Neanderthal deer hunting, new research


This 2011 video is called Neanderthals Hunt Down A Horse – Planet Of The Apemen; Battle For Earth – Episode Two – BBC One.

The video depicts Neanderthals as brown-skinned. However, living in not so sunny Ice Age Europe, they had long along lost the black complexion of their African ancestors. After modern humans came to Europe from Africa later, they were dark-skinned even still shortly after the Ice Age, and, like Neanderthals earlier, gradually became light complexioned.

From the Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet Mainz in Germany:

Neanderthals practiced close-range hunting 120,000 years ago

July 2, 2018

An international team of scientists reports the oldest unambiguous hunting lesions documented in the history of humankind. The lesions were found on skeletons of two large-sized extinct fallow deer killed by Neandertals about 120,000 years ago around the shores of a small lake (Neumark-Nord 1) near present-day Halle in the eastern part of Germany. The study was led by Professor Sabine Gaudzinski-Windheuser of the Department of Ancient Studies at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and was now published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.

The study constitutes a significant step forward in our knowledge of the Neandertal niche. It demonstrates how Neandertals obtained their prey, first and foremost in terms of their much debated hunting equipment while also shedding light on their hunting skills.

With an innovative experimental ballistic setup including state-of-the-art motion-sensor technology, the researchers were able to reproduce the specific form of one of the lesions. The results prove the use of a wooden thrusting spear that was impacted with low velocity. This suggests that Neandertals approached animals very closely and thrusted rather than threw their spears at the animals, most likely from an underhand thrusting angle. Such a confrontational way of hunting required careful planning and concealment as well as close cooperation between individual hunters.

The lake where the hunts took place was surrounded by a close canopy forest, a type of environment deemed particularly challenging for hunter-gatherers, even modern human ones. Interestingly, the excavations in the Neumark-Nord area have yielded tens of thousands of bones of large mammals, including red and fallow deer, horses, and bovids, as well as thousands of lithic artefacts from this uniquely rich Last Interglacial lake landscape, attesting to the success of Neandertal survival in forested environments.

“Although hominins most likely started hunting with weapons more than 500,000 years ago, actual evidence on how wooden spear-like objects like those found at Clacton-on-Sea in England as well as in Schöningen and Lehringen in German were used was absent prior to the identification of the Neumark-Nord hunting lesions”, stated Gaudzinski-Windheuser. “As far as spear use is concerned, we now finally have the crime scene fitting to the proverbial smoking gun.”

Cold climates contributed to the extinction of the Neanderthals: here.

Fossil teeth from Italy, among the oldest human remains on the Italian Peninsula, show that Neanderthal dental features had evolved by around 450,000 years ago, according to a study published October 3, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Clément Zanolli of the Université Toulouse III Paul Sabatier in France and colleagues. These teeth also add to a growing picture of a period of complex human evolution that we are only beginning to understand: here.

An international team of scientists has completed the first 3D virtual reconstruction of the ribcage of the most complete Neanderthal skeleton unearthed to date, potentially shedding new light on how this ancient human moved and breathed. The team, which included researchers from universities in Spain, Israel, and the United States, including the University of Washington, focused on the thorax — the area of the body containing the rib cage and upper spine, which forms a cavity to house the heart and lungs. Using CT scans of fossils from an approximately 60,000-year-old male skeleton known as Kebara 2, researchers were able to create a 3D model of the chest — one that is different from the longstanding image of the barrel-chested, hunched-over “caveman.” The conclusions point to what may have been an upright individual with greater lung capacity and a straighter spine than today’s modern human: here.

Neanderthals have been imagined as the inferior cousins of modern humans, but a new study by archaeologists at UCL reveals for the first time that they produced weaponry advanced enough to kill at a distance. The study, published in Scientific Reports, examined the performance of replicas of the 300,000 year old Schöningen spears — the oldest weapons reported in archaeological records — to identify whether javelin throwers could use them to hit a target at distance: here.

This scientist watches meat rot to decipher the Neandertal diet. Nitrogen-15 levels in putrefying meat could explain high levels of the isotope in hominid fossils. By Laurel Hamers, 6:00am, January 2, 2019.

Teeth of Homo antecessor shed light on trends in Pleistocene hominin dental evolution. Early Pleistocene hominins already exhibit features that would later be characteristic of Neanderthals: here.

