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  • Karen Ruebens

New publication on Salzgitter-Lebenstedt

Updated: Sep 4, 2023

In this new paper, published in Journal of Quaternary Science, we apply four different methodologies to morphologically unidentifiable bone fragments from the Neanderthal open-air site of Salzgitter-Lebenstedt (Germany). We illustrate how a stepped approach, combining detailed zooarchaeological and taphonomic attributes, ZooMS taxonomic identifications, glutamine deamidation values, NIR screening and radiocarbon dating, can provide additional insights into site formation and subsistence behaviour at Palaeolithic sites, including patterns of prey selection and carcass processing.

Fig: Marrow fractured horse and reindeer remains from Salzgitter-Lebenstedt.

Our study of the 1977 small bone fraction from Salzgitter-Lebenstedt complements existing zooarchaeological studies on the material and indicates the processing of mammoth, horse and bovid remains, alongside the intensive exploitation of large numbers of reindeer carcasses. Our data show that the mammoth remains are less well preserved compared to the reindeer and show a lower degree of cut marks, indicating potentially differential taphonomic histories for both these species. New dates indicate that the Neanderthal activities took place more than 51 000 years ago, potentially during the transition of MIS-5a to MIS-4 or at the end of MIS-4. The identified zooarchaeological and taphonomic patterns remain difficult to disentangle in terms of procurement method (hunting vs. scavenging), number (single or repeated) and duration of events (autumn-specific or year-round), but indicate both specialized behaviour (marrow extraction of reindeer) and behavioural versatility (processing of horse, bovid and mammoth carcasses) among late Neanderthal groups at Salzgitter-Lebenstedt.

Full reference:

Ruebens, K., Smith, G.M., Fewlass, H., Sinet-Mathiot, V., Hublin, J-J., Welker. F. 2023. Neanderthal subsistence, taphonomy and chronology at Salzgitter-Lebenstedt (Germany): a multifaceted analysis of morphologically unidentifiable bone. Journal of Quaternary Science 38. DOI: 10.1002/jqs.3499.

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