt thus concluded that by 1768, twenty-seven years after it had been discovered by Europeans, the species was extinct.[1][39][47] In 1887, Stejneger estimated that there had been fewer than 1,500 individuals remaining at the time of Steller's discovery, and argued there was already an immediate danger of the sea cow's extinction.[1]

The first attempt to hunt the animal by Steller and the other crew members was unsuccessful due to its strength and thick hide. They had attempted to impale it and haul it to shore using a large hook and heavy cable, but the crew could not pierce its skin. In a second attempt a month later, a harpooner speared an animal, and men on shore hauled it in while others repeatedly stabbed it with bayonets. It was dragged into shallow waters, and the crew waited until the tide receded and it was beached to butcher it.[33] After this, they were hunted with relative ease, the challenge being in hauling the animal back to shore. This bounty inspired maritime fur traders to detour to the Commander Islands and restock their food supplies during North Pacific expeditions.[12]

Ancient History

Great Rift Valley, Ethiopia, Ethiopia

12000000

B.C.E.

Study raises questions about long-held theories of human evolution

Grasslands and seasonally dry forests had replaced the thick rainforests that our apes had evolved in, meaning that our hominid ancestors might have been forced to scavenge or hunt calories on the grasslands. The ratio of C4 to C3 grasses demark this distinction.

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A new analysis of the past 12 million years’ of vegetation change in the cradle of humanity is challenging long-held beliefs about the world in which our ancestors took shape – and, by extension, the impact it had on them.

The research combines sediment core studies of the waxy molecules from plant leaves with pollen analysis, yielding data of unprecedented scope and detail on what types of vegetation dominated the landscape surrounding the African Rift Valley (including present-day Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia), where early hominin fossils trace the history of human evolution.

“It is the combination of evidence both molecular and pollen evidence that allows us to say just how long we’ve seen Serengeti-type open grasslands,” said Sarah J. Feakins, assistant professor of Earth sciences at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and lead author of the study, which was published online in Geology on Jan. 17.

Feakins worked with USC graduate student Hannah M. Liddy, USC undergraduate student Alexa Sieracki, Naomi E. Levin of Johns Hopkins University, Timothy I. Eglinton of the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule and Raymonde Bonnefille of the Université d’Aix-Marseille.

The role that the environment played in the evolution of hominins—the tribe of human and ape ancestors whose family tree split from the ancestors of chimpanzees and bonobos about 6 million years ago—has been the subject of a century-long debate.

Among other things, one theory dating back to 1925 posits that early human ancestors developed bipedalism as a response to savannas encroaching on shrinking forests in northeast Africa. With fewer trees to swing from, human ancestors began walking to get around.

While the shift to bipedalism appears to have occurred somewhere between 6 and 4 million years ago, Feakins’ study finds that thick rainforests had already disappeared by that point—replaced by grasslands and seasonally dry forests some time before 12 million years ago.

In addition, the tropical C4-type grasses and shrubs of the modern African savannah began to dominate the landscape earlier than thought, replacing C3-type grasses that were better suited to a wetter environment. (The classification of C4 versus C3 refers to the manner of photosynthesis each type of plant utilizes.)

While earlier studies on vegetation change through this period relied on the analysis of individual sites throughout the Rift Valley—offering narrow snapshots—Feakins took a look at the whole picture by using a sediment core taken in the Gulf of Aden, where winds funnel and deposit sediment from the entire region. She then cross-referenced her findings with Levin who compiled data from ancient soil samples collected throughout eastern Africa.

“The combination of marine and terrestrial data enable us to link the environmental record at specific fossil sites to regional ecological and climate change,” Levin said.

In addition to informing scientists about the environment that our ancestors took shape in, Feakins’ study provides insights into the landscape that herbivores (horses, hippos and antelopes) grazed, as well as how plants across the landscape reacted to periods of global and regional environmental change.

“The types of grasses appear to be sensitive to global carbon dioxide levels,” said Liddy, who is currently working to refine the data pertaining to the Pliocene, to provide an even clearer picture of a period that experienced similar atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to present day. “There might be lessons in here for the future viability of our C4-grain crops,” says Feakins.

