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date: 20 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the evidence for diet amongst Middle Palaeolithic foragers in Europe and south-west Asia from c. 300,000 to 40,000 years ago, concentrating on faunal and isotopic approaches. Published faunal evidence shows that Middle Palaeolithic hominins in both regions hunted a relatively narrow range of medium- to large-sized ungulates, with occasional exploitation of megaherbivores more evident in open sites than in caves and rockshelters. Broader diets have been documented in southern Europe, although regular consumption of fast, small-sized taxa emerged only later during the Upper Palaeolithic. Stable light isotope data, often interpreted as indicating that European Neanderthals were top-level predators preferring either megaherbivores, or bovids and horses, only partly accords with the faunal evidence. Taphonomic considerations suggest that energy procurement, especially as fat, and the effects of transport constraints have so far not been sufficiently considered when assessing the dietary composition of Middle Palaeolithic hominins.

Keywords: Middle Palaeolithic, Neanderthals, modern humans, faunal analysis, trophic level

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