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Early Butchers Used Small Stone Scalpels

Archaeologists have spent a lot of time analyzing the flashiest objects recovered at ancient sites.

But now they're giving a second look at the waste and finding that it, too, tells tales about a culture.

For example, 8,000-year-old poop recently revealed parasitic infections among people who lived in settlements versus their hunter-gatherer counterparts.

And now archaeologists have examined another overlooked artifactsmall stone flakes, typically thought to be by-products from the production of tools like hand axes and cleavers.

"It was not easy to convince the scientific community that there is value to studying these items, because they were regarded just as waste."Ran Barkai, an archaeologist at Tel Aviv University.

His team studied 283 stone flakes found in Israel, at a site inhabited by our Homo erectus relatives, half a million years ago.

They found evidence of uselike small fracturesalong the edges of the inch-long flakes.

But they also discovered bits of bone and flesh still sticking to the tiny bladesflesh that could have come from elephants.

The big mammals were much more widespread back then and were a prominent source of protein for early humans in that area.

The team then tested replicas of the flakes to butcher wild boars and deer and sheep.

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