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The evidence of modern and complex behavior is a key debate in human evolution. Neanderthals have been excluded from this debate from many years, until new insight have provided a new conception of the Neanderthal behavior. Nevertheless, although archaeological data of complex and modern behavior has been inferred, this is not a generalized scenario in Middle Paleolithic sites. In the present paper, we point taphonomical issues as the responsible for this misconservation of cognitive markers. Furthermore, we highlight the action of ursids as one of the agents that has most modified the archaeological record. Nevertheless, bears not just erase behavioral evidences, their action may also generate material realities that can be misinterpreted by archaeologist as Neanderthal behavioral markers. In the present paper we analyze issues related to organized use of space and symbolic behavior such as inhumation practices and graphical expression. We approach this issue from a multidisciplinary research based mainly in actualistic, experimental, paleontological and ethological observations.
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Bears in the scene: Pleistocene complex interactions with implications
concerning the study of Neanderthal behavior
E. Camar
, M. Cueto
, L. Teira
, Susanne C. Münzel
, F. Plassard
, P. Arias
F. Rivals
IPHES, Institut Catal
a de Paleoecologia Humana i Evoluci
o Social, C/Marcel.lí domingo s/n, Campus Sescelades URV (Edici W), 43007, Tarragona, Spain
Area de Prehist
oria, Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV), Avda. de Catalunya, 35, 43002, Tarragona, Spain
Laboratori d'Arqueozoologia, Universitat Aut
onoma de Barcelona, Facultat de Filosoa i Lletres, 08193, Bellaterra, Cerdanyola del Vall
es, Spain
Instituto Internacional de Investigaciones Prehist
oricas de Cantabria (IIIPC), Universidad de Cantabria (UC), Avda de los Castros s/n, Edicio
Interfacultativo, 39005, Santander, Spain
Institut für Naturwissenschaftliche Arch
aologie (INA), Universit
at Tübingen, Rümelinstrasse 23, 72070, Tübingen, Germany
ehistoire, Pal
eoenvironnement, Patrimoine, Universit
e Bordeaux 1, 33000, Bordeaux, France
ICREA (Instituci
o Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats), Barcelona, Spain
article info
Article history:
Available online xxx
The evidence of modern and complex behavior is a key debate in human evolution. Neanderthals have
been excluded from this debate from many years, until new insight have provided a new conception of
the Neanderthal behavior. Nevertheless, although archaeological data of complex and modern behavior
has been inferred, this is not a generalized scenario in Middle Paleolithic sites. In the present paper, we
point taphonomical issues as the responsible for this misconservation of cognitive markers. Furthermore,
we highlight the action of ursids as one of the agents that has most modied the archaeological record.
Nevertheless, bears not just erase behavioral evidences, their action may also generate material realities
that can be misinterpreted by archaeologist as Neanderthal behavioral markers. In the present paper we
analyze issues related to organized use of space and symbolic behavior such as inhumation practices and
graphical expression. We approach this issue from a multidisciplinary research based mainly in
actualistic, experimental, paleontological and ethological observations.
©2015 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Modern and complex behavior has been discussed widely in the
scientic literature. The packagerelated to modernity and
complexity includes evidence associated with technological, social,
and cognitive innovations in relation to hunting methods and diet,
hafting procedures, and heat treatment, among others (see
McBrearty and Brooks, 2000; Villa and Roebroeks, 2014). All these
are key cognitive markers that allow differentiation of modern
humans from archaic hominins (Marean et al., 2007; Conard, 2010).
Conventional explanations relate all these innovations as evidence
of the modernity and complexity usually assigned to Homo sapiens
(Li et al., 2014).
For many years, Neanderthals have been excluded from the
debate related to the display of modern behavior (D'Errico, 2003).
