Landing about 425 kilometers from the African coast, Madagascar was long thought to be one of the last corners of the earth to be solved. This week in Science Advances researchers report that the old slaughtered legs show that people made their home on the lush island 10 500 years ago, but it was astonishing 8 millennia earlier than once.
The discovery of a team led by James Hansford of the London Zoological Society, revives a controversial debate about whether people are responsible for the eradication of Madagascar's unique megafauna, including giant lemurs and the world's largest bird. Everything flourished after the island broke away from the Indian subcontinent 88 million years ago and died centuries ago, apparently not long after people arrived. But the cracked legs of the massive elephant bird Aepyornis maximus propose a long coexistence between humans and megafauna – challenging the belief that people inevitably kill large mammals and fugitive birds when they come to a new country. 19659005] David Burney, a paleobiologist at the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Koloa, Hawaii, who was not involved in the study, said the results "fly in the face of everything we thought we knew about human arrival in Madagascar." The discovery, along with some other new findings that also point to early dealings, are "big news", he says, although he and others question if it's enough to solve the megafauna debates.
Determining the Arrival Date for People in Madagascar has been difficult, says Ian Tattersall, an anthropologist at New York City's American Natural History Museum (AMNH), as "archaeological evidence of early human presence … is hardly lacking." East Africans and Indonesians are known for having agricultural agreements with 500 C.E. But slaughtered bones of nude lemurs and hippos suggested that humans were present half a thousand centuries earlier. And on the north-east coast, archaeologists recently found small stone leaves that proved to have been before 2000 BC, although the assertion is not widely accepted.
In 2008, anthropologist Patricia Wright of the State University of New York in Stony Brook heard from a colleague's aunt that a man searching for sapphires had broken the dinosaur bones near Ilakaka, in the southeastern part of the island. "I did not think aunt, but eventually went to visit," wright said. With Armand Rasoamiaramanana from Antananarivo University, she found that the "dinosaurs" really were the remains of massive lemurs, hippos, giant turtles and crocodiles. The faith also included bones from the elephant bird, an ostrichlike creature that stood more than 3 meters high and weighed more than 350 kilos.
The legs were stored at a nearby field center where Hansford examined them in 2016. On 2 meter long legs from the elephant bird he noticed deep traces, apparently made by people who slaughtered the swap with sharp stone tools. By measuring coal-14, the team dated the legs 10 500 years ago. The finding "represents the earliest known proof of human presence in Madagascar," Hansford and colleagues note.
The date does more than push back human arrival. Many archeologists accept the idea that suggested more than 4 decades of archeologist Paul Martin from the University of Arizona in Tucson that megafauna as mammals and other giant mammals on the northern continents died off because of a "blitzkrieg" of human hunters who reintroduced territory , not due to factors such as climate change. Madagascar has since emerged as an important test site for the theory.
Hansford argues that the results of his group, by showing that people lived with megafauna for as long as 9 millennia, "eliminate the rapid extinction hypothesis or blitzkriegen for Madagascar". Only after the agricultural populations had expanded across the island, the environment changed and increased hunting pressure, weapons like the elephant bird were finally extinct, he suggests. Ross MacPhee, an anthropologist at AMNH, says that the paper's conclusion is "very consistent" because such extinctions are often held as evidence of humanity's consistent records of destruction, past, present and future. "
Tattersall says it is" premature "to make generalizations about human influence. He and Burney, a long-standing advocate of blitzkrieg theory, both note that Madagascar's finding may be a sign of a small group of people who just stayed short of the island, with little impact on the fauna. And the blitzkrieg hypothesis remains sustainable elsewhere: New Zealand's moa – another large volatile bird – was eradicated less than 2 centuries after the arrival of the first polynesians. The Madagascar example shows that it is not there is some size that suits all extinctions, "said Henry Wright, an archaeologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
So far, archaeologists seeking through the old legs have not found stone tools that can illuminate the early settlers' lifestyles and how long they remained on the island. To resolve the twinning about Madagascar's settlement and the killing of his megafauna will take more digging and dating, admits Hansford. He and his team hope to return to the bone in the near future, "now that we understand the incredible importance of the site."