And probably did not kill off all the elephant birds, as often claimed, say researchers:
Analysis of bones, from what was once the world’s largest bird, has revealed that humans arrived on the tropical island of Madagascar more than 6,000 years earlier than previously thought—according to a study published today, 12 September 2018, in the journal Science Advances.
A team of scientists led by international conservation charity ZSL (Zoological Society of London) discovered that ancient bones from the extinct Madagascan elephant birds (Aepyornis and Mullerornis) show cut marks and depression fractures consistent with hunting and butchery by prehistoric humans. Using radiocarbon dating techniques, the team were then able to determine when these giant birds had been killed, reassessing when humans first reached Madagascar.
Previous research on lemur bones and archaeological artefacts suggested that humans first arrived in Madagascar 2,400-4,000 years ago. However, the new study provides evidence of human presence on Madagascar as far back as 10,500 years ago—making these modified elephant bird bones the earliest known evidence of humans on the island.
Lead author Dr. James Hansford from ZSL’s Institute of Zoology said: “We already know that Madagascar’s megafauna—elephant birds, hippos, giant tortoises and giant lemurs—became extinct less than 1,000 years ago. There are a number of theories about why this occurred, but the extent of human involvement hasn’t been clear.
“Our research provides evidence of human activity in Madagascar more than 6,000 years earlier than previously suspected—which demonstrates that a radically different extinction theory is required to understand the huge biodiversity loss that has occurred on the island. Humans seem to have coexisted with elephant birds and other now-extinct species for over 9,000 years, apparently with limited negative impact on biodiversity for most of this period, which offers new insights for conservation today.”
Zoological Society of London, “Ancient bird bones redate human activity in Madagascar by 6,000 years” at Phys.org
Paper. (open access)
See also: Neanderthals did know how to start fires