Neanderthals: Pioneers in the use of marine resources

Archaeology

Neanderthals slurping seashells by the seashore? This scene may startle those accustomed to imagining Homo neanderthalensis as a people of cold climes who hunted large herbivores. Yet an international team including scientists from three laboratories affiliated with the CNRS and partner institutions1 have just demonstrated that Neanderthals hunted, fished, and gathered prodigious volumes of seafood and other marine animals: they discovered remains of molluscs, crustaceans, fish, birds, and mammals in a Portuguese cave (Figueira Brava) occupied by Neanderthals between 106,000 and 86,000 BCE. The diversity of marine food resources found there even exceeds that observed at other, much more recent Portuguese sites, dated to 9,000–7,500 BCE. The team’s findings, published in Science (27 March 2020), suggest that many Neanderthal groups—living in Mediterranean climates far from the mammoth hunts of the frigid steppes—shared these dietary habitats.

Marine ressources from Figueira Brava. A. limpets, B. clams, C. crab, D. dolphin vertebrae, E. shark vertebrae
© A-C M. Nabais, D Antunes et al. 2000, E. J. P. Ruas

 

  • 1. 1 – Researchers from Centre de recherche en archéologie, archéosciences, Histoire (CNRS/Université de Rennes), from De la préhistoire à l'actuel : culture, environnement et anthropologie laboratory (CNRS/Université de Bordeaux/Ministère de la Culture) and Travaux de recherches archéologiques sur les cultures, les espaces et les sociétés laboratory (CNRS/Université de Toulouse Jean Jaurès/Ministère de la Culture).
Bibliography

Last Interglacial Iberian Neandertals as Fisher-Hunter-Gatherers. J. Zilhão, D. E. Angelucci, M. Araújo Igreja, L. J. Arnold, E. Badal, P. Callapez, J. L. Cardoso, F. d’Errico, J. Daura, M. Demuro, M. Deschamps, C. Dupont, S. Gabriel, D. L. Hoffmann, P. Legoinha, H. Matias, A. M. Monge Soares, M. Nabais, P. Portela, A. Queffelec, F. Rodrigues and P. Souto. Science, 27 March 2020. DOI:10.1126/science.aaz7943

Contact

Francesco d'Errico
Chercheur CNRS
Catherine Dupont
Chercheuse en archéozoologie des invertébrés marins
Alain Queffelec
Ingénieur de recherche CNRS
François Maginiot
CNRS press officer