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A long-term perspective on Neanderthal environment and subsistence: insights from the dental microwear texture analysis of hunted ungulates at Combe-Grenal (Dordogne, France)

Abstract: Large bovids and cervids constituted major components of the European Middle Palaeolithic faunas and hence a key resource for Neanderthal populations. In paleoenvironmental reconstructions, red deer (Cervus elaphus) occurrence is classically considered as a treecover indicator while Bovinae (Bison priscus and Bos primigenius) and reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) occurrences are typically associated with open landscapes. However, insights into the ecology of extant ungulate populations show a more complex reality. Exploring the diet of past ungulates allows to better comprehend the hunting strategies of Palaeolithic populations and to reconstruct the modifications through time of past landscapes. By reflecting what animals have eaten during the last days or weeks of their life, dental microwear textures of herbivores link a population and its environment. Here we analyzed, via Dental Microwear Texture Analysis (DMTA), the diet of 50 Bos/Bison, 202 R. tarandus and 116 C. elaphus preyed upon by the Neanderthals that occupied Combe-Grenal rock-shelter, one of the most important Mousterian archaeo-sequences in southwestern France considering its long stratigraphy, abundance of faunal remains and the variations perceptible in Palaeolithic material culture. Grazers and mixed-feeders are the most represented dietary categories among Combe-Grenal?s guild of herbivores, highlighting the availability, along the sequence, of open landscapes. The absence of clear changes in the use of plant resources by hunted ungulates through time, even though palaeoenvironmental changes were welldocumented by previous studies along the sequence, is interpreted as resulting from the hunting of non-randomly selected prey by Neanderthals, preferentially in open environments. Thus, these results provide further insight into the hunting strategies of Neanderthals and modify our perception of potential links between subsistence and material culture. Combe-Grenal hunters ?stayed in the open? through millennia, and were not forced to switch to hunting tactics and material technology adapted to close encounters in forested environments.

 Authorship: Berlioz E., Capdepon E., Discamps E.,

 Fuente: PLoS ONE, 2023 18(1), e0278395.

 Publisher: Public Library of Science

 Year of publication: 2023

 No. of pages: 22

 Publication type: Article

 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0278395

 ISSN: 1932-6203

Authorship

CAPDEPON, EUGÉNIE

DISCAMPS, EMMANUEL