Nevertheless, recent research has provided evidence of archaeo-
logical data indicating complex Neanderthal behavior and modern
cognition (summarized in Villa and Roebroeks, 2014). This evidence
points towards a new conception of Neanderthal behavior, related
to new insights associated with symbolic issues (e.g., Zilh~
ao et al.,
2010; Morin and Laroulandie, 2012; Roebroeks et al., 2012;
Peresani et al., 2013), subsistence strategies (e.g., Scott, 1980;
Blasco et al., 2014; Ruf
a et al., 2014; Yravedra et al., 2014;
Fiorenza et al., 2015), intra-site spatial organization patterns (e.g.,
on et al., 2012) and technological innovations (e.g., Soressi
et al., 2013; Yravedra and Uzquiano, 2013; Abrams et al., 2014).
Nevertheless, despite all this behavioral evidence, the debate on
Neanderthal cognitive and behavioral evolution remains largely
unresolved (Taborin, 1998; White, 2002; Higham et al., 2010).
Some archaeological data do support Neanderthal behavioral
modernity, but the number of examples is not large, and they are
considered by many as exceptions or acculturation evidence
*Corresponding author. IPHES, Institut Catal
a de Paleoecologia Humana i
o Social, C/Marcel.lí domingo s/n, Campus Sescelades URV (Edici W),
43007, Tarragona, Spain.
E-mail address: (E. Camar
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Quaternary International
journal homepage:
1040-6182/©2015 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. All rights reserved.
Quaternary International xxx (2015) 1e10
Please cite this article in press as: Camar
os, E., et al., Bears in the scene: Pleistocene complex interactions with implications concerning the study
of Neanderthal behavior, Quaternary International (2015),
(Mellars, 1999, 2005). Nevertheless, we believe this is an issue
related to taphonomic damage and post-depositional site preser-
vation. Preservation has been pointed out previously as a key factor
in structuring the present state of knowledge on cultural
complexity and innovation (Langley et al., 2011).
Among all agents that may have changed archaeological site
preservation (e.g., water, weathering, sedimentation, etc.) (e.g.,
Barbetti, 1986; Mallol et al., 2007), carnivores can be acknowledged
as one of the most active (Binford et al., 1988; Lindly, 1988; Lyman,
1994). Their modication actions can be contextualized in the
alternate use of caves by both agents (hominins and carnivores) for
development of different activities (Straus, 1982; Blasco, 1997;
Stiner, 2002; Enloe, 2012; Yravedra and Cobo, 2015). Modication
may be related to bone damage and spatial modications (Camar
et al., 2013a; Arilla et al., 2014) that render palimpsests difcult to
study (Egeland et al., 2004;; Baena et al., 2012 vs.; Yravedra and
omez-Castanedo, 2014). Among all carnivores that may have
been responsible for such damage, ursids can be identied as ani-
mals that developed a close interaction with Neanderthals (e.g.,
evez, 2004; see; Rosell et al., 2012a).
Bears developed direct interactions with Neanderthals, as
conrmed by evidence that they, together with other carnivores
(Blasco et al., 2010; P
erez Ripoll et al., 2010), were hunted (Auguste,
1995; David, 1997) for meat and fur (Tillet, 2002) and for other
resources (e.g., Abrams et al., 2014). Bears also presumably insti-
gated attacks on Neanderthals, in the context of constant pressures
arising from sharing the same ecosystem (Camar
os et al., 2015). In
this sense, the alternate occupation of the same caves is one of the
most common forms of indirect interaction between Neanderthals
and bears (Viranta and Grandal d'Anglade, 2012).
In the present paper, we examine different perspectives to show
how bears may have served as taphonomic agents in the study of
Neanderthal behavior. Specically, we analyze issues related to the
organized use of space and symbolic behaviors such as inhumation
practices and graphical expression. Taphonomic experiments and
archaeopaleonthological analyses related to bears are developed to
provide a proof-of-concept of the degree of complexity of the
interaction that occurred between hominins and carnivores during
the Pleistocene and the implications it has concerning the study of
Neanderthal behavior.
2. Materials and methods
A multidisciplinary approach based on homininecarnivore
interaction has been used in the present paper. In this sense,
experimentation and archaeopaleontological and ethological ap-
proaches have been developed in order to provide new insight into
the study of Neanderthal behavior through the relationship Nean-
derthals had with bears.
