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PLoS One. 2011;6(8):e23768. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023768. Epub 2011 Aug 24.

Neanderthal use of fish, mammals, birds, starchy plants and wood 125-250,000 years ago.

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1
Department of Anthropology, Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio, United States of America. hardyb@kenyon.edu

Abstract

Neanderthals are most often portrayed as big game hunters who derived the vast majority of their diet from large terrestrial herbivores while birds, fish and plants are seen as relatively unimportant or beyond the capabilities of Neanderthals. Although evidence for exploitation of other resources (small mammals, birds, fish, shellfish, and plants) has been found at certain Neanderthal sites, these are typically dismissed as unusual exceptions. The general view suggests that Neanderthal diet may broaden with time, but that this only occurs sometime after 50,000 years ago. We present evidence, in the form of lithic residue and use-wear analyses, for an example of a broad-based subsistence for Neanderthals at the site of Payre, Ard├Ęche, France (beginning of MIS 5/end of MIS 6 to beginning of MIS 7/end of MIS 8; approximately 125-250,000 years ago). In addition to large terrestrial herbivores, Neanderthals at Payre also exploited starchy plants, birds, and fish. These results demonstrate a varied subsistence already in place with early Neanderthals and suggest that our ideas of Neanderthal subsistence are biased by our dependence on the zooarchaeological record and a deep-seated intellectual emphasis on big game hunting.

PMID:
21887315
PMCID:
PMC3161061
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0023768
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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