Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mousterian plant and fish use at El Salt?

Belatedly catching up on some Paleolithic news, a short newspaper feature (in Spanish) from Alcoy in Mediterranean Spain describes some of the recent results from the ongoing research by B. Galván at the Mousterian site of El Salt (pictured below at the base of the overhang at the center left).

The site itself is very interesting, sitting as it does at an ecotone and containing some substantial Mousterian levels, but what especially piqued my curiosity is the mention that collaborations with specialists in organic chemistry have allowed the extraction of animal fats from stones associated with some of the hearths at the site that indicate that deer and wild goats were cooked at the site. These analyses also have yielded fatty residues from plants that suggest some cooking/burning of plants at the site. Also of note is the reported presence, in the same hearths, of some burnt fragments of fish bones, which suggest that food resource may have been excavated at El Salt as far back as 50,000BP, when only Neanderthals were present in Europe. Not much else in the way of details, unfortunately.

H/T: Mundo Neandertal


Anne Gilbert said...

This kind of reminds me of the appccarent find of fish bones at Grotte xvi in SW France, and also that Neandertals apparently used grasses and other plant material in their fires, possibly ctoc dryc or csmcoke cficshcc or other foocd sources.
Anne G

onix said...

and i was thinking it was natural we like the taste of victoria perch,,, ;) lake<< turkana and northsea fish. actually the whole riftvalley as it relates to hominids is a lake deposit.

also the eating plants bit i find a bit obscure,

is there really anyone who seriously thinks any of our ancestors or close relatives didn't eat masses of at least fruits, berry's, nuts, (spring)leaves and the like's? that is very contrary to any anthropology's except the inuits,

iotw. humans (any result of hominids) love to eat plants whenever they can be obtained from the landscape. early humans stayed away from permafrost a bit more,
or so it seems, and as far as i know the inuit adaption is at most some 10-20kA.

that only is a convincing argument plants were a major part of the diet. if any ancestor had been particularly fond of only meat they could have lived in polar regions and on higher lattitudes then they did.

also afaik all ancestors had relatively bigger molars, wich indicates coarser (vegetal) food in primates?

it is worth considering the scavenging that often appears a major part of protein provision and remains that important (in europe) untill say 400kA. they invest a lot of tools and time for marrow. means obviously they ate something more.(10 -15% marrow not considering meat would probs be enough for protein and fat consumption) obtaining marrow from bones i think is also not very timeconsuming, smash, scrape, munch (run) .

carnivorism could btw be proven from teeth, both as wearmarks and in mineral tracers. (ofcourse nothing is the matter, i haven't seen one mineral analyses that mentioned a carnivorous diet, so there was none, actually the comparison of wearmarks suggests exactly that, that within one layer of continual habitation there is a trend to decline or fluctuations of the animal resources for one population .)

in anthropology cultures tend to refer meat and fish, so that when there is abundance a larger part of the diet exists of tastier meat or fish. megatherium had less cutmarks when it was still common, so i wonder if we can compile anything like sequences or cultures in quantative comparisons of cutmarks in typical(terminate) prey.( anything we hunted enough for it to become rare)

allthough doing that is more common for modern human, the correlation between species and older hominids is in any case suggestive and with the help of climate we may be able to draw much more conclusions from cutmarks on bones in their respective layers. (climate taking care that certain prey would get more significantly scarce in divere area of hominid/human inhabitation at a(supra?) cultural (for cutmarks) level.

at some points in prehistory modern humans hunted down gruesome numbers of prey in europe, for scratches of meat only. killing the ones that depended on the bison? or just the extremest example of a slow dispersal into barely touched lands?

in either case a comparison of cutmarks and the rate of extinguishing of several or most (most would be liable) bigger/ easier prey would probably give interesting information about the correlation between habitations (known sites) and their 'thrifts'.
geographical ,'cultural/nutritional' and demographically mobement whence paleoclimatologically quitte comprehensively)
we would globally become to know when they could eat what
and assign that to layers or interprete these with even formerly unknown prey.

probably tallying a few of the more prominent and nutritionally significant bones and their cutmarks could then quite precisely date and correlate levels.

(more about oils and body shades)

Anne Gilbert said...

This is an interesting comment, but many people still feel that Neandertals ate (mostly or wholly) meat products, based on the traces of certain characteristics found in the remains. This seems to be norne out by the kind of animal remanis found at many Neandertal site. But there is also evidence from several sites that suggest that they also made use of plant materiale.g. El Salt, as Dr. Riel-Salvatore suggested, and also at Tor Faraj, in Jordan. They may have eaten some plant products in season, or used plant matcerial for other pruposes, such as twine, for example. Perhaps this perception has cmore to do with the climate in the more northerly part of Paleolithic Eurasia, but also on the presumed caloric needs of large-muscled-and boneed people living in harsh conditions. But being "generalized foragers", I would imagine they made use of any and all food sources available, depending on the season. These discoveries seem to bear out this supposition.