Using Nutritional Ecology and Energetic Modeling to Reexamine the Role of Plants in Neanderthal Diet in Southwest France

Date and Time: 
Thursday, 11 May, 2017 - 15:30
Abstract Key Words: 
Archaeobotany, Natural Resources, Subsistence strategies
, Anna - Boston University
, Kristen - Boston University

Most subsistence and isotope studies suggest that European Neanderthals focused their diet on large herbivores. We currently know little about the plant component of Neanderthal diet. Direct evidence for Neanderthal plant use comes from studies of residues on stone tools, starch remains on dental calculus, and phytolith studies. Though hardy plant resources such as starchy underground storage organs would have been available in Neanderthal environments, few records of Neanderthal plant use survive. 
We model the caloric and nutritional components of variable proportions of plant and animal foods in a hypothetical Neanderthal diet. We then determine the impact these diets might have had on the local ecology in terms of plant harvesting and rate of consumption. Finally, we compare the predictions derived from these models to a review of published literature on Neanderthal plant use, focusing on a case study of phytoliths from the site of Roc de Marsal (Southwest France).