Upper Palaeolithic mammoth mega-sites: a dog’s dinner?

The discovery and excavation of Palaeolithic sites with vast quantities of mammoth material is a source of both wonder and considerable academic debate. In particular, the large Upper Palaeolithic localities from eastern Europe with structures made from mammoth bones. However, despite a long history of research the actual process of how these remains were acquired…

Diet breadth in the Middle Stone Age: Evolutionarily important?

The Middle Stone Age (MSA, ca. 300,000 to 30,000 years ago), is a crucial period in terms of the emergence of our species. During this period anatomically Modern Humans evolved and spread out of Africa. A recent study published in Current Anthropology (free access) provides a new perspective on this phenomenon through an investigation of subsistence practices…

The role of fatty acids in Palaeolithic diet: New evidence from frozen Mammoth carcasses.

Many studies into Palaeolithic diet, both traditional zooarchaeological analysis and isotope studies, emphasise the importance of meat to past hominin diet. However, these frequently encounter the problem of explaining how these past communities overcame problems related to the consumption of large quantities of meat. Whilst it is one of the worst kept secrets in Palaeolithic archaeology…

Surviving at the edge of the Palaeolithic world

The movement of hominins out of a particular region into different areas, to which they are not necessarily adapted, is a topic familiar to Palaeolithic research for all regions and periods. In northwest Europe this topic has received a lot of interest, particularly related to both the initial occupation of Britain and subsequent re-occupation during…

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…

Tortoise exploitation at the MSA site of Blombos (South Africa)

While classic zooarchaeological studies mainly focus on large mammal remains, a recent paper by Thompson and Henshilwood focus on the exploitation of tortoises. Their aim is to demonstrate through a detailed taphonomic analysis, rather than through mere association, that tortoises are exploited in the Still Bay layers of Blombos Cave. 9,686 specimens from two layers…