Africa

2500000

B.C.E.

Palaeolithic and Mesolithic kill-butchering sites: the hard evidence

Lower Paleolithic hunting pratices are described, which represent scavenging large carcasses stuck near water holes and limited planning or hunting.

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The places where animals have been killed or at least butchered by our ancestors represent obviously the best expression of the relation between man and his prey. Isaac (Isaac, 1976; Isaac & Cradeq, 1981), referring to African deposits of Lower Palaeolithic age, defines a simple kind of such sites as containing the skeleton of a single, large animal, associated with lithic artefacts (his type B sites): they represent a unique episode. However such accumulations seem to be very rare: in fact near the carcass of the huge beast almost always other generally much more fragmentary remains of other animals are found. These can represent "background" material without direct relation with hominid activity, but we cannot be sure of this. Evidently, Isaac's definition does not cover the effective variability of all Palaeolithic and Mesolithic kill and/or butchering sites. Therefore, I have tried, in my tesi di laurea, to develop a typolo gy of the possible kinds of bone concentrations reflecting man's animal procurement behaviour. For this aim, I drew information from various authors discussing the topic (Binford, 1984; Clark & Haynes, 1970; Crader, 1983; Meignen & Texieq, 1956) and read a selected number of papers dealing directly, or indirectly through discussions or summaries, with some 30 sites, my reading assignment depending to some extent on the accessibility of the papers included. I am aware that my sampling of sites is limited and perhaps biased and that the evidence as presented by the various authors is often equivocal, but I hope that my attempt will stimulate the development of a site typology which could be a useful tool for classification and research. 

2. Suggested site typology:

a. Butchering sifes: places with animal natural deaths, later utilised by mary such as sites FLK N Lev. 6 (fig.1) and FLK N Deinotherium at Olduvai (Crader, 1983; Leakey, 1971), and site HAS (fig.2) at Koobi Fora (Cradeq, 1983). 

b. Killing and butchering sites 1: a single animal carcass representing a unique hunting episode. This kind of accumulation is similar to Isaac's type B sites. An American example is Pleasant Lake (Fishea 1984; fig. 3). 

c. Killing and butchering sites 2: extensive disarticulation and dispersion of the bones of a few big animals at the most associated with a comparatively small number of stone artefacts. Examples are Windhoek (Clark & Haynes, 1970) and perhaps Mwanganda (Clark & Haynes,1970). 

d. Hunting losses: animals killed but not utilised by man; High Furlong (Hallam et al., 1973) would be an example. 

e. Hunting stations: dense distributions of osseous remains reflecting the reutilization of the locality for a lorig period, often on a seasonal base. Examples of such palimpsests of archaeological remains could be Mauran (Farizy & David, in press; Girard-Farizy & Leclerc, 1981), Stellmoor (Rus! 1937) and La Cotte de Saint-Brelade, lev. 3 and 6 (Scott, 1980; ftg. q. A subtype of hunting stations could be represented by American mass kills, as for example the Casper Site (Frison, 1974). In these sites, not examined here, animals are normally killed with game drive techniques. 

f. Hunting stops: they can be relatively simple or quite complex: sometimes the hunters seek shelter behind a high rock and light a small fire as suggested by Binford (Binford, 1981). An example could be Phase IVA of the Grotte de l'Hortus (de Lumley, 1971). 

g. Sighting sites: they would be characterised by modest bone accumulations in locations with a panoramic position and allowing to detect game and its movements easily. Examples are the Mesolithic sites described by Bagolini and Dalmeri (Bagolini & Dalmeri,


3.1. Lower Palaeolithic Scavenging: exploitation of the carcasses of big animals that died for natural causes; they are often found near lakes or swamps, as the elephant and maybe the Deinotherium at Olduvai (Leakey, 1971), the hippopotamus of Koobi Fora (Isaac, 7976) and the elephants of Kathu Pan (Klein, 1988), Namib IV (Kleirr, 1988) and Mwanganda's Village (Clark & Haynes, 1970). 


