Palaeolithic ungulate hunting strategies in the eastern Iberian Peninsula through advanced proteomic profiling
Recent zooarchaeological analyses have suggested that Neanderthals were skilled hunters. Yet, there is still a vivid debate on whether Middle Palaeolithic human groups were also capable of more effective, and diverse, sophisticated food-processing behaviours, in particular through specialised hunting. Traditionally, archaeologists have relied on the osteological analysis of bone assemblages to determine prey mortality patterns, where species variability, age and seasonality data are calculated. Although this approach has yielded a great deal of important information about the Pleistocene hominin hunting strategies, there is a considerable lack of sex-based prey data for most Pleistocene bone assemblages, a key information that has direct implications for hominin planning depth, anticipatory abilities, mobility and land use. IBERHUNT project will conduct advanced biomolecular analyses in ungulate dental assemblages and sediments from six rich-faunal Middle and Upper Palaeolithic sites in the eastern Iberian Peninsula. The anthropic occupation deposits range Marine Isotope Stages (MIS) 5 to 3, making them exemplary case studies for comparative-based research. We aim to address 1) the determination of the biological sex of ungulate remains, by reading protein sequences through the analysis of tooth enamel amelogenin, and 2) the identification of palaeoenvironmental biomarkers, by the analysis of sediments’ compound-specific isotope ratios. This combination of state of the art techniques will provide contextualised and quantifiable high-resolution data on Pleistocene human foraging efficiency, allowing to re-evaluate Neanderthal predatory economics through an optimal foraging perspective that includes climate adaptations.IBERHUNT results will bring the discussion of evolutionary relationships between Neanderthals and modern humans in a broader perspective, and will contribute to the development of new methods for archaeological research.