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Neanderthal Diet at Vindija and Neanderthal Predation: The Evidence from Stable Isotopes

Michael P. Richards, Paul B. Pettitt, Erik Trinkaus, Fred H. Smith, Maja Paunovic and Ivor Karavanic
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Vol. 97, No. 13 (Jun. 20, 2000), pp. 7663-7666
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/122870
Page Count: 4
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Neanderthal Diet at Vindija and Neanderthal Predation: The Evidence from Stable Isotopes
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Abstract

Archeological analysis of faunal remains and of lithic and bone tools has suggested that hunting of medium to large mammals was a major element of Neanderthal subsistence. Plant foods are almost invisible in the archeological record, and it is impossible to estimate accurately their dietary importance. However, stable isotope (δ 13C and δ 15N) analysis of mammal bone collagen provides a direct measure of diet and has been applied to two Neanderthals and various faunal species from Vindija Cave, Croatia. The isotope evidence overwhelmingly points to the Neanderthals behaving as top-level carnivores, obtaining almost all of their dietary protein from animal sources. Earlier Neanderthals in France and Belgium have yielded similar results, and a pattern of European Neanderthal adaptation as carnivores is emerging. These data reinforce current taphonomic assessments of associated faunal elements and make it unlikely that the Neanderthals were acquiring animal protein principally through scavenging. Instead, these findings portray them as effective predators.

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