The taphonomy of fallow deer (Dama dama) skeletons from Denmark and its bearing on the pre-Weichselian occupation of northern Europe by humans

Publication: Research - peer-reviewJournal article

  • Charles P. Egeland
    Charles P. EgelandDepartment of Anthropology, University of North Carolina at GreensboroUnited States
  • Trine Kellberg Nielsen
  • Malene Byø
    Malene ByøDepartment of Culture and Society, Aarhus UniversityDenmark
  • Peter C. Kjærgaard
    Peter C. KjærgaardDenmark
  • Nicolaj Krog Larsen
  • Felix Riede
The ecological tolerances of Neandertals, their ability to subsist in the dense forests of full interglacials, and their capacity to colonize northern latitudes are the subject of ongoing debate. The site of Hollerup (northern Denmark) lies at the northern extreme of the Neandertal range. Dated by various techniques to the Eemian interglacial (MIS 5e), this site has yielded the remains of several purportedly butchered fallow deer (Dama dama). Taphonomic reanalysis of the remains from Hollerup and a handful of other Eemian-aged fallow deer skeletons cast doubt on the interpretation that they were humanly modified. We place this revised conclusion into the wider context of human settlement of southern Scandinavia during the Eemian. Other claims of Neandertal presence in the region rest on candidate Middle Paleolithic artifacts, all of which derive from surface contexts. With the fallow deer material removed as a secure indicator of Neandertal settlement of Denmark during the last interglacial, this lithic material must be viewed with renewed skepticism. While ecological and/or topographic factors may have played an important role in preventing Neandertals from penetrating into peninsular Scandinavia, we caution that geological, taphonomic, research-historical, and demographic factors may have significantly distorted our picture of their occupation in this region.
Original languageEnglish
JournalArchaeological and Anthropological Sciences
Volume6
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)31-61
Number of pages31
ISSN1866-9557
DOIs
StatePublished - 26 Mar 2014

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