We know from sites all across Europe that Neanderthals were consummate hunters of large game such as red deer, reindeer, aurochs, horse, goats, and so forth. We are working to understand what species they hunted, how these changed through time (and whether this might indicate environmental change or dietary preferences), and how they were processed. By processing, we mean the following: did Neanderthals transport entire animals, or only parts of them? Did they cook the meat (which destroys vitamin C), or smoke it, dry it, ferment it? Did they consume bone marrow, which is very rich in lipids? Did they boil bones to extract grease and collagen? (i.e., did they make bone broth?). These questions are studied by application of zooarchaeology, the study of faunal remains from archaeological sites. Studying them helps us understand how Neanderthals were able to obtain sufficient nutrition and calories to sustain themselves during very cold periods when they likely needed more calories for adequate thermoregulation.
Photograph by Neanderthal-Museum, Mettmann, distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license.
A large percentage of the animal bones found at the site bear butchery marks made by stone tools.1
1= Figure credit: Eugène Morin and Marie Cécile Soulier, “The Paleolithic Faunal Remains from Crvena Stijena,” in Crvena Stijena in Cultural and Ecological Context: Multidisciplinary Archaeological Research in Montenegro, ed. Robert Whallon (Podgorica: : Multidisciplinary Archaeological Research in Montenegro, 2017), 266–94. Figure 14.8