To do so, several experiments have been developed with extant
bears (Ursus arctos) in the Nature Park of Cab
arceno (Cantabria,
Spain). This is an excellent context for developing experiments, due
to the Park's policy of interfering as little as possible with animals
that live in a semi-free state of liberty. In this sense, animals pre-
serve their natural instincts in a perfect context for scientic
observation. Experiments were developed following a methodol-
ogy we used previously (Camar
os et al., 2013b), which consisted of
the performance of an experimental scenario inside the bears'
enclosure. Places with no slope were preferentially selected. The
spatial distribution of the bears' actions is then registered with
photogrammetric techniques using targets measured with Total
Station software (Leica TCRM1205) that linked them to a provi-
sional local system. The aim of this is to control all spatial changes
due to the animals' actions. One of the experiments required spe-
cic particularities, and an excavation machine was used to
excavate in the soil (see Supplementary Material Fig. S1). Other
methodological particulars of each experiment are described in
Section 3.1.
Archaeological sites were also studied. The selected sites were
those that presented traces of ursid action according to our needs
(e.g., bear scratches and bear beds) and that displayed an
outstanding state of preservation. We analyzed the archae-
opaleontological contexts of Roufgnac (France) and La Garma
(Spain). At both sites, we measured the length, breadth, and depth
of the bear beds present (see Supplementary Material Fig. S2). We
also analyzed other bear traces, such as scratches on the walls and
soil, using scanning technology.
Our results, both experimental and paleontological, were
compared with recently published research related to the study of
modern and complex Neanderthal behavior. In this sense, sites such
as La Chapelle-aux-Saints (France) and Gorham's Cave (Gibraltar)
are cited and discussed.
3. Results
3.1. Erased behavior
The identication of structured and specialized spaces in the
archaeological record reveals modern and complex behavior
(Lombarde, 2012). Nevertheless, identication of original hominin
spatial distributions is not always possible, due to taphonomic
processes. Post-depositional processes, such as sediment move-
ment or water action, among others (Goldberg and MacPhail,
2006), are responsible for the destruction of the original spatial
connection between archaeological artifacts. Previous experiments
that we developed also pointed to large carnivores as taphonomic
agents capable of erasing specic spatial distributions that would
reveal modern and complex behaviors to archaeologists (Camar
et al., 2013a).
An experimental series, previously developed with bears, hy-
enas, lions, and wolves, consisted of generation of an experimental
hearth and hearth-related assemblage. Although all carnivore
species interacted with the combustion structure and modied it,
bears were the ones that most changed the original spatial distri-
bution (Camar
os et al., 2013a). The resulting spatial distribution
revealed complete destruction of the initial experimental scenario.
These results motivated the experiments presented here, with the
aim of extending our knowledge of how bears have acted as
taphonomic agents of spatial modication in the past.
The rst experimental scenario consisted of the investigation of
a spatial distribution, which revealed several aspects associated
with the display of modern and complex behavior. The specialized
spatial organization was composed of a unique experimental sce-
nario, with areas linked to specic activities, such as a knapping
area, a butchering area, a hearth and hearth-related assemblage
zone, and a wood storage area (Figs. 1 and 2). This scenario was
based on some of the best-known Neanderthal sites with a complex
spatial distribution that revealed modern behavior (see Henry et al.,
2004; Jaubert and Delagnes, 2007).
The results were clear and signicant. Bears highly modied the
experimental scenario, interacting with all areas constructed in a
time lapse of four hours. During this period, a total of 10 bears
modied the original structure, although the rst four bears
(males) were responsible for most of the spatial damage (Fig. 1). All
items that composed each area were moved from their original
positions, following a general radial pattern (Fig. 2).
