Neanderthal selective hunting of reindeer? The case study of Abri du Maras (south-eastern France)

C Daujeard (Corresponding Author), D Vettese, K Britton, P Béarez, N Boulbes, E Crégut-Bonnoure, E Desclaux, N Lateur, A Pike-Tay, F Rivals, E Allué, M G Chacón, M.-A Courty, R Galloti, B Hardy, S Paud, M.-H. Moncel

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Monospecific exploitation of reindeer by Neanderthals is a common behaviour in the Upper Pleistocene of Western Europe. However, reindeer-dominated assemblages have largely been reported from regions of northern Germany and south-western France, with few examples noted in south-eastern France, where faunal assemblages yield most of the time a variety of other large ungulates such as red deer, horse and diverse bovids. Here, we present multi-strand (bio- and eco-) archaeological datasets from the site of Abri du Maras (level 4.1), situated at the mouth of the Ardèche and Rhône rivers, a new example of a reindeer-dominated Neanderthal site in south-eastern France. Dated to the beginning of the MIS 3, the zooarchaeological assemblage is dominated by reindeer (88% of the NISP, representing 16 individuals) but also includes horse, bison, giant deer (Megaloceros giganteus), red deer, ibex and lagomorphs. The combination of zooarchaeological, cementochronological and tooth microwear analyses evidence a single species-dominated spectrum, with catastrophic mortality and repeated autumnal deaths. This integrated approach provides an extensive picture of human subsistence behaviour, pointing to short-term hunting episodes of reindeer herds in an exceptional context of a quasi-exclusive Neanderthal accumulation. The high number of individuals and selective butchery may correspond with a cooperative and planned mass hunting strategy. The multidisciplinary approach undertaken here also incorporating paleontological, charcoal, ecological and isotopic analyses places the archaeological and zooarchaeological data within a broader regional palaeoenvironmental framework, providing valuable landscape-contextual information. The zooarchaeological data suggest a subsistence behaviour different from other Neanderthal reindeer-dominated assemblages often connected with specialised butchery or hunting sites.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)985-1011
Number of pages26
JournalArchaeological and Anthropological Sciences
Issue number3
Early online date19 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019


  • Neanderthal
  • subsistence
  • seasonality
  • monospecific faunal assemblages
  • reindeer predation
  • mass procurement
  • Reindeer predation
  • Seasonality
  • Mass procurement
  • Subsistence
  • Monospecific faunal assemblages
  • MIS 5

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    Daujeard, C., Vettese, D., Britton, K., Béarez, P., Boulbes, N., Crégut-Bonnoure, E., Desclaux, E., Lateur, N., Pike-Tay, A., Rivals, F., Allué, E., Chacón, M. G., Courty, M. -A., Galloti, R., Hardy, B., Paud, S., & Moncel, M-H. (2019). Neanderthal selective hunting of reindeer? The case study of Abri du Maras (south-eastern France). Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, 11(3), 985-1011.