Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pygmy Hippos in Cyprus - Eaten to Extinction?

Once again I suspect that archaeologists are making false assumptions when studying piles of bones.
Half way down a cliff on Cyprus's southern coast, researchers dug up thousands of remains of the animal which is thought to have roamed the island for perhaps a million or more years during the Pleistocene period, and then died out around 12,000 years ago.

Today, nothing remotely resembling a pygmy hippo roams Cyprus. Its largest wild mammals are timid sheep, strictly protected from an army of enthusiastic hunters, and donkeys.

..."There were over 500 individual hippos represented at the site ... for some reason they (humans) stored the bones, instead of throwing them into the sea, perhaps for use as fuel," said Simmons, who has written a book on the subject.

Together with thousands of pygmy hippo bones, as well as several large birds and a few dwarf elephants, the archaeologists discovered man-made implements on the same site, pointing to a link between humans and the animals.

Radiocarbon dating puts the site at around 10,000 BC, some 3,000 years earlier than most scholars had assumed humans had arrived on the island.

Simmons says a small group of humans could have triggered extinction of the animals, which were already under stress from cold and dry climatic changes around 12,000 years ago. Many animals went extinct around the same time.

The article has plenty of ammunition for my scepticism. Halfway down a cliff? Great place to eat dinner. They stored the bones "for some reason". Can't even hazard a guess? Oh, and they mention the sheep that are probably more tasty, but somehow not extinct.

When you have read the work of Delair and Allan - unlikely for most archaeologists - you are made aware of caves full of bones being a worldwide phenomenon. Quite often many species are found all jumbled up, and there is no evidence of humans being behind the slaughter.

However, when there is an indication that humans have also had some activity in a bone cave, the assumption becomes we ate them all. Ignoring the possibility of a global catastrophe that mostly likely occurred circa 12,000 years ago.

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