University of Tübingen: Birds enriched the diet of the Neanderthals

The fact that the Neanderthals in the Middle Paleolithic, more than 65,000 years ago, hunted large game such as reindeer, wild horses or woolly rhinos in the Swabian Jura is considered scientifically proven. For a long time, however, the Neanderthals were not believed to be capable of hunting nimble, agile small animals such as snow grouse or hares. Now, excavations in the World Heritage cave Hohle Fels in the Swabian Jura near Schelklingen have provided the best evidence to date for such behavior in Central Europe: Traces of battles that must have come from Neanderthals were found on bird bones. Professor Nicholas Conard’s team from the Department of Ancient Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology at the University of Tübingen has recovered a large number of around 65,000-year-old bird bones,

In the tenth archaeological horizon (AH X) alone – a deeper layer of sediment beneath the layers found by modern humans, which has been determined by electron spin resonance dating to be around 65,000 years old – 1,187 bird bones were found. The mostly fragmentary small bones come from grouse, which include ptarmigan, wood grouse and black grouse, as well as from ducks, which also include geese and swans. Six of the bones in particular are special, as they show clear tool marks from the Neanderthals. “Most evidence indicates that joints were broken apart and flesh was detached from the bone,” says Prof. Conard. While most of the bones unearthed had been brought into the cave by predators,

The findings from Hohle Fels fit into a series of archaeological finds from recent years: A few years ago, it was demonstrated for the first time in southern Europe that the Neanderthals used a wider range of food than previously known and therefore must have developed more targeted hunting strategies. Typical cut and scrape marks elsewhere also suggest that Neanderthals adorned themselves with bird feathers and claws. This means that the assumption that the Neanderthals died out due to their lack of mental abilities and their restricted diet must be revised, says Dr. Stefanie Kölbl, Managing Director of the Prehistoric Museum in Blaubeuren (urmu): “We have to break away from the widespread image of the muscular Neanderthals with a one-sided preference for mammoth steaks:

The “Find of the Year” will be on display in urmu until September 12th.
The urmu is located in the middle of the Stone Age caves, which were named World Heritage Site “Caves and Ice Age Art of the Swabian Jura” by UNESCO in 2017. The Museum for Paleolithic Art and Music in Baden-Württemberg and the Research Museum of the University of Tübingen explains the Ice Age life of hunters and gatherers on the edge of the Swabian Jura 40,000 years ago. The most prominent exhibit is the original “Venus vom Hohle Fels”.