People ate mammoth, dogs got reindeer


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Biogeologists have shown how Gravettian people shared their food 30,000 years ago. Predmosti I is an exceptional prehistoric site located near Brno in the Czech Republic.

People ate mammoth, dogs got reindeer
Reconstruction of domesticated wolf at Predmosti I 
[Credit: Czech Television]

Around 30,000 years ago it was inhabited by people of the pan-European Gravettian culture, who used the bones of more than 1000 mammoths to build their settlement and to ivory sculptures.

Did prehistoric people collect this precious raw material from carcasses — easy to spot on the big cold steppe — or were they the direct result of hunting for food?

This year-round settlement also yielded a large number of canids remains, some of them with characteristics of Palaeolithic dogs. Were these animals used to help hunt mammoths?

To answer these two questions, Tubingen researcher Herve Bocherens and his international team carried out an analysis of carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes in human and animal fossil bones from the site.

People ate mammoth, dogs got reindeer
prey-predator relationships for prehistoric humans and large mammals in 

 Předmostí I 30,000 years ago, deduced from stable isotopic data.

Hervé Bocherens with credits to: Wooly mammoth, wooly
rhino, horse & cave lion 

[Credit: Mauricio

Working with researchers from Brno and Brussels, the researchers were able to test whether the Gravettian people of Predmosti ate mammoth meat and how the “palaeolithic dogs” fit into this subsistence picture.

They found that humans did consume mammoth — and in large quantities.

Other carnivores, such as brown bears, wolves and wolverines, also had access to mammoth meat, indicating the high availability of fresh mammoth carcasses, most likely left behind by human hunters.

Surprisingly, the dogs did not show a high level of mammoth consumption, but rather consumed essentially reindeer meat that was not the staple food of their owners.

People ate mammoth, dogs got reindeer
Skull of a Palaeolithic dog from Předmostí I 
[Credit: Moravian Museum, Brno]

A similar situation is observed in traditional populations from northern regions, who often feed their dogs with the food that they do not like.

These results also suggest that these early dogs were restrained, and were probably used as transportation helpers.

These new results, published by the Quaternary International journal, provide clear evidence that mammoth was a key component of prehistoric life in Europe 30,000 years ago, and that dogs were already there to help.

Source: Universitaet Tubingen [November 24, 2014]



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