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A Neandertal dietary conundrum: Insights provided by tooth enamel Zn isotopes from Gabasa, Spain

Jaouen, Klervia, Villalba-Mouco, Vanessa, Smith, Geoffrey M., Trost, Manuel, Leichliter, Jennifer, Lüdecke, Tina, Méjean, Pauline, Mandrou, Stéphanie, Chmeleff, Jérôme, Guiserix, Danaé, and others. (2022) A Neandertal dietary conundrum: Insights provided by tooth enamel Zn isotopes from Gabasa, Spain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 119 (43). Article Number e210931511. ISSN 0027-8424. E-ISSN 1091-6490. (doi:10.1073/pnas.2109315119) (KAR id:97641)


The characterization of Neandertals’ diets has mostly relied on nitrogen isotope analyses of bone and tooth collagen. However, few nitrogen isotope data have been recovered from bones or teeth from Iberia due to poor collagen preservation at Paleolithic sites in the region. Zinc isotopes have been shown to be a reliable method for reconstructing trophic levels in the absence of organic matter preservation. Here, we present the results of zinc (Zn), strontium (Sr), carbon (C), and oxygen (O) isotope and trace element ratio analysis measured in dental enamel on a Pleistocene food web in Gabasa, Spain, to characterize the diet and ecology of a Middle Paleolithic Neandertal individual. Based on the extremely low δ66Zn value observed in the Neandertal’s tooth enamel, our results support the interpretation of Neandertals as carnivores as already suggested by δ15N isotope values of specimens from other regions. Further work could help identify if such isotopic peculiarities (lowest δ66Zn and highest δ15N of the food web) are due to a metabolic and/or dietary specificity of the Neandertals.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1073/pnas.2109315119
Uncontrolled keywords: hominin, zinc isotope ratios, Iberian Neandertals, carnivory, Middle Paleolithic
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Funders: European Union (
Depositing User: Geoff Smith
Date Deposited: 27 Oct 2022 11:28 UTC
Last Modified: 31 Oct 2023 11:29 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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