Isotopic analyses suggest mammoth and plant in the diet of the oldest anatomically modern humans from far southeast Europe
Relatively high 15N abundances in bone collagen of early anatomically modern humans in Europe have often been interpreted as a specific consumption of freshwater resources, even if mammoth is an alternative high 15N prey. At Buran-Kaya III, access to associated fauna in a secured archaeological context and application of recently developed isotopic analyses of individuals amino acids offer the opportunity to further examine this hypothesis. The site of Buran-Kaya III is located in south Crimea and has provided a rich archaeological sequence including two Upper Palaeolithic layers, from which human fossils were retrieved and directly dated as from 37.8 to 33.1 ka cal BP. Results from bulk collagen of three human remains suggests the consumption of a high 15N prey besides the contribution of saiga, red deer, horse and hare, whose butchered remains were present at the site. In contrast to bulk collagen, phenylalanine and glutamic acid 15N abundances reflect not only animal but also plant protein contributions to omnivorous diet, and allow disentangling aquatic from terrestrial resource consumption. The inferred human trophic position values point to terrestrial-based diet, meaning a significant contribution of mammoth meat, in addition to a clear intake of plant protein.