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Large carnivore attacks on hominins during the Pleistocene: a forensic approach with a Neanderthal example

Abstract

Interaction between hominins and carnivores has been common and constant through human evolution and generated mutual pressures similar to those present in worldwide modern human-carnivore conflicts. This current interaction is sometimes violent and can be reflected in permanent skeletal pathologies and other bone modifications. In the present paper, we carry out a survey of 124 forensic cases of dangerous human-carnivore encounters. The objective is to infer direct hominin-carnivore confrontation during the Pleistocene, which is important to understand behavioral changes during human evolution. In addition, the case of Neanderthals is analyzed in order to find evidence of past attacks using forensic observations. The results obtained pose that Neanderthals could potentially have been involved in dangerous encounters during the Pleistocene, validating our methodology to approach past attacks from a forensic perspective.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to express our gratitude to R. Vallender (Canadian Wildlife Service), V. Santucci (National Park Service, USA), A. Sanchis, and Museu de Prehistòria de València for their facilities so this paper could be developed. We would also like thank the comments of the anonymous reviewers. This research was carried under an IPHES and IIIPC/UC project supported by the Government of Cantabria and by two research projects founded by Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (HAR2010-19957/HIST and HAR2013-48784-C3-1-P) and project 2014-SGR-900 (AGAUR). E. Camarós is beneficiary of a FI/AGAUR (DGR2013) grant of the Catalan Government and a BE/AGAUR Grant (2012 BE 00971) at the Eberhard Karls-UniversitätTübingen. C. Lorenzo works under the research projects funded by Ministeriode Economía y Competitividad (CGL2012-38434-C03-01 and 03) and AGAUR (2014 SGR 899).

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Camarós, E., Cueto, M., Lorenzo, C. et al. Large carnivore attacks on hominins during the Pleistocene: a forensic approach with a Neanderthal example. Archaeol Anthropol Sci 8, 635–646 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-015-0248-1

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Keywords

  • Carnivores
  • Interaction
  • Confrontation
  • Forensic medicine
  • Neanderthals