A team of archaeologists have been investigating the Middle Palaeolithic site of Quincieux in Annecy (south-eastern France), which shows evidence of Neanderthal hunting and scavenging activity.
This interesting prehistoric site is located on a loess mound overlooking the old river bed of the Saône. Unique in France, this sedimentary sequence is actually a combination of wind and fluvial deposits, and provides information on the evolution of the Saône during the late Pleistocene.
Left: Mandible of woolly rhino. Right: Horse pelvis
Faunal remains associated with flints
The 8 metre high mound consists of a sequence of palaeo soils and loess; the oldest being 2 metres thick and is dated to between 55,000 and 35,000 years, (i.e. during the end of the Middle Palaeolithic), and reveals a rich fauna associated with flints abandoned by Neanderthals.
All the animal species discovered are cold climate and steppe environment types. The hundreds of bones belong mainly to large herbivores such as mammoth, woolly rhinos, horse, bison and reindeer. The fewer carnivores are represented by a cave bear skull and some wolf bones.
Left: Horse spinal column. Right: Cave Bear skull
Most of the bone accumulation appears to be as a result of human action. The animals have been hunted or scavenged by the Neanderthals who have then exploited the carcasses. Some of the bones show traces of fractures of human origin, but the lack of long bones is perhaps evidence that the meat-rich parts were taken away to a habitation site. The lithics found consists of a few cores as well as slivers of flint and hard limestone. Here, the Neanderthals have had need of only a few flakes for cutting areas of meat.
A rare opportunity
Normally, archaeologists excavate habitation sites in connection to Neanderthals, but Quincieux offers a rare opportunity to study a processing area. However, palaeontological and upcoming archaeozoological studies will be crucial to clarify the exact nature of the site and the range of activities that took place there.