Stable isotopes reveal patterns of diet and mobility in the last Neandertals and first modern humans in Europe
Correlating cultural, technological and ecological aspects of both Upper Pleistocene modern humans (UPMHs) and Neandertals provides a useful approach for achieving robust predictions about what makes us human. Here we present ecological information for a period of special relevance in human evolution, the time of replacement of Neandertals by modern humans during the Late Pleistocene in Europe. Using the stable isotopic approach, we shed light on aspects of diet and mobility of the late Neandertals and UPMHs from the cave sites of the Troisième caverne of Goyet and Spy in Belgium. We demonstrate that their diet was essentially similar, relying on the same terrestrial herbivores, whereas mobility strategies indicate considerable differences between Neandertal groups, as well as in comparison to UPMHs. Our results indicate that UPMHs exploited their environment to a greater extent than Neandertals and support the hypothesis that UPMHs had a substantial impact not only on the population dynamics of large mammals but also on the whole structure of the ecosystem since their initial arrival in Europe.