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Sci Adv. 2019 Mar 6;5(3):eaav9106. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aav9106. eCollection 2019 Mar.

New evidence of broader diets for archaic Homo populations in the northwestern Mediterranean.

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Department of Anthropology, Trent University, DNA Block C, 2140 East Bank Drive, Peterborough, Ontario K9J 7B8, Canada.
Université de Bordeaux, PACEA, B18, UMR 5199, Allée Geoffroy St-Hilaire, CS50023, 33615 Pessac Cedex, France.
Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work, University of North Florida, 1 UNF Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32224, USA.
Laboratoire de Préhistoire Nice Côte d'Azur, 15 boulevard Maurice Maeterlinck, 06300 Nice, France.
UMR 7194 CNRS, Département de Préhistoire, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France.
Université de Perpignan Via Domitia, UMR 7194 HNHP, Avenue Léon-Jean Grégory, 66720 Tautavel, France.
UMR 7194 CNRS, Musée de Préhistoire, 06690 Tourrette-Levens, France.


Investigating diet breadth is critical for understanding how archaic Homo populations, including Neanderthals, competed for seasonally scarce resources. The current consensus in Western Europe is that ungulates formed the bulk of the human diet during the Lower and Middle Paleolithic, while small fast prey taxa were virtually ignored. Here, we present a multisite taphonomic study of leporid assemblages from Southern France that supports frequent exploitation of small fast game during marine isotope stages 11 to 3. Along with recent evidence from Iberia, our results indicate that the consumption of small fast game was more common prior to the Upper Paleolithic than previously thought and that archaic hominins from the northwestern Mediterranean had broader diets than those from adjacent regions. Although likely of secondary importance relative to ungulates, the frequent exploitation of leporids documented here implies that human diet breadths were substantially more variable within Europe than assumed by current evolutionary models.

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