Wildcat consumption by Neanderthals at Abric Romani (Spain)

While Neanderthals are generally seen as mainly exploiting large and medium-sized ungulates, more and more evidence indicates that they were processing smaller, faster animals as well. A good example is the recently published study by Gabucio et al. in Quaternary International. They undertook detailed analyses of the remains of wildcat (Felis silvestris) from  level O at Abric Romani, dated to 55,000BP. 100 wildcat bone fragments are present but they all seem to belong to a single, nearly complete, adult individual. Cut marks, specific breakage patterns and a lack of carnivore modifications, all indicate that this wildcat was acquired by Neanderthals who introduced it into the rockshelter to butcher it. The low amount of burned bones does not allow for a discussion about whether the cat was roasted or not.

This is an exceptional case since the rest of the Abric Romani fauna is dominated by red deer and horse. However, the processing of carnivores has been recorded at other sites, e.g. on lion remains recovered from Atapuerca (Spain) and bears at Balve (Germany). Overall, even though this wildcat butchery might have been a one-off event at Abric Romaine, it indicates wider variability and flexibility in Neanderthal subsistence behaviour, fitting in with for example the recent paper on Abri du Maras (France).

Full reference:

Maria Joana Gabucio, Isabel Cáceres, Antonio Rodríguez-Hidalgo, Jordi Rosell, Palmira Saladié. 2013. A wildcat (Felis silvestris) butchered by Neanderthals in Level O of the Abric Romaní site (Capellades, Barcelona, Spain). Quaternary International, Available online 12 November 2013.

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