Date: 12 Jul 2013

Middle Paleolithic Prey Choice Inferred from a Natural Pitfall Trap: Rantis Cave, Israel

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The problem of human prey selection versus natural availability of game is, often implicitly, one of the most fundamental questions in zooarchaeology. Deciphering this issue requires data on the natural availability of game, yet such data cannot come from anthropogenic (zooarchaeological) collections. Here I use a natural pitfall trap unbiased by human predation (Rantis Cave, Israel), capturing ungulates in the latter half of the Middle Paleolithic (MP), as a ‘natural reference’ to the archaeological faunas of the same region and period. The ensuing comparison with the human prey suggests that Southern Levantine MP hunters generally preferred to procure mountain gazelles (Gazella gazella) over Mesopotamian fallow deer (Dama mesopotamica). If this interpretation is accepted, a possible explanation may be linked to changes in the hunting gear of MP populations.