Hunting: scanty traces of hunters' action are encountered. At Olorgesailie, occasional killing of some baboons with a head blow seems to have occurred (Shipman, Bosler & Davis, 1981). At Torralba and Ambrona, people may have killed elephants using wooden spears (fragments of wooden artefacts are present) and big stones (Allain" 1952). At Lehringen (Movius, 1950), hominids killed an Elephas antiquus with a wooden spear discovered in the site (see also Weber, this volume). 


Planning: very limited or absent. The exploitation of animals would have been occasional and opportunistic with short and limited occupation of sites by small groups, as at Olduvai (Cradeq, 1983), Koobi Fora (Cradeq, 1983), etc. 


Food transport: Acheulean people are said to have carried away the most useful and meaty parts of animal carcasses at Torralba (Freemary 1975), Ambrona (Freem an, 1975), Elandsfontein (Klein, 1988), etc. In earlier times, people apparently consumed the meat on the find spot. Specialised activities: at the already cited sites of Torralba, Ambrona and at Mwanganda distinct associations between certain bones and tools would occur: they may represent specialised activity areas. 


Butchering tools: hand-axes and hachereaux are sometimes associated with big animals at Olorgesailie (Shipman, Bosler & Davis, 1981), Elandsfontein (Klein, 1988), Kathu Pan (Klein, 1988), Namib IV (Klein, 1988) etc., suggesting that they were used for butchering.

Ethiopia

2500000

B.C.E.

Environment and Behavior of 2.5-Million-Year-Old Bouri Hominids

By looking at 400 bones from 2.5 million years ago, paleoanthropologists can tell how rocks were used as some of the first tools to butcher and process meat and marrow processing of large carcasses. It's a clue that carnivory has been part of hominid evolution for at least 3 million years.

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The Hata Member of the Bouri Formation is defined for Pliocene sedimentary outcrops in the Middle Awash Valley, Ethiopia. The Hata Member is dated to 2.5 million years ago and has produced a new species of Australopithecus and hominid postcranial remains not currently assigned to species. Spatially associated zooarchaeological remains show that hominids acquired meat and marrow by 2.5 million years ago and that they are the near contemporary of Oldowan artifacts at nearby Gona. The combined evidence suggests that behavioral changes associated with lithic technology and enhanced carnivory may have been coincident with the emergence of the Homo clade from Australopithecus afarensis in eastern Africa


We collected 400 vertebrate fossil specimens from the Hata Member (Table 1). Almost all of these come from within 3 m of the MOVT; most were found immediately above this unit. This assemblage largely reflects a mixture of grazers and water-dependent forms, which is broadly typical of later hominid-bearing Plio-Pleistocene occurrences and consistent with the sedimentological interpretation of the deposits as primarily lake marginal. Alcelaphine bovids are abundant and diverse. All indicators point to a broad featureless margin of a shallow freshwater lake. Minor changes in lake level, which were brought about by fluctuating water input, would probably have maintained broad grassy plains leading to the water’s edge. As discussed below, hominids were active on this landscape.


The bone modifications at these two excavated localities and at other localities from the same stratigraphic horizon across .2 km of outcrop demonstrate that stone tool–wielding hominids were active on the lake margin at 2.5 Ma. The bone modifications indicate that large mammals were disarticulated and defleshed and that their long bones were broken open, presumably to extract marrow, a new food in hominid evolution with important physiological, evolutionary, and behavioral effects. Similar patterns of marrow acquisition have been reported for younger sites such as Koobi Fora and Olduvai Gorge (12).


