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J Hum Evol. 2005 Dec;49(6):722-42. Epub 2005 Oct 12.

Evidence of early butchery of giant lemurs in Madagascar.

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Department of Anthropology, 240 Hicks Way, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, MA 01003-9278, USA.


We report here definitive evidence of butchery, most probably associated with hunting, of giant extinct lemurs by early human settlers in Madagascar. Specimens of Palaeopropithecus ingens and Pachylemur insignis from two sites in southwestern Madagascar, Taolambiby and Tsirave, show classic signs of butchering. We compared these to the bones (also from Taolambiby) of butchered Propithecus verreauxi, a lemur still living in the region. The characteristics of the tool-induced extinct-lemur bone alterations (sharp cuts and chop marks near joints, oblique cuts along the shafts, spiral fractures, and percussion striae) suggest skinning, disarticulation, and filleting. Conclusive evidence of megafaunal modification by humans in Madagascar was limited previously to a few hippo and elephant bird bones and one extinct aye-aye tooth. New evidence comes not from archaeological sites, but from specimens collected in the early 1900s, without stratigraphic records, at "subfossil" sites (i.e., sites renowned for their late Pleistocene or Holocene fossils, often lacking human artifacts). Whereas these are hardly the most ideal samples for analysis of this kind, careful scrutiny of the characteristics of the cut marks has allowed us to document butchery beyond any reasonable doubt. One bone with definitive cut marks has been dated to the very earliest part of the human period in Madagascar. Continued, careful research on the bones in subfossil collections is warranted.

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