Environmental availability, behavioural diversity and diet: a zooarchaeological approach from the TD10-1 sublevel of Gran Dolina (Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain) and Bolomor Cave (Valencia, Spain)


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January 2013


The suggestion that the Neanderthal linage hominids had predominantly rich diet in meat derived from large game is progressing towards views which propose a higher nutritional diversity, at least in some regions. These postulates situate hominids as the knower of their natural surroundings and make them capable of selecting within the range of resources available in their landscapes. Using a zooarchaeological approach, the taxonomical representation in an anthropogenic site could indicate both the environment diversity that human groups can exploit and the decisions that they make when selecting prey. The Optimal Foraging theory is a basic decision model that is ideally applied within a larger framework of constraining conditions such as differential prey distributions, food-consumer imbalances and/or competition, among others. Nevertheless, if this theory is applied to human behaviour, uncontrolled variables could exist and substantially alter some predictions. These variables may not always be related to the need to optimise the resources; additionally, they can respond to the questions related to nutritional ecology, cultural standards or social relationships conditioned by ecological or technological factors. Environmental and socio-cultural aspects invite us to reflect on the characteristics that delimit the pre-Upper Palaeolithic diet and its correct assessment in relation to the availability of prey in the environment and the human behavioural parameters. In this study, we present data from several levels of Bolomor Cave (Valencia, Spain, MIS 9-5e) and a sample from the TD10-1 sublevel of Gran Dolina (Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain, MIS 9). Both sites have been interpreted as habitat places and allow us to infer the high plasticity of human groups with respect to methods and techniques of acquisition and use of a diverse spectrum of prey. Environmental availability, duration and type of settlement seem to significantly influence the taxonomical representation and must be taken into account when assessi


Middle Pleistocene, Environmental Availability, Behavioural Diversity, Broad Spectrum Diet, Iberian Peninsula, Gran Dolina TD10-1, Bolomor Cave

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Quaternary Science Reviews, Vol. 70 (2013).