Ancient History



The upper paleolithic is characterized by advanced hunting of large animals with various weapons, and planning to maximize easy prey

Palaeolithic and Mesolithic kill-butchering sites: the hard evidence

Diet, Evolution, Extinction, Hunting
Facultative Carnivore
Carnivore Diet

Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Hunting: 

the archaeological record leaves us some direct evidence of man's hunting activities. At Meiendorf (Rust 1937) and Stellmoor (Rusf 1937), some bones of reindeer and birds still conserve weapon marks and a few pieces of silex have remained thrusted in mammalian bones; man kills reindeer with harpoons and sticks (fractured skulls), birds with bows and maybe slings. Three fractured skulls of red deer in Abri Pataud (Bouchud, 1975), and one bovid skull with a circular orifice in Saint Marcel (Allain, 1952) suggest the practice of the so called " co'up de merlin": man has delivered a blow similar to the one used today to butcher cattle. Probably the animal already immobilized (wounded or entrapped) was hit on the frontal with a big stone. At Kokorevo I (Siberia), a large scapula of bison is pierced by the upper end of a point made of bone (Boriskowksi, 1965). At High Furlong (Mesolithic), an elk was discovered with the marks of L7 wounds made by barbed points, of which two were found in the site, and by other arms. The animal had apparently been attacked at two distinct occasions: during the first one, hunters aimed at the legs to lame the animal (fig. 6), later hunters hit the thoracic region and the lungs to kill it. However the elk died in a little lake, perhaps imprisoned in the ice, and man had no access to the meat. The animal represents in fact a hunting loss (Hallam et a1.,1973). 

Planning: very good. Many sites belong to Wpe e, were occupied periodically or seasonally and specialised in the capture of a particular game (e.g., horse, reindeeq, ibex). Game drive towards cliffs have been claimed and Solutre (Combier & Thevenot,1976) has long figured as an example, but the evidence is far from conclusive. 

Scavenging: no doubt H. sapiens still killed or exploited animals in the occasional and opportunistic way of Lower Palaeolithic times. According to Lindner (Lindner,1941), hunters at Predmost utilised the carcasses of hundreds of mammoths that probably succumbed as a result of natural catastrophes, as food. 

Food transport: selective transport of the most useful animal parts is claimed for many sites. 

Specialised activities: sometimes the material is dislocated in distinct clusters that could reflect specialised activity areas as for example at Solutre (Combier & Thevenot, 1976). Site topography: some hunting sites were located in valleys enclosed by steep slopes as at Rascano (Gonziilez-Echegaray, 1979), Stellmoor (Rust, 1937), Meiendorf (Rust 1937), or at the foot of rocky cliffs at Solutr6 (Combier & Th6venot, 1,976). 

4. Conclusions 

Most of the Lower Palaeolithic sites analysed here belong to category a (butchering sites); other kind of concentrations are rare and difficult to ascertain. A number of hunting stations (category e) and a hunting stop (category f) form my sample for the age of Neanderthal man and related people. The Upper Palaeolithic is characterised by many hunting stations, while in Mesolithic times a hunting loss (category d ) was found as well as several sighting sites (category g). The foregoing distribution seems to reflect in a vague way an evolution from scavenging and haphazard opportunistic hunting to well organised, selective hunting activities. However, this reflection results no doubt in part from a priori assumptions concerning the evolution of hominid meat procurement often colouring the interpretations offered for the osseous "hard" data; these are frequently equivocal.