Frontlines | Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon: Equals in the Hunt
The hunting prowess of the Neanderthal matched those who supplanted them, the Cro-Magnon, say researchers who have examined ungulate teeth and bones found in a cave in which both types of hominids lived.1 The Grotte XVI in southwestern France contains remains dated from about 65,000 to 12,000 years ago. The study adds to a growing body of evidence that questions the idea that Cro-Magnon displaced Neanderthal because of their superior mental or physical capabilities.
It is thought that Neanderthal occupied the cave until the anatomically modern Cro-Magnon moved in about 35,000 years ago. "We could detect no difference in diet," says study author Donald Grayson, University of Washington. "The animals [that] people were hunting, and the way they were hunting, did not change with the transition from Neanderthal to Cro-Magnon." Large, hoofed animals such as reindeer, red deer, horses, and chamois were regional staples. Stone tools found in the cave indicate that hunting techniques also did not change.
Food remains aren't definitive evidence, says Ian Tattersall, curator of the division of anthropology at The American Museum of Natural History in New York. In general, he says, he doesn't find studies of "putative animal food remains" convincing. Stressing that he hadn't read Grayson's study, Tattersall continues in an E-mail, "They are an even more indirect indicator of past lifeways than the archaeological evidence on hominid behavior."