HomeScience and ResearchSustainabilityDid Neanderthals Outsmart or Outplay Themselves? An Interesting Discovery

Did Neanderthals Outsmart or Outplay Themselves? An Interesting Discovery

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The Combe-Grenal archaeological site in France, was home to Neanderthals for many millennia during the Middle Palaeolithic period, from around 150,000 to 45,000 years ago.

The inhabitants of the site hunted local animals, whose remains have also been found there. The region experienced several climate and environmental changes during the time of Neanderthal occupation, which is known to have had an impact on the habits of local fauna.

Berlioz and his team conducted a study to investigate if these environmental changes affected the hunting strategies of Neanderthals by analyzing the habitat preferences of the species that were hunted.

The researchers analyzed nearly 400 specimens of hunted animals from the site, including bison, aurochs, red deer, and reindeer, by studying the wear on the animals’ teeth to understand their diet during the last days of their lives.

It was found that the animals primarily fed on plants found in an open, tundra-like environment.

This pattern remained consistent throughout the many millennia recorded at Combe-Grenal, indicating that the hunted animals continued to prefer an open-habitat feeding ecology, even during times of significant climate fluctuations.

As a result, Neanderthal hunters continued to hunt in open areas, and were not forced to adapt their tactics to hunting in forested environments.

The findings from Combe-Grenal provide a new perspective on the commonly assumed connection between the evolution of lithic tool production and the adaptation of hunting strategies of human populations in response to environmental changes.

These findings are crucial for comprehending how local environmental changes affected material culture and human history. Further study of similar data from other sites will enable researchers to determine if this trend is consistent across different times and regions.

In their conclusion, the authors write: “Dental microwear texture analysis of ungulate preys at Combe-Grenal shows Neanderthal hunting strategies were unaffected by climatic and environmental oscillations throughout millenia.”

The findings were published today in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Emilie Berlioz of the CNRS/Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès, France, and colleagues, as part of research carried out in the ANR DeerPal project.

Source: 10.1371/journal.pone.0278395

Image Credit: STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP via Getty Images

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