Concerning the knapping area, the lithic archdisposition,
composed of int akes and microakes emulating the spatial
result of knapping, was erased. The new spatial disposition gener-
ated a complete different shape (Fig. 2). The butchering area,
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os et al. / Quaternary International xxx (2015) 1e102
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os, E., et al., Bears in the scene: Pleistocene complex interactions with implications concerning the study
of Neanderthal behavior, Quaternary International (2015),
consisting of fresh cattle bones and used lithic akes, was also
modied. Bones are the items that were distributed in a bigger
spatial range, with distances between 1.58 m and 28.94 m,
following a radial pattern. The wood storage area was highly
modied, as wood sticks were not just spatially dislocated, but also
broken as a result of biting and manipulation of these items. Sticks
were distributed basically to the south and none of them main-
tained their original length. Finally, the hearth and hearth-related
assemblage zone were also modied. The area was composed of a
stone hearth, with charcoal and ashes inside, and burned bones
around the combustion structure. The spatial distribution gener-
ated by bears differed slightly from the one observed in previous
experiments (Camar
os et al., 2013a), as dispersion was not strictly
radial and new stone associations were generated and a linear as-
sociation of the ve stones was generated south of the original
position. Furthermore, a new cluster of charcoal and ashes was
displayed 50 cm from the initial location.
Overall, the spatial distribution of the experimental scenario by
bears resulted in a clear mixture of items belonging to different
areas, which complicates the inference of the original specialized
spatial distribution. Nevertheless, bears are also capable of
destroying other spatial distributions that are important in the
study of modern and complex behavior, such as burials.
As part of our experimental series on how bears modify spaces,
we carried out an experiment with the aim of studying how ursids
interact with a structured burial (Fig. 3). A burial pit was excavated
50 cm deep inside the bears' enclosure and seven slate stones with
pebbles around them were deposited at the base (Fig. 3a). After-
wards, red deer (Cervus elaphus) remains (basically internal organs)
were deposited over the stones and the experimental burial pit was
covered and compacted with an excavator machine (a detailed
gure of the process can be found as Supplementary Material
Fig. S1).
Immediately after the team abandoned the zone where the
burial pit was located, a male bear started an inspection of the area
(Fig. 3b). Bears interacted with the experimental scenario for two
hours, and they dug, attracted by the animal remains. Observation
after the bears' intervention showed the bears to be highly capable
of modifying a burial pit (Fig. 3aeb). The rectangular burial shape
was changed and the new limits of the pit contained scratches on
the vertical walls (Fig. 3d). Even the internal stone disposition was
changed and the original disposition was completely modied
(Fig. 3c) (more images of the resulting experimental scene can be
found as Supplementary Material Fig. S2). Only the slate stones
designated as one and two (Fig. 3a) were located inside the pit; all
other stone elements from the base were found outside, at dis-
tances between 1.15 m and 10.10 m away (Fig. S2). Some of these
stone plaques were broken and fragmented into many pieces and
presented evidence of clear notches and scores (Fig. 4).
3.2. Emulated behavior
Bear action in relation to the study of human behavior is not
restricted only to destruction of archaeological evidence. These
animals may also generate evidence that emulates hominin
behavior. The rst case presented here is related to the study of
inhumations, and the second one with graphical expression. Both
cases presented are crucial when discussing modern and complex
Neanderthal behavior.
La Chapelle-aux-Saints (France) is one of the classic archaeo-
logical sites with evidence of a probable Neanderthal inhumation,
as claimed by Bouyssonie et al. (1908) during the rst decade of the
twentieth century. Recently, due to current excavation work, new
evidence has been published that supports the interpretation of an
intentional burial at the site (Rendu et al., 2014). The paper presents
excellent research where an old problem is approached from a
Fig. 1. Different images taken during the experiment with bears in Cab
arceno (Spain): a) Male bears interacting with the combustion structure and the butchering area; b) Male
bear modifying the hearth and c) Spatial distribution of stones from the hearth (highlighted) and wood storage area during the experiment.
E. Camar
os et al. / Quaternary International xxx (2015) 1e10 3
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os, E., et al., Bears in the scene: Pleistocene complex interactions with implications concerning the study
of Neanderthal behavior, Quaternary International (2015),
well-planned, multidisciplinary archaeological strategy to nally
provide evidence supporting the presence of a Neanderthal burial
at the Boufa Bonneval in La Chapelle-aux-Saints. The research is
opportune because it provides results that can be added to the new
conception of Neanderthals in current science, a viewpoint that
reects a complex and modern behavior.
