Neandertals Sophisticated And Fearless Hunters, New Analysis Shows
Model of the Neanderthal man. Exhibited in the Dinosaur Park
Münchehagen, Germany. (Credit: iStockphoto/Klaus Nilkens)
ScienceDaily (May 14, 2009) — Neandertals, the 'stupid' cousins of
modern humans were capable of capturing the most impressive animals.
This indicates that Neandertals were anything but dim. Dutch
researcher Gerrit Dusseldorp analysed their daily forays for food to
gain insights into the complex behaviour of the Neandertal. His
analysis revealed that the hunting was very knowledge intensive.
Although it is now clear that Neandertals were hunters and not
scavengers, their exact hunting methods are still something of a
mystery. Dusseldorp investigated just how sophisticated the
Neandertals' hunting methods really were. His analysis of two
archaeological sites revealed that Neandertals in warm forested areas
preferred to hunt solitary game but that in colder, less forested
areas they preferred to hunt the more difficult to capture herding
The Neandertals were not easily intimated by their game. Rhinoceroses,
bisons and even predators such as the brown bear were all on their
menu. Dusseldorp established that just as for modern humans, the
environment and the availability of food determined the choice of prey
and the hunting method adopted. If the circumstances allowed it,
Neandertals lived in large groups and even the most attractive and
difficult to catch prey were within their reach.
Coordination and communication
Although herding animals are difficult to surprise and isolate, many
such game lived on the open steppes. This large supply attracted large
groups of Neandertals. That the Neandertals were capable of hunting
down such elusive game demonstrates that they had good coordination
skills and could communicate well with each other.
Each prey has a specific cost-benefit scenario. For example, game that
are more difficult to catch yield more calories and have a more
usable, thick fleece. Dusseldorp used these data to examine the
Neandertal's preferences. He also analysed the prey of hyenas in the
same manner. Hyenas were important competitors of Neandertals as they
had a similar dietary pattern.
Dusseldorp demonstrated that Neandertals, thanks to their
intelligence, even surpassed hyenas at capturing the strongest game.
All things being considered, the Neandertals were skilled and highly
intelligent hunters. So the idea that Neandertals were brute musclemen
can be dismissed.
This study was part of NWO project "Thoughtful Hunters? The
Archaeology of Neandertal Communication and Cognition." Dusseldorp is
continuing his research with a postdoc position in Johannesburg. There
he shall focus on the modern humans that evolved in Africa.
Adapted from materials provided by Netherlands Organization for
Scientific Research, via AlphaGalileo.
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (2009, May 14).
Neandertals Sophisticated And Fearless Hunters, New Analysis Shows.