Everything else.. Archaeological Findings in Sri Lankan Rainforest Challenge Ideas of Evolution

Archaeological Findings in Sri Lankan Rainforest Challenge Ideas of Evolution

2019 Feb 25

Humans conquered a Sri Lankan rainforest 45,000 years ago!

Modern humans have colonized nearly every inch of this globe – surviving deserts to tropical forests and even passing through arctic conditions. Our flexibility and ability to survive in any condition is wondrous to say the least.

Researchers have covered nearly all common terrains to learn more about Homo sapiens and their unique ability to survive. These include open environments where hunting would be much more efficient. However, tropical rainforests were proven to be quite neglected in these discussions as these environments tend to restrict movements, hide plenty of dangerous animals and also carry plenty of diseases. Not to mention that the smaller animals in these settings (for example, the forest monkeys and squirrels) are much harder to capture due to their agility and have much less meat on their bones. It simply makes sense to think that humans would prefer less constricting environments to forage.

But the latest findings right here in Sri Lanka say otherwise – proving there is hardly any terrain that humans can’t learn to overcome.

A team at the Max Planck Institute (Germany), including expert researchers from around the world have examined remains unearthed at Sri Lanka’s oldest archaeological site, a cave known as Fa-Hien Lena in Yatagampitiya. Researchers conclude that the site is home to one of the oldest human settlements in the world judging by the human bones and also has a Buddhist temple in its midst.

Fa-Hien Lena in Yatagampitiya (external view)

The research findings showed around 15,000 pieces of bones, which included the remains of tree-dwelling monkeys and squirrels as well as the equipment (made out of monkeys bones) used to hunt them. The remains were at least 45,000 years old making this the oldest record of foragers’ sophisticated primate hunting.
But that’s hardly it! Research also dictates that only the adult monkeys were hunted, leaving the younger ones alive to ensure the survival of the species and their food source. This means that even 45, 000 years ago, Homo sapiens were intelligent and had enough knowledge to hunt sustainably, ensuring their food source would remain for thousands of years.
The term for species with an ability to survive in nearly any condition is “generalist-specialists”. Essentially, this means that as humans we can adapt to any environment, using its resources to fashion tools that will help in sustaining ourselves and surviving. 45,000 years ago, the foragers in our Sri Lankan rainforests designed tools out of animal bones that helped them hunt the monkeys and squirrels living in that environment. The findings also support that they didn’t venture out for other food sources but merely used what their rainforest gave them.

These findings, while a unique testament to our species’ ability to survive in extreme conditions is also the first direct find of humans hunting primates and other small mammals!

Experts are still analysing the remains with the hopes of getting more insight into how Homo sapiens used their strategies and colonized the world as we know it to be today.