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European Ice Age hunters ate wolf meat

While carrying out excavations in the villages of Pavlov and Dolni Vestonice near Brno in the Czech Republic, Czech archaeologists had earlier discovered thousands of flint artefacts, numerous tools and decorations made of materials such as reindeer bones, the teeth of arctic foxes and mammoth tusks, as well as tens of thousands of other animal bone fragments scattered among the remains of huts.

European Ice Age hunters ate wolf meat
Canis lupus (wolf) series of pendants made from canines, upper and lower incisors, and premolars
[Credit: Dr. Piotr Wojtal]

Dr. Piotr Wojtal from the Institute of Systematics and Evolution of Animals of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Krakow who has been re-examining the remains said: “Until now, scientists were convinced that wolves and other predators were the target of hunting primarily because of their skins, and certainly not as a source of meat.

“Meanwhile, during the examination of their bones, we came across dozens of specimens with clearly visible traces of cutting.

European Ice Age hunters ate wolf meat
Canis lupus (wolf) proximal part of left humerus with a series of cut marks below
the head from dismembering [Credit: Dr. Piotr Wojtal]
“Some marks were left by Palaeolithic hunters when removing skins, but there are also those that can be associated only with dividing the carcass into smaller portions.”

He added: “Bones of herbivores usually dominate within human settlements from this period, because they were probably more eagerly consumed."

European Ice Age hunters ate wolf meat
Canis lupus (wolf) first phalanx with cut marks from skinning
[Credit: Dr. Piotr Wojtal]

“But it seems understandable that in the case of hunting a wolf, discarding meat was a considerable loss, especially during periods of lower availability of food. Therefore, it seems that all parts of the predators' body were used.”

In Pavlov, in addition to the remains of small and medium-sized predatory animals, researchers also found bones and teeth of the largest predators of the Pleistocene mammoth steppe: the cave lion and cave and brown bears

European Ice Age hunters ate wolf meat
Canis lupus (wolf) distal part of left humerus with a series of cut marks on the anterior
part of bone near epiphysis from dismembering [Credit: Dr. Piotr Wojtal]
Wojtal said: “Although the remains of lions and bears are not very numerous, they also bear traces confirming that the hunters of that time used the carcasses of killed carnivores. As in the case of wolves, wolverines and foxes, the traces of cuts on the bones of lions and bears also indicate removing the skins and dividing the carcass', the researcher points out.

“Therefore, the meat of these large predators was also eaten by Palaeolithic hunters.”

The latest results of research on the remains of predators from the Gravettian sites in Central Europe appeared in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology.


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