Archaeologists in Israel say they've discovered something along the lines of an open-air butcher shop, and the tools there prove that these ancient butchers worked on big game. That proof? The axes and scrapers used there 500,000 years ago still had residue of animal fat on them—a find that Haaretz describes as an "archaeological first." It also appears that the fat in question came from one of the biggest animals of all: Researchers at the site known as Revadim in southern Israel found an elephant rib with cut marks. What's not clear is whether these ancestors hunted the elephants and other game or scavenged remains they happened across, but the discovery shows that people of the age were at least adept at processing the carcasses.
"Archaeologists have until now only been able to suggest scenarios about the use and function of such tools," a professor at Tel Aviv University says in a post at EurekAlert. "It makes sense that these tools would be used to break down carcasses, but until evidence was uncovered to prove this, it remained just a theory." The find is significant because it dovetails with the idea that humans began eating more meat around this time, reports LiveScience, itself an important milestone for the species. "In order to be able to use animal resources, they needed to have tools in order to cut and butcher," says the professor. The tools found fit the bill so nicely they remained largely unchanged for many years. (Another intriguing discovery making headlines: an ancient croc called the "Carolina Butcher.")