The situation on the Hata lake margin was even more difficult for early toolmakers. Here, raw materials were not readily available because of the absence of streams capable of carrying even pebbles. There were no nearby basalt outcrops. The absence of locally available raw material on the flat featureless Hata lake margin may explain the absence of lithic artifact concentrations. The bone modification evidence demonstrates that early hominids were transporting stone to the site of carcass manipulation. The paucity of evidence for lithic artifact abandonment at these sites suggests that these early hominids may have been curating their tools (cores and flakes) with foresight for subsequent use. Indications of tool curation by later hominids have been found at the more recent Pleistocene sites of Koobi Fora [Karari escarpment versus Ileret (13)] and Swartkrans [polished bone tools in a single repository (16)]. Additional research into the Hata beds may allow a determination of whether the butchery is related to hunting or scavenging. The Bouri discoveries show that the earliest Pliocene archaeological assemblages and their landscape patterning are strongly conditioned by the availability of raw material. They demonstrate that a major function of the earliest known tools was meat and marrow processing of large carcasses. Finally, they extend this pattern of butchery by hominids well into the Pliocene.

Aïn Hanech, Khedara, Algeria

2400000

B.C.E.

Strongest evidence of early humans butchering animals discovered in North Africa

Early humans butchered horses and antelopes on a high grassy plateau in Algeria 2.4 million years ago.

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On a high grassy plateau in Algeria, just 100 kilometers from the Mediterranean Sea, early human ancestors butchered extinct horses, antelopes, and other animals with primitive stone tools 2 million to 2.4 million years ago. The dates, reported today, push back the age of the oldest tools in North Africa by as much as a half a million years and provide new insight into how these protohumans spread across the continent.

For decades, east Africa has been considered the birthplace of our genus Homo, and the epicenter of early toolmaking for almost 1 million years. The oldest known Homo fossils date back 2.8 million years in Ethiopia. Nearby, just 200,000 years later, scientists have found simple tools, such as thumb-size stone flakes, and fist-size cores from which such flakes were struck, in the nearby Rift Valley of Ethiopia.

After 25 years of excavations at the Ain Hanech complex—a dry ravine in Algeria—an international team reports the discovery of about 250 primitive tools and 296 bones of animals from a site called Ain Boucherit. About two dozen animal bones have cut marks that show they were skinned, defleshed, or pounded for marrow. Made of limestone and flint, the sharp-edged flakes and round cores—some the size of tennis balls—resemble those found in east Africa. Both represent the earliest known toolkit, the so-called Oldowan technology, named for the site where they were found 80 years ago at Olduvai in Tanzania.

Ain Hanech lacks volcanic minerals, which provide the gold standard for dating sites in eastern Africa. Instead, the researchers used three other dating methods, notably paleomagnetic dating, which detects known reversals in Earth’s magnetic field that are recorded in rock. The tools and cut-marked bones date as far back as 2.4 million years ago, the researchers report today in Science. They also used the identity of large, extinct animals, such as mastodons and ancient horses, to confirm the dates.

The cut-marked bones represent “the oldest substantive evidence for butchery” anywhere, says paleoanthropologist Thomas Plummer of the City University of New York’s Queens College, who was not involved with the study. Although other sites of this age in east Africa have stone tools, the evidence for actual butchery of animals is not as strong, he says.

At Ain Hanech, the dates provide “convincing evidence for stone tools and cut-marked bones at about 2 million years or more,” says geochronologist Warren Sharp of the Berkeley Geochronology Center in California. But he finds the 2.4 million date “less compelling,” because of potential issues with the dating methods.

Whether the tools are 2 million or 2.4 million years old, they suggest toolmakers had spread farther and wider across Africa earlier than previously known. “There must have been a corridor through the Sahara with movement between east Africa and North Africa,” says paleoanthropologist Rick Potts of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Alternatively, the new dates suggest hominins in at least two different parts of Africa, separated by 5000 kilometers, were sophisticated enough to independently invent rudimentary stone tools and habitually make them, Potts says.

Either way, the study suggests that by 2 million years ago or so, making stone tools and butchering meat with them was routine for human ancestors in distant corners of the African continent. And this technological revolution may have given them the tools they needed to travel farther and wider across Africa and beyond

Tanzania

2000000

B.C.E.

