The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

A radiogenic strontium isotope analysis of Neandertal prey movement patterns in the Dordogne Valley of France


School of Human Evolution and Social Change and Institute of Human Origins, Arizona State University

Saturday 11:00-11:15, Ballroom C Add to calendar

Did climate change impact local Neandertal habitats, and if so, what impact did these climatic shifts have on Neandertal life-ways? Understanding the migratory behavior of Neandertal prey species offers a window for tracking the impact of environmental changes on the local habitats. It is known that the migratory behaviors of herbivores are dictated by the food resources available and thus tied to the local environment: generally, populations of woodland ungulates migrate less than tundra and grassland ungulates. Therefore, using radiogenic strontium isotope analysis, this study aimed to reconstruct the mobility patterns of Neandertal prey based on the teeth of fauna recovered from the sites of Pech de l’Azé IV and Roc de Marsal located in the Dordogne Valley of France. It has been observed that modern humans and carnivores that hunt migratory species are more mobile than hunter-gatherers and carnivores that hunt less migratory species. Thus, understanding if herbivores changed mobility patterns in differing climatic cycles is critical for understanding how Neandertal hunting behaviors and movement patterns changed with warm and cold climatic oscillations. Results from this study indicate that Neandertal prey species within the Dordogne Valley of France did not undertake long distance migrations in glacial or interglacial cycles. Reindeer stayed within the sedimentary basins of France, and bison moved very little and would have been available to hunt year round. These results suggest that Neandertals may have been more sedentary or regionally nomadic, living in small family groups, similar to recent hunter-gatherers who inhabited boreal forest environments.

Funding was provided by a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant and Arizona State University

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