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Neanderthal subsistence, taphonomy and chronology at Salzgitter‐Lebenstedt (Germany): a multifaceted analysis of morphologically unidentifiable bone

Ruebens, Karen, Smith, Geoff M., Fewlass, Helen, Sinet-Mathiot, Virginie, Hublin, Jean-Jacques, Welker, Frido (2023) Neanderthal subsistence, taphonomy and chronology at Salzgitter‐Lebenstedt (Germany): a multifaceted analysis of morphologically unidentifiable bone. Journal of Quaternary Science, 38 (4). pp. 471-487. ISSN 0267-8179. E-ISSN 1099-1417. (doi:10.1002/jqs.3499) (KAR id:99774)

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Pleistocene faunal assemblages are often highly fragmented, hindering taxonomic identifications and interpretive potentials. In this paper, we apply four different methodologies to morphologically unidentifiable bone fragments from the Neanderthal open‐air site of Salzgitter‐Lebenstedt (Germany). First, we recorded zooarchaeological attributes for all 1362 unidentifiable bones recovered in 1977. Second, we applied zooarchaeology by mass spectrometry (ZooMS) to 761 fragments, and calculated glutamine deamidation values. Third, we assessed the collagen preservation of 30 fragments by near‐infrared spectroscopy (NIR) and, finally, we pretreated 10 bones with high predicted collagen values for radiocarbon dating. All returned dates at, or beyond, the limit of radiocarbon dating, indicating an age of older than 51 000 years ago. The ZooMS faunal spectrum confirms a cold environment, dominated by reindeer, alongside mammoth, horse and bison. The low occurrence of carnivore modifications (1%) contrasts with an abundance of human modifications (23%). Cut marks and marrow fractures were observed across reindeer, horse and bison. The mammoth remains are less well preserved and show a lower degree of human modifications, indicating, perhaps, a different taphonomic history. Overall, this study illustrates the importance of retaining, studying and incorporating the unidentifiable bone fraction to optimize interpretations of site formation and subsistence behaviour at Palaeolithic sites.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1002/jqs.3499
Uncontrolled keywords: Middle Palaeolithic; Neanderthal subsistence; near‐infrared spectroscopy; radiocarbon dating; zooarchaeology by mass spectrometry
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Funders: Max Planck Society (
Depositing User: Geoff Smith
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2023 13:36 UTC
Last Modified: 16 May 2023 13:49 UTC
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Ruebens, Karen:
Smith, Geoff M.:
Fewlass, Helen:
Sinet-Mathiot, Virginie:
Hublin, Jean-Jacques:
Welker, Frido:
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