The fat of the land: An energetics approach to Paleolithic bone fat exploitation

Author(s): Anna Goldfield

Year: 2017


I present an energetics approach to Neanderthal and anatomically modern human (AMH) exploitation of prey carcasses for bone marrow and bone fat, crucial nutritional resources during glacial periods in Paleolithic Europe. Previously established differences in daily caloric budget between the two groups predicate variation in behavioral cost thresholds, or a point at which an individual decides that the cost of processing a food resource outweighs the gain and abandons the task.

A higher metabolic baseline cost has been established for Neanderthals relative to AMH. For Neanderthals, therefore, the energy available to be allotted to subsistence tasks is expected to be a lower amount than that available to AMH. A lower cost threshold is therefore expected for Neanderthal carcass processing. Thus, in Middle Paleolithic faunal assemblages, we expect to find evidence for less intensive carcass processing than in Upper Paleolithic assemblages.

Greater access to lipids in restrictive climatic conditions may have led to increased adaptive fitness and overall survival for AMH, with evolutionary implications. A comparison of skeletal element representation and bone fragmentation from five Paleolithic faunal assemblages from southwest France tests for differences in intensiveness of bone fat processing in Quina Mousterian, early Aurignacian, and Magdalenian glacial contexts.

Cite this Record

The fat of the land: An energetics approach to Paleolithic bone fat exploitation. Anna Goldfield. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429125)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16127