Nevertheless, the conclusions by Rendu et al. (2014) regarding
the Boufa Bonneval context as an intentional burial have been
criticized by Dibble et al. (2014), with strong arguments. Therefore,
a debate is emerging in relation with the interpretation of La
Chapelle-aux-Saints archaeological context. Thus, a new look at the
evidence is needed, from a perspective that takes into account
homininecarnivore interactions, as this would provide an alter-
native and much more complex vision to the debate.
We measured a total of 66 bear beds from Roufgnac (France)
(N ¼59) and La Garma (Spain) (N ¼7) and compared these to
published measurements of the burial pit from La Chapelle-aux-
Saint by Rendu et al. (2014) and Bouyssonie et al. (1908) (see
Supplementary Material Fig. S3). In addition, we compared brown
bear bed measurements provided by Fosse et al. (2004) from
Arriutort and Zazpigagna (France) (Fig. 5). Our observations indi-
cate that the pit morphologically resembles a cave bear bed.
As shown in Fig. 5, the burial pit from La Chapelle-aux-Saints
provided by Rendu et al. (2014) matches in size the
Fig. 2. Experimental scenario with four specialized areas with its spatial distribution before and after the bears action (highlighted).
E. Camar
os et al. / Quaternary International xxx (2015) 1e104
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os, E., et al., Bears in the scene: Pleistocene complex interactions with implications concerning the study
of Neanderthal behavior, Quaternary International (2015),
Fig. 3. Brown bears destroying evidences of experimental intentional inhumations: a) Experimental structured inhumation (without the esh on it); b) Bear approaching the
covered experimental inhumation; c and d) Experimental inhumation modied by bears (it is possible to appreciate how stones 1 and 2 have been moved in image c compared to
image a).
Fig. 4. Slate stones from the base of the burial pit with carnivore damage: a) Fragmentation of stones; b) Scores on Stone 1 and ced) Notches on Stones 2 and 3 (scale in b, c and d is
5 cm).
E. Camar
os et al. / Quaternary International xxx (2015) 1e10 5
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os, E., et al., Bears in the scene: Pleistocene complex interactions with implications concerning the study
of Neanderthal behavior, Quaternary International (2015),
measurements for a cave bear (Ursus spealaeus) bed. This included
not only the transverse and longitudinal proles, but also its depth.
Despite inhumations, one of the clearest pieces of evidence for
modern and complex behavior is the capacity for the production of
graphical expression (McBrearty and Brooks, 2000), traditionally
associated with Anatomically Modern Humans (AMH). Neverthe-
less, recent research has conrmed that Neanderthals had the ca-
pacity for such production, as seen in Gorham's Cave (Gibraltar)
(Rodríguez-Vidal et al., 2014), where an abstract pattern, engraved
into the bedrock dated between 38.5 and 30.5 cal kyr BP, has been
identied. In this sense, an old paradigm has been overcome, and
the interpretation and publication of new evidence is anticipated
based on this new discovery. Nevertheless, archaeologists must be
aware that bears may again generate similar confusing traces.
Bear behavior inside caves usually leaves its traces as scars in the
cave. These scratches, due to the bears' actions of clawing the walls,
are preserved and can also be associated with rock art due to the
alternate use of caves (Bocherens et al., 2006). The morphology and
spatial distribution of these phenomena need analysis, as they can
be similar to the ones produced by hominins when developing
graphical expression in caves.
