Europe’s Early Homo sapiens Ate Mammoth Meat and Plants | Anthropology, Paleoanthropology

Plants and the meat of mammoths, red deer and horses were a major part of the diet of anatomically modern humans who lived in what is now Crimea, Ukraine, between 38,000 and 33,000 years ago.

Cro-Magnon artists painting woolly mammoths by Charles R. Knight.

“Anatomically modern humans colonized Europe around 45,000-43,000 years ago, replacing Neanderthals approximately 3,000 years later, with potential cultural and biological interactions between these two human groups,” said Professor Hervé Bocherens, a biogeologist at the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment at the University of Tübingen, Germany, and lead author of a study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

“Many studies examine the question of what led to this displacement — one hypothesis postulates that the diet of the anatomically modern humans was more diverse and flexible and often included fish.”

In order to reconstruct the diet of Europe’s early Homo sapiens, Professor Bocherens and co-authors analyzed directly dated human and animal specimens from the Paleolithic site of Buran-Kaya III in Ukraine.

Buran-Kaya III is a rock shelter located on the eastern bank of the Burulcha river in the Belogorsk region of south Crimea,” the researchers said.

“The site was discovered in 1990 by A. Yanevich (National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine) and excavated until 2001. It has provided a rich archaeological sequence including two Upper Paleolithic layers, from which human fossils were retrieved and directly dated as from 37,800 to 33,100 years before present.”

Proportional contribution of Deer&Horse (red deer and horse), Saiga (saiga antelope), Mammoth (woolly mammoth) and Hare (hare) as estimated by Drucker et al for human remains from different layers of Buran-Kaya III; each symbol corresponds to the mean protein diet contribution to a given human individual. Bars indicate standard deviations. Image credit: Drucker et al, doi:…

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