Using evidence found in teeth from two Neanderthals from southeastern France, researchers report the earliest evidence of lead exposure in an extinct human-like species from 250,000 years ago: here.

Skull damage suggests Neandertals led no more violent lives than humans: here.

Researchers describe two late Neanderthals with exceptionally high nitrogen isotope ratios, which would traditionally be interpreted as the signature of freshwater fish consumption. By studying the isotope ratios of single amino acids, they however demonstrated that instead of fish, the adult Neanderthal had a diet relying on large herbivore mammals and that the other Neanderthal was a breastfeeding baby whose mother was also a carnivore: here.

A new study of Bajondillo Cave (Málaga, Spain) reveals that modern humans replaced Neanderthals at this site approximately 44,000 years ago. The research shows that the replacement of Neanderthals by modern humans in southern Iberia began early, rather than late, in comparison to the rest of Western Europe: here.

Oxford University scientists have played a key role in new research identifying the earliest evidence of some of the first known humans — Denisovans and Neanderthals, in Southern Siberia: here.

9 thoughts on “Neanderthal deer hunting, new research

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  2. Neanderthals could make fire – just like our modern ancestors

    19 July 2018

    Neanderthals were able to make fire on a large scale with the aid of pyrite and hand-axes. This means they could decide when and where they wanted fire and were not dependent on natural fire, as was thought earlier. Archaeologist Andrew Sorensen has discovered the first material evidence for this. Publication in Scientific Reports.

    Dependent on natural fire

    ‘Late prehistoric modern humans could make fire whenever they needed it,’ says archaeologist Andrew Sorensen. They did so by striking a piece of pyrite – a mineral that contains iron – with flint tools called strike-a-lights. But there was no evidence their more ancient relatives the Neanderthals, a long extinct prehistoric human species, used this technique as well. The general idea was therefore that Neanderthals did not make their own fire, but were dependent on natural fires caused by lightning strikes, for instance. Sorensen: ‘They would have collected flaming sticks to light their own fires, which they kept burning at all times and were even able to take with them as they moved around.’ No mean feat, nor are you always guaranteed fire.

    Microscopic wear

    This idea now appears to be incorrect, at least among some younger Neanderthal groups. Sorensen has discovered that our Stone Age cousins were able to make their own fires, and that this practice was widespread. Together with French archaeologist Emilie Claud and Leiden Archaeology Professor Marie Soressi, he discovered very specific microscopic wear on flint hand-axes (also called bifaces) from the Middle Palaeolithic, the era of the Neanderthals. ‘I recognised this type of wear from my earlier experimental work. These are the traces you get if you try to generate sparks by striking a piece of flint against a piece of pyrite.’ Only these hand-axes are much older than the fire making tools on which this wear has so far been found.

    Making fire on a large scale

    Sorensen and Claud studied dozens of hand-axes of about 50,000 years in age from various sites throughout France. They found the same distinctive wear on all of them. ‘This proves that it was not an incidental find, but that the Neanderthals could make fire on a large scale,’ says Sorensen. And that is of huge significance. Sorensen explains: ‘Being able to make their own fire gives the Neanderthals much more flexibility in their lives. It’s a skill we suspected, but didn’t know for sure they possessed. That they figured out bashing two rocks together could produce a brand new substance (fire) completely unlike the parent materials gives us new insight into the cognitive skills of Neanderthals. It shows Neandertals possessed similar technological capabilities to modern humans, even though they sometimes behaved differently.’

    Striking flint with pyrite

    With a combination of microscopic research and experiments, Sorensen discovered that the traces of wear were specific to fire making. ‘You see percussion marks in the shape of a letter C. You also see parallel scratches, or striations, along the length of the hand-axe and mineral polish on the surface.’ He carried out various experiments to eliminate other causes of this distinctive wear. He used hand-axes to grind pigments, sharpen other tools, and for other pounding and rubbing activities using various types of stone. ‘A hand-axe was the Neanderthal Swiss Army Knife. They used them for everything. But only making fire with pyrite would have produced this exact suite of use-wear traces.’
    Microscopic recordings of the hand-axes: left the C-shaped indentations, right the lengthwise scratches. Microscopic recordings of the hand-axes: left the C-shaped indentations, right the lengthwise scratches.

    The paper by Andrew Sorensen was published in Scientific Reports and can be read at the website of Scientific Reports.

    Text: Marieke Epping

    https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/news/2018/07/neanderthals-could-make-fire

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