J Hum Evol. 2000 Apr;38(4):497-521.



Adults only. Reindeer hunting at the middle palaeolithic site salzgitter lebenstedt, northern Germany.

Gaudzinski S, Roebroeks W.

Romisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum Mainz, Forschungsbereich Altsteinzeit, Schloss Monrepos, Neuwied, 56567, Germany. S.Gaudzinski@rz-online.de

The Middle Palaeolithic site Salzgitter Lebenstedt (northern Germany), excavated in 1952, is well known because of its well-preserved faunal remains, dominated by adult reindeer (Rangifer tarandus). The archaeological assemblage accumulated in an arctic setting in an earlier part of the last (Weichsel) glacial (OIS5-3). The site is remarkable because of the presence of unique Middle Palaeolithic bone tools and the occurrence of the northernmost Neanderthal remains, but this paper focuses on an analysis of its reindeer assemblage. The results indicate autumn hunting of reindeer by Middle Palaeolithic hominids. After the hunt, carcasses were butchered and in subsequent marrow processing of the bones a selection against young and sub-adult animals occurred. Adults were clearly preferred, and from their bones, again, poorer marrow bones were neglected. This focus on primeness of resources has been documented in other domains of Neanderthal behaviour, but Salzgitter Lebenstedt is the best example yet known in terms of systematic and routinized processing of game. The Salzgitter Lebenstedt assemblage displays some remarkable similarities to the Late Glacial reindeer assemblages from the Ahrensburg tunnel valley sites. The subsequent review of the evidence on subsistence strategies from earlier periods of the European Palaeolithic shows that hunting of large mammals may have been a part of the behavioural repertoire of the Middle Pleistocene occupants of Europe from the earliest occupation onwards. At the same time, it is suggested that these early hunting strategies were incorporated in ways of moving through landscapes ("settlement systems") which were different from what we know from the middle parts of the Upper Palaeolithic onwards.