Bite or flight: stable isotope analysis of teeth to reconstruct hominin prey lifeways in the Middle Pleistocene of France and Israel.

Author: Marian Bailey

Bailey, Marian, 2019 Bite or flight: stable isotope analysis of teeth to reconstruct hominin prey lifeways in the Middle Pleistocene of France and Israel., Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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Hominin predation behaviour is explored in this thesis through the isotope analysis of hominin prey teeth. The Middle Palaeolithic sites of Holon and Payre are the two sites of focus in this research. Payre is located in the Ardèche region of France and dates from MIS 5 to 7 (Moncel and Condemi 2007) and has Homo neanderthalensis remains associated with several of the layers. Holon is in Israel and has been dated to ca. 200,000 BP (MIS 7) (Porat et al. 1999). The site has been identified as a palimpsest open air site and has multiple scavenging events associated with it. While no Homo erectus remains have been found at the site, the timing, location and site formation are all indicative of a H. erectus site. The use of stable isotopes to identify behaviours of hominins has often focused on the tissues of the hominins themselves. These are unfortunately quite rare, and analysis is not always a feasible option. Another increasingly popular approach is the analysis of the tissues of hominins’ prey. In this study the enamel and dentine of 14 Bos primigenius teeth from the site of Payre and 4 Palaeoloxodon sp., 3 Dama Dama and 3 Bos primigenius teeth from Holon were analysed for strontium, oxygen and carbon isotope concentrations. The results of the analysis indicated a far greater level of mobility for the Payre animals when compared to the Holon animals from the same period. Overall the mobility of prey at Payre were variable, with the distance changing alongside the climate. The results of the diet analysis indicated a diet primarily composed of C4 vegetation. The prey at Holon showed a far lower range of mobility and remained almost entirely within 1.2km of the site. Like the animals at Payre, the prey ate C4 vegetation. The results and interpretations drawn from the results are similar to the commonly held views about H. neanderthalensis or H. erectus hunting behaviours. The more mobile prey at Payre, which were reactive to climate were hunted. The more sessile prey at Holon were more likely scavenged, although due to the location of the site the hominins there likely chose the site for its strategic scavenging potential, rather than choosing to scavenge because they could not hunt.

Keywords: Neanderthal, Homo erectus, isotope, strontium, mobility, prey

Subject: Archaeology thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2019
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Ian Moffat