Humans hunted for meat 2 million years ago - Evidence from ancient butchery site in Tanzania shows early man was capable of ambushing herds up to 1.6 million years earlier than previously thought

Evidence from ancient butchery site in Tanzania shows early man was capable of ambushing herds up to 2 million years ago and were selecting "only adult animals in their prime" which also tend to be the fattiest and we were picking what we wanted compared to other carnivores.

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Ancient humans used complex hunting techniques to ambush and kill antelopes, gazelles, wildebeest and other large animals at least two million years ago. The discovery – made by anthropologist Professor Henry Bunn of Wisconsin University – pushes back the definitive date for the beginning of systematic human hunting by hundreds of thousands of years.

Two million years ago, our human ancestors were small-brained apemen and in the past many scientists have assumed the meat they ate had been gathered from animals that had died from natural causes or had been left behind by lions, leopards and other carnivores.

But Bunn argues that our apemen ancestors, although primitive and fairly puny, were capable of ambushing herds of large animals after carefully selecting individuals for slaughter. The appearance of this skill so early in our evolutionary past has key implications for the development of human intellect.

"We know that humans ate meat two million years ago," said Bunn, who was speaking in Bordeaux at the annual meeting of the European Society for the study of Human Evolution (ESHE). "What was not clear was the source of that meat. However, we have compared the type of prey killed by lions and leopards today with the type of prey selected by humans in those days. This has shown that men and women could not have been taking kill from other animals or eating those that had died of natural causes. They were selecting and killing what they wanted."

That finding has major implications, he added. "Until now the oldest, unambiguous evidence of human hunting has come from a 400,000-year-old site in Germany where horses were clearly being speared and their flesh eaten. We have now pushed that date back to around two million years ago."

The hunting instinct of early humans is a controversial subject. In the first half of the 20th century, many scientists argued that our ancestors' urge to hunt and kill drove us to develop spears and axes and to evolve bigger and bigger brains in order to handle these increasingly complex weapons. Extreme violence is in our nature, it was argued by fossil experts such as Raymond Dart and writers like Robert Ardrey, whose book African Genesis on the subject was particularly influential. By the 80s, the idea had run out of favour, and scientists argued that our larger brains evolved mainly to help us co-operate with each other. We developed language and other skills that helped us maintain complex societies.

"I don't disagree with this scenario," said Bunn. "But it has led us to downplay the hunting abilities of our early ancestors. People have dismissed them as mere scavengers and I don't think that looks right any more."

In his study, Bunn and his colleagues looked at a huge butchery site in the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. The carcasses of wildebeest, antelopes and gazelles were brought there by ancient humans, most probably members of the species Homo habilis, more than 1.8 million years ago. The meat was then stripped from the animals' bones and eaten.

"We decided to look at the ages of the animals that had been dragged there," said Benn. "By studying the teeth in the skulls that were left, we could get a very precise indication of what type of meat these early humans were consuming. Were they bringing back creatures that were in their prime or were old or young? Then we compared our results with the kinds of animals killed by lions and leopards."

The results for several species of large antelope Bunn analysed showed that humans preferred only adult animals in their prime, for example. Lions and leopards killed old, young and adults indiscriminately. For small antelope species, the picture was slightly different. Humans preferred only older animals, while lions and leopards had a fancy only for adults in their prime.

"For all the animals we looked at, we found a completely different pattern of meat preference between ancient humans and other carnivores, indicating that we were not just scavenging from lions and leopards and taking their leftovers. We were picking what we wanted and were killing it ourselves."

Bunn believes these early humans probably sat in trees and waited until herds of antelopes or gazelles passed below, then speared them at point-blank range. This skill, developed far earlier than suspected, was to have profound implications. Once our species got a taste for meat, it was provided with a dense, protein-rich source of energy. We no longer needed to invest internal resources on huge digestive tracts that were previously required to process vegetation and fruit, which are more difficult to digest. Freed from that task by meat, the new, energy-rich resources were then diverted inside our bodies and used to fuel our growing brains.

As a result, over the next two million years our crania grew, producing species of humans with increasingly large brains – until this carnivorous predilection produced Homo sapiens.

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