Hyena Poop > Mummies


No self-respecting hyena would turn down a tasty, Stone Age treat. (© iStockphoto.com/pjmalsbury)

We humans don't want to be forgotten when we die. We build titanic stone monuments, bury time capsules and even freeze our disembodied heads in liquid nitrogen. Yet it turns out that being devoured by a hyena can also help you stand the test of time.

According to an article on Discovery News, archeologists recently happened upon the oldest human hairs ever found -- in a pile of fossilized hyena poop. Between 195,000 and 257,000 years ago, some hapless hunter-gatherer wound up in the belly of the scavenger and subsequently on the floor of a cave in present day South Africa. Before this discovery, the oldest human hairs on record were those found in a 9,000-year-old Chilean mummy.

This stone-age scat may help scientists shed more light on man's place in the dog-eat-man world of the lower and middle paleolithic periods, but it also may provide a better glimpse into the genetics of early humans. After all, one strand of hair can reveal an organism's entire biological blueprint, enough to possibly clone the creature anew.

No one at HowStuffWorks.com is suggesting that you have your corpse fed to wolverines in a desperate bid for immortality. However, similar means of corpse disposal do continue to this day, just without the emphasis on resurrected poop-clones in the far future. Tibetan Buddhists can opt for a sky burial, offering up their body as a feast for vultures. And Zoroastrians in India still practice a very similar rite.

Read More at HowStuffWorks.com: How Cryogenics Work How Dying Works How Human Cloning Will Work How Mummies Work Can you steal a few hairs from a racehorse and clone your own?


About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.