In this sense, we have analyzed different archaeopaleontological
contexts with clear evidence of bear behavior inside caves. We have
studied the Lower Gallery of La Garma (Spain) and Roufgnac
(France). Both are well-known sites that preserve exceptional ma-
terial evidence of both hominin and bear behavior. Our main goal
has been to observe the variability among bear scratches in order to
achieve preliminary characterization, for later comparison of them
with abstract pattern engravings, particularly with the ones found
in Gorham's Cave (Gibraltar) (Fig. 6jek) (Rodríguez-Vidal et al.,
Similarities between the bear scratches and the abstract pattern
engraved in Gorham's cave are evident. First, observation is
possible of how bears are able to produce permanent scratches on
karstic cave walls, dening patterns of parallel lines (Fig. 6aeg) and
even superposed ones (Fig. 6def). Furthermore, ursid marks also
display a pointed start and a pointed or fringed end (Fig. 6aei), as
described by Rodríguez-Vidal et al. (2014) for the Neanderthal
engraving (Fig. 6jek). Overall, bear scratches may also produce
associations of parallel scratches (engraved lines), which can
generate a non-intentional abstract pattern similar to that inten-
tionally created by hominins.
When comparing space between parallel lines,we can also
observe how similar this interspace can be in both different re-
alities (Fig. 7). Gorham's engraving certainly contains parallel in-
ternal microstriation in each section; nevertheless, this
microtopography may not always be preserved due to taphonomic
processes occurring in karstic systems, such as water action
(Goldberg and MacPhail, 2006).
4. Discussion
The interaction between hominins and carnivores during hu-
man evolution has inuenced human behavior in many ways
(Stiner, 2012). Since Homo added meat to his diet and entered the
predatory guild 2e3 millions years ago (Isaac and Crader, 1981;
Domínduez-Rodrigo et al., 2012), carnivores played an important
role during the Pleistocene concerning hominin evolution (Rosell
et al., 2012b), in what can be seen as a co-evolutionary process
(Brantingham, 1998).
Neanderthals were also subjected to interaction with large
carnivores. Compared to other hominins, they developed a close
relationship with bears (Est
evez, 2004). Their interaction with
bears and other carnivores was dened by their hunting activities
(e.g., David, 1997; Tillet, 2002; Blasco et al., 2010; P
erez Ripoll et al.,
2010), as the same prey was shared in a common ecosystem
(Beauval et al., 2005) and both carnivores and Neanderthals alter-
nately occupied the same caves (Blasco, 1997; Skinner, 2012;
Yravedra and Cobo, 2015). This alternate use of caves to develop
different activities by both agents is one of the most common
homininecarnivore interactions occurring during the Paleolithic
(Straus, 1982; Blasco and Rosell, 20 09). As our research has shown,
this has implications concerning the study of modern and complex
Neanderthal behavior, as previously discussed, for example, with
the case of the Divje Babe I ute (D'Errico et al., 1998).
The experiments presented here show how extant bears are
capable of destroying spatial connections and structured space
os et al., 2013a). These experiments showing how ursids
modify a space with dened areas now indicate that bears can erase
all evidence of a specialized space. In this sense, our results are
useful as positive analogical observations for understanding what
could have happened to hominin-abandoned spaces, in a context of
alternate use of caves. The original organized use of space was
probably modied by bears, as one of the most common carnivores
Fig. 5. Cave and brown bear bed measurements compared with the burial pit from Boufa Bonneval at La Chapelle-aux-Saints (measurements inferred from Rendu et al. (2014),
Figs. 1 and 2; and Bouyssonie et al., 1908).
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of Neanderthal behavior, Quaternary International (2015),
present in archaeological sites, especially in Neanderthal occupa-
tion layers (Stiner, 2002). The mixture of areas observable as a
result of the experiment (Fig. 2), and the impossibility of recog-
nizing specialized spatial distributions, must make us think of the
consequences this could have had during the Paleolithic.
In addition, if we consider the results of the second experiment
with bears, we must discuss the possibility that carnivores were
also responsible for burial site destruction. In this sense, carnivore
modication of intentional inhumations, by attraction to the smell
of corpses, may be the reason why so little evidence exists of
Neanderthal burials, and why burial capacities have been denied
for the Neanderthals (e.g., Gargett, 1989), as a trait indicating no
presence of modernity and complexity in their behavior. Carnivore
destruction of Neanderthal burials has been previously hypothe-
sized (Gargett, 1999), and probable related evidence of carnivore
damage to hominin fossils has been identied (Diedrich, 2014).
