Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Bones from French cave show Neanderthals, Cro-Magnon hunted same prey


A 50,000-year record of mammals consumed by early humans in southwestern France indicates there was no major difference in the prey hunted by Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon, according to a new study.

The paper, published in the online Journal of Archaeological Science, counters the idea proposed by some scientists that Cro-Magnon, who were physically similar to modern man, supplanted Neanderthals because they were more skilled hunters as a result of some evolutionary physical or mental advantage.

"This study suggests Cro-Magnon were not superior in getting food from the landscape," said lead author Donald Grayson, a University of Washington professor of archaeology. "We could detect no difference in diet, the animals they were hunting and the way they were hunting across this period of time, aside from those caused by climate change.

"So the takeover by Cro-Magnon does not seem to be related to hunting capability. There is no significant difference in large mammal use from Neanderthals to Cro-Magnon in this part of the world. The idea that Neanderthals were big, dumb brutes is hard for some people to drop. Cro-Magnon created the first cave art, but late Neanderthals made body ornaments, so the depth of cognitive difference between the two just is not clear."

The study also resurrects a nearly 50-year-old theory first proposed by Finnish paleontologist Björn Kurtén that modern humans played a role in the extinction of giant cave bears in Europe. Cro-Magnon may have been the original "apartment hunters" and displaced the bears by competing with them for the same caves the animals used for winter den sites.

Grayson and his colleague, Francoise Delpech, a French paleontologist at the Institut de Prehistoire et de Geologie du Quanternaire at the University of Bordeaux, examined the fossil record left in Grotte XVI, a cave above the Ceou River, near its confluence with the Dordogne River. The cave has a rich, dated archaeological sequence that extends from about 65,000 to about 12,000 years ago, spanning the time when Neanderthals flourished and died off and when Cro-Magnon moved into the region. Neanderthals disappeared from southwestern France around 35,000 years ago, although they survived longer in southern Spain and central Europe.

The researchers were most interested in the transition from the Middle to Upper Paleolithic, or Middle to Late Stone Age.

Neanderthals occupied Grotte XVI as far back as 65,000 years ago, perhaps longer. Between 40,000 and 35,000 years ago, people began making stone tools in France, including at Grotte XVI, that were more like those later fashioned by Cro-Magnon. However, human remains found with these tools at several sites, were Neanderthal, not Cro-Magnon. Similar tools but no human remains from this time period were found in Grotte XVI and people assumed to be Cro-Magnon did not occupy the cave until about 30,000 years ago.

The researchers examined more than 7,200 bones and teeth from large hoofed mammals that had been recovered from the cave. The animals – ungulates such as reindeer, red deer, roe deer, horses and chamois were the most common prey – were the mainstay of humans in this part of the world, according to Grayson.

He and Delpech found a remarkable dietary similarity over time. Throughout the 50,000-year record, each bone and tooth assemblage, regardless of the time period or the size of the sample involved, contained eight or nine species of ungulates, indicating that Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon both hunted a wide variety of game.

The only difference the researchers found was in the relative abundance of species, particularly reindeer, uncovered at the various levels in Grotte XVI. At the oldest dated level in the cave, reindeer remains accounted for 26 percent of the total. Red deer were the most common prey at this time, accounting for nearly 34 percent of the bones and teeth. However, as summer temperatures began to drop in Southwestern France, the reindeer numbers increased and became the prey of choice. By around 30,000 years ago, when Cro-Magnon moved into the region, reindeer accounted for 52 percent of the bones and teeth. And by around 12,500 years ago, during the last ice age, reindeer remains accounted for 94 percent of bones and teeth found in Grotte XVI.

Grayson and Delpech also looked at the cut marks left on bones to analyze how humans were butchering their food. They found little difference except, surprisingly, at the uppermost level, which corresponds to the last ice age.

"It is possible that because it was so cold, people were hard up for food," Grayson said. "The bones were very heavily butchered, which might be a sign of food stress. However, if this had occurred earlier during Neanderthal times, people would have said this is a sure sign that Neanderthals did not have the fine hand-eye coordination to do fine butchering."

In examining the Grotte XVI record, the researchers also found a sharp drop in the number of cave bears from Neanderthal to Cro-Magnon times.

"Cave bears and humans may have been competing for the same living space and this may have led to their extinction," Grayson said. He added that it is not clear if the decline and eventual extinction of the bears was driven by an increase in the number of humans or increased human residence times in caves, or both.

"If we can understand the extinction of any animal from the past, such as the cave bear, it gives us a piece of evidence showing the importance of habitat to animals. The cave bear is one of the icons of the late Pleistocene Epoch, similar to the saber tooth cats and mammoths in North America. If further study supports Kurtén’s argument, we finally may be in a position to confirm a human role in the extinction of a large Pleistocene mammal on a Northern Hemisphere continent."

For more information, contact Grayson at (206) 543-5587 or grayson at or Delpech at 033-05-56-84-8890 or

Joel Schwarz | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht New technologies and computing power to help strengthen population data
22.03.2018 | University of Southampton

nachricht New interactive map shows climate change everywhere in world
22.03.2018 | University of Cincinnati

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Modular safety concept increases flexibility in plant conversion

22.03.2018 | Trade Fair News

New interactive map shows climate change everywhere in world

22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

New technologies and computing power to help strengthen population data

22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>