Controversial study: Humans were in Madagascar 6,000 years earlier than previously thought

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Researchers based their findings on cut marks found on two leg bones of elephant birds. inflicted by meat-seeking humans. Image credit: Alain Rasolo

The butchered remains of extinct elephant birds could push back the date of human habitation of Madagascar by 6,000 years, according to a controversial study published in Science Advances.

The analysis of leg and foot bones from two species of Madagascan elephant bird – Aepyornis and Mullerornis – revealed grooves and indentations that the authors say are consistent with the half-tonne birds having met their demise at the hands of prehistoric humans.

“What this tells us is that humans were present much earlier in Madagascar, and they could have been living side-by-side, only causing limited hunting pressure upon the animals for 9,000 years,” says James Hansford from the Zoological Society of London’s Institute of Zoology, UK, who led the study.


But the claim is a controversial one.

Related article:  Modern Africans have more Neanderthal ancestry than previously thought, study says

Ratcheting the date back a further 6,000 years based on the elephant bird bone cut-marks, is, according to [archaeologist Simon] Haberle, “a leap too far,” especially without ruling out damage that could have occurred during fossilisation or excavation.


An absence of cracks around the cut-marks, for instance, clearly shows that the bones were the soft, wet bones of a fresh kill when they were cut. Damage caused centuries later, perhaps by careless excavation of the remains, would have produced obvious fractures as well as contrasting colours on the inside and outside of the cuts, [Hansford] says. But this wasn’t the case for the elephant bird bones.

Read full, original post: Claim for early humans in Madagascar disputed

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