BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Science/Nature  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Tuesday, 25 June, 2002, 11:44 GMT 12:44 UK
Neanderthal clues from mammoth find
The BBC's Walking with Beasts depicts Mammoths
Were woolly mammoths hunted by Neanderthals?
An excavation at a quarry in Norfolk has revealed what could be one of the best-preserved Neanderthal sites ever found in the UK.

Among the finds at the site are the skeletons from three or possibly four mammoths, including two metre-long tusks.

However, it is unclear whether these beasts were hunted, or their meat simply scavenged from corpses.

The remains, which came to light during gravel extraction earlier this year, are likely to reveal much about Neanderthal life.


We may have discovered a butchery site, or, what would be even more exciting, first evidence in Britain of a Neanderthal hunting site

David Miles, English Heritage
Neanderthals are thought to have lived during the last Ice Age - perhaps becoming most prevalent some time around 60,000 years ago.

They are believed to have colonised the south of England - which was then linked by land to continental Europe.

Relatively little is known about their habits or abilities, or even their precise relationship to humans.

Copyright English Heritage
Working to excavate a mammoth tusk
Traces of them have not been found after approximately 30,000 years ago, and it is possible that they were unable to compete with Homo sapiens.

The exact date of the site has not yet been fixed, but is probably from some time between 40,000 and 60,000 years ago.

David Miles, Chief Archaeologist at English Heritage, said: "It is extremely rare to find any evidence of Neanderthals and even rarer to find it in association with mammoth remains.

"We may have discovered a butchery site, or, what would be even more exciting, first evidence in Britain of a Neanderthal hunting site which would tell us much about their organisational and social abilities."


It is valid to speculate that the Neanderthals had gone to this watering place because they knew they would find prey to kill

Dr Mark White, Durham University
Other finds on the site include a large number of finely-fashioned flint axes in an elongated "D-shape".

Microanalysis of any residues on their edges could tell researchers how they were used.

Archaeologists also found teeth from a woolly rhino and an Ice Age reindeer antler.

The site is thought to have been a series of ponds at that time, used as a watering place by both animals and Neanderthals.

Copyright English Heritage
A mammoth tooth recovered at the site (against 1ft ruler)
Dr Mark White, a Palaeolithic archaeologist from Durham University, said: "It is valid to speculate that the Neanderthals had gone to this watering place because they knew they would find prey to kill."

However, the extent of their killing abilities are still in doubt. The presence of carcass beetles among the mammoth remains suggests that some, or all of the massive creatures found there died naturally.

Butchered

Dr Bill Bosmier, who led the excavation team, suggested that Neanderthals had their fill after the carcasses had been partially stripped by hyenas or other carnivores.

"However, given the size of a mammoth and the quantity of meat on it, it is equally possible that one or more of the mammoths at the site could have been killed and butchered by Neanderthals without leaving cutmarks on the bones."

Work is continuing on all the animal remains and artefacts taken from the site, funded by the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund, which is administered by English Heritage, English Nature and the Countryside Agency.

It is the first grant awarded from the fund.

See also:

21 Apr 99 | Science/Nature
29 Mar 00 | Science/Nature
12 Jun 00 | Science/Nature
11 Oct 00 | Science/Nature
06 Feb 01 | Science/Nature
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Science/Nature stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Science/Nature stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes