Hunting traditions of Neanderthals did not depend on climate change

(ORDO NEWS) — The results of the new study contradict earlier ideas, according to which the evolution of stone tools was a consequence of climatic fluctuations.

The archaeological site of Combes-Grenal in southwestern France belongs to the Middle Paleolithic. Finds from several dozen layers made it possible to establish that Neanderthals lived there for many millennia – from about 150 to 45 thousand years ago.

In Combes-Grenal, archaeologists at different times found not only the remains of the Neanderthals themselves, but also many stone tools that make it possible to trace the evolution of their manufacture.

In addition, many remains (teeth and bones) of animals were raised from the layers – apparently those that were hunted by the inhabitants of Combes-Grenal.

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Localization and climatic context of Combes-Grenal

According to modern ideas, our close relatives ate mainly large herbivores. And those, in turn, can be divided into two groups: those who lived in open areas (steppe / tundra) and those who preferred forests.

Paleozoologists classify the steppe bison and aurochs ( Bison priscus and Bos primigenius ) and the reindeer ( Rangifer tarandus ) as the former, and the red deer ( Cervus elaphus ) as the latter.

During the time that the Neanderthals lived in Combe-Grenal, the climate managed to change several times: warming followed by cold snaps and vice versa.

Scientists assumed that life in such difficult conditions forced Neanderthals to adapt, including in matters of hunting.

After all, if it gets warmer and forests begin to grow around, then you need to hunt a little differently than in the tundra, where you can see not only a deer, but also a hunter for many kilometers.

A scientific team led by Emilie Berlioz from the University of Toulouse (France) studied the teeth of herbivores found in Combe-Grenal and belonging to a variety of periods.

The scientists wanted to find out if climate change had affected the hunting strategies of Neanderthals.

The authors studied almost 400 samples of animal teeth – victims of hunting, including steppe bison, aurochs, red and reindeer.

They looked at the wear and tear on their teeth to determine the diet of the individuals. As a result, it turned out that the animals fed mainly on plants growing in an open, tundra-like environment.

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In order to study microdamages in the teeth of herbivores, scientists made casts

And this applies even to the red deer: according to the conclusions of the authors of the article, these herbivores in the last days of their lives fed on plants growing in open spaces.

This data contradicts the traditional ideas about the diet of the red deer, and paleozoologists have yet to figure out why he decided to change the habitat.

This picture persisted for many millennia recorded in Combes-Grenal. All the herbivores mentioned preferred to live and, accordingly, eat in open areas, even during times of significant climate fluctuations.

And this greatly simplified the life of the Neanderthals. Ancient people who lived for many millennia in one place did not change their hunting habits – after all, the habits of game did not change either.

The conclusions of the Berlioz group pose a very interesting question to scientists.

The fact is that traditionally the evolution of stone tools is associated precisely with changes in hunting strategies, which, according to previous researchers, must necessarily have occurred as a result of climatic fluctuations.

But in Combes-Grenal, the evolution of stone tools can be traced unambiguously: fortunately, more than 140 thousand of them have already been found today.

But hunting, it turns out, remained unchanged. This means that the improvement and variety of tools are in no way connected with the need to get food in the changed conditions.

It is impossible to say now whether this situation is unique for Combes-Grenal. This requires similar work on the material of other Neanderthal sites.

But the very fact that the relatives and rivals of Homo sapiens improved their tool activity not because of food problems, but for some other reason, is very important. Perhaps this happened just because someone did not sit in Africa.


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