• littoral neandertals

    From littoral.homo@gmail.com@21:1/5 to All on Fri Mar 27 07:34:11 2020
    Last Interglacial Iberian Neandertals as fisher-hunter-gatherers
    Zilhao J, Angelucci DE, Igreja MA, Arnold LJ, Badal E, Callapez P, Cardoso JL, dErrico F, Daura J, Demuro M, Deschamps M, Dupont C, Gabriel S, Hoffmann DL, Legoinha P, Matias H, Monge Soares AM, Nabai, M, Portela P, Queffelec A, Rodrigues F & Souto P 2020

    Science 367 doi 10.1126/science.aaz7943 http://science.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/short/367/6485/eaaz7943?rss=1

    Marine food-reliant subsistence systems such as those in the African Middle Stone Age (MSA) were not thought to exist in Europe until the much later Mesolithic.
    Whether this apparent lag reflects taphonomic biases or behavioral distinctions between archaic & modern humans remains much debated.
    Figueira Brava cave (Arrábida range, Portugal) provides an exceptionally well-preserved record of Neandertal coastal resource exploitation on a comparable scale to the MSA, ~86 to 106 ka.
    The breadth of the subsistence base (pine nuts, marine invertebrates, fish, marine birds & mammals, tortoises, waterfowl & hoofed game) exceeds that of regional early Holocene sites.
    Fisher-hunter-gatherer economies are not the preserve of anatomically modern people,
    by the Last Interglacial, they were in place across the Old World in the appropriate settings.


    Fruits of the sea

    The origins of marine resource consumption by humans have been much debated. Zilhão cs present evidence:
    in Atlantic Iberia's coastal settings, Mid-Paleolithic Hn exploited marine resources at a scale on par with the modern human-associated MSA of S-Africa (Perspective by Will).
    Excavations at the Figueira Brava site on Portugal's Atlantic coast reveal
    - shell-middens rich in the remains of mollusks, crabs & fish &
    - terrestrial food items.
    Familiarity with the sea & its resources may thus have been widespread for residents there in the Mid-Paleolithic.
    The Figueira Brava Hn also exploited stone pine nuts in a way akin to that previously identified in the Holocene of Iberia.
    These findings add broader dimensions to our understanding of the role of aquatic resources in the subsistence of Paleolithic humans.


    A record of the regular exploitation of aquatic foods has been lacking in Hn Europe.
    By contrast, marine resources feature prominently (alongside personal ornaments, body painting & linear-geometric drawings) in the archeology of Last Interglacial Africa.
    A competitive advantage scenario of human origins is that the habitual consumption of aquatic foods + fatty acids (which favor brain development) underpins the acquisition of modernity in cognition & behavior.
    The resulting innovations in technology, demographic growth & enhanced pro-sociality would therefore explain Hs' out-of-Africa expansion with regard to both dispersal process (along coastal routes & to S-Asia first) & outcome (the demise of co-eval non-
    modern Eurasians).
    A corollary of this view is that the paucity of marine foods at Hn coastal sites is a genuine reflection of their subsistence behavior.


    Europe's Atlantic façade boasts resource-rich coastal waters comparable to those of S.Africa.
    From Scandinavia to France, however, any evidence for the Last Interglacial exploitation of marine resources would have been lost to subsequent ice-cap advances & post-glacial submersion of the wide continental platform.
    Conversely, the very steep shelf off Arrábida (a littoral mountain range 30 km S of Lisbon) has enabled extant & submerged shore-lines to be preserved short distances apart.
    Gruta da Figueira Brava (one of Arrábida's erosion-protected sea-side cave sites) provides a singular opportunity to investigate whether any considerable Last Interglacial accumulations of marine food debris ever existed in Europe.


    The Figueira Brava archeological sequence dates to ~86 to 106 ka.
    Throughout, there is evidence of a settlement-subsistence system, based on regular exploitation of all animal resources offered by the coastal environment:
    large crabs, marine mollusks, fish, marine birds & mammals, tortoise, waterfowl & hoofed game.
    The composition of the food basket & the structure of the deposit vary as a function of the following:
    (i) sea-level oscillation, with implications for the eco-systems that were preferentially targeted,
    (ii) frequency of human occupation,
    (iii) site-formation process,
    (iv) position of the archeological trenches, relative to the changing configuration of the inhabited space.

    The initial occupations (phases FB1 & FB2, when the sea was closer to the cave, ~750 m) include shell-supported accumulations.
    These occupations were followed by a period of infrequent use (FB3) & a final phase (FB4), when the shoreline was ~2000 m away, but shellfish were again discarded at the site in substantial amounts.
    The density of marine food remains compares well to that seen in the regional Mesolithic & the Last Interglacial of S.Africa & the Maghreb,
    it exceeds the latter 2 in the case of crabs & fish.
    Figueira Brava also documents a stone pine economy featuring seasonal harvesting & on-site storage of the cones for deferred consumption of the nuts.
    The stability of this subsistence system suggests successful long-term adaptation.

    Figueira Brava provides the 1st record of significant marine resource consumption among Europe's Hn.
    Taphonomic & site-preservation biases explain why this kind of record has not been previously found in Europe on the scale seen among coeval African populations.
    Consistent with rapidly accumulating evidence that Hn possessed a fully symbolic material culture, the subsistence evidence reported here further questions the behavioral gap once thought to separate them from Hs.

    Gruta da Figueira Brava, Arrábida, Portugal.
    Note the Mediterranean vegetation, like at the time of the Last Interglacial occupation, the MIS 5e marine abrasion terrace & under the overhang, the brecciated remnant dated to ~86 to 106 kya. Neandertal use of this cave space, which is currently
    unroofed due to Holocene erosion, has left an archeological record rich in fish, shellfish, and other coastal resources.

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