Bear destruction, as a taphonomic agent of Neanderthal evi-
dence of complex and modern behavior, may be the reason why
AMH sites seem to display a level of complex organization that
cannot be found in the Middle Paleolithic. According to several
Fig. 6. Aeg) Structured light scanned bear scratches from La Garma (Spain) viewed with different light lters; aec) Scratches made on the ground (soil); def) Crossed parallel
scratches made on the karstic cave wall; g) Parallel scratches made on the karstic cave wall; h) Associated bear scratches on the soil near the cave wall in Roufgnac (France) and i)
selected scratches and measurements taken to compare with jek) neanderthal engraving from Gorham's Cave (Gibraltar) and measurements taken (jek modied after Rodríguez-
Vidal et al., 2014).
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of Neanderthal behavior, Quaternary International (2015),
authors (e.g., Stringer and Gamble, 1993; see; Villa and Roebroeks,
2014), these sites held a) numerous well dened structures, b)
hearths, and c) differential use of habitation space (summarized in
Wolpoff and Caspari, 1996). Carnivore modication may then be the
reason why some Neanderthal sites display a simple spatial orga-
nization that does not differ from that of non-human carnivores
(Pettitt, 1997), although we have consistent evidence of structured
use of domestic space (e.g., Henry, 1998; Vallverdú et al., 2010;
on et al., 2012; Villa and Roebroeks, 2014).
However, the action of bears is notonly restricted to destruction
of spaces. On the contrary, their activity inside caves may generate
modication that, like destruction, can inuence behavioral
archaeological interpretations. This could be the case for the
Neanderthal burial site at La Chapelle-aux-Saints. As we have
previously indicated, the interaction between Neanderthals and
carnivores was quite complex during the Middle Paleolithic. At La
Chapelle-aux-Saints, this complexity could be the basis for a dif-
cult interpretation of the Neanderthal inhumation, but also a good
alternative viewpoint for contributing to the debate in order to
discuss the intentional burial at the site.
The identication of Neanderthal burials is not common,
although several examples of such phenomena exist (see Gargett,
1989, 1999). The inference of intentional burials is essential when
discussing aspects related to modern and complex patterned
behavior in Neanderthals. For the excavation team at La Chapelle-
aux-Saints, the attribution of an anthropic origin to the burial pit
seems essential for accepting an intentional Neanderthal burial at
Boufa Bonneval. Therefore, after a logical and solid interpretation,
Rendu et al. (2014: 83) rejected the hypothesis of an endokarstic
origin of the burial depression. Nevertheless, a brown or cave bear
origin was also rejected because:
1) Bear beds have a different morphology, according to Fosse et al.
(2004) and Hellgren and Vaughan (1989),
2) Ursid faunal remains are quasi absent, and
3) The shallow depth and relatively small opening of the burial
depression makes it unlikely to have been used for bear
Nonetheless, all these arguments for rejecting an ursid origin of
the burial pit can be rebutted. First, concerning the different
morphology between the pit and bear beds, this comparison is
made only by providing bed measurement for brown bear (U.arc-
tos)(Fosse et al., 2004) and black bear (U.americanus)(Hellgren and
Vaughan, 1989). When comparing it with the cave bear (U.spelaeus)
bed dimensions that we measured from Roufgnac (France), the
distinction is no longer as clear (Fig. 5) and the pit is revealed to be
similar to hibernation nests of this species. This interpretation may
differ when taking into account the measurements of transverse
and longitudinal proles provided by Bouyssonie et al. (1908). The
measurements and shapes described from the burial pits during the
rst excavations do not overlap with cave or brown bear bed
measurements (Figs. S2 and 5).
Moreover, despite the statement that ursid remains are quasi
absent (Rendu et al., 2014: 83), the presence of bear remains is a
fact, although identication of the ursid species is difcult. How-
ever, due to the chronological and geographical attribution of
Boufa Bonneval, the most probable ursid is the cave bear. Rendu
et al. (2014: 83) also argue that the burial context, due to its
shallow depth and open conditions, is not a good place for bear
hibernation, although U.americanus, for example, is well known to
use a wide range of hibernation den types (Hellgren and Vaughan,
1989; Hayes and Pelton, 1994) and remains of the Pleistocene U.
spelaeus have been found in rock shelters (e.g. Dimitrijevi
c, 1991).
Therefore, and considering our results, we suggest that the
burial pit from La Chapelle-aux-Saints is in fact a cave bear bed and
not a brown bear bed as was suggested by Dibble et al. (2014: 3),
based on the measurements provided by Fosse et al. (2004) and
Stiner et al. (1996). Nevertheless, the fact that the pit could be
interpreted as a bear bed does not mean that Boufa Bonneval is
not an intentional burial. Actually, evidence has been presented for
the re-use of bear beds as inhumation bases during the Upper
Paleolithic in La Grotte de Cussac (France) (Aujoulat et al., 2001).
This would reveal Neanderthal recycling activities in the context of
an alternate use of caves with carnivores and a much more complex
homininecarnivore relationship during the Middle Paleolithic.
Finally, our research goes further, by relating bear activity that
may be confused with intentional Neanderthal actions. In this
sense, we have provided the example of how similar an abstract
patterned engraving, in this case the one from Gorham's cave
(Rodríguez-Vidal et al., 2014), can appear to a bear's scratches.
Furthermore, this is not the only case of similar graphical expres-
sion, since another has been reported in the Upper Paleolithic that
also resembles ursid scratches (e.g., Cueva de Ardales in Spain, see
Ramos et al., 2014). Therefore and taking in account that new evi-
dence provide arguments to accept a Neanderthal capacity for
graphical production, we should conrm rst that what we face in
the archaeological record is not the result of bear activity.
Fig. 7. Measurements of the spaces between linesfrom Gorham's Cave engraving (red squares) and Roufgnac's bear scratches (blue circles) from Fig. 6. Means with maximum
and minimum sizes are also provided (b and d). (For interpretation of the references to colour in this gure legend, the reader is referred to the web version of this article.)
E. Camar
os et al. / Quaternary International xxx (2015) 1e108
Please cite this article in press as: Camar
os, E., et al., Bears in the scene: Pleistocene complex interactions with implications concerning the study
of Neanderthal behavior, Quaternary International (2015),
Bears occupied caves alternately with Neanderthals in many
regions of Europe, and their activity can be associated with
archaeological remains and contexts. Our research provides strong
evidence for a need for caution when interpreting Neanderthal
modern and complex behavior, especially in those archaeological
sites where a clear carnivore presence is observed. There is no
doubt that Neanderthals possessed such behavior (Villa and
Roebroeks, 2014). Nevertheless, Pleistocene Nean-
derthalecarnivore interactions (in this case, with bears) are a much
more complex issue than previously thought, and therefore we
must learn how this may had affected our own behavioral
5. Conclusions
No evidence exists for a superiority complex of Modern Humans
over Neanderthals (Villa and Roebroeks, 2014), as evidence reveals
that Neanderthals displayed a complete packageof behavioral
modernity and complexity (e.g., Henry et al., 2004; Chac
on et al.,
2012; Rodríguez-Vidal et al., 2014). Nevertheless, our research
proves that bears, one of the most common carnivores in archae-
ological sites (e.g., Stiner, 2002; Viranta and Grandal d'Anglade,
2012; Arilla et al., 2014), can generate confusion when approach-
ing behavioral issues.
On the one hand, bear actions can erase hominin spatial dis-
tributions and spatial structurations, such as specialized use of
spaces or burial contexts. On the other hand, bears can also
generate structures or materiality that can be confused with
hominin ones, such as burial pits or abstract pattern engravings. In
this sense, the present paper shows how bear actions can serve as a
taphonomic confusion factor when approaching the study of
Neanderthal behavioral modernity and complexity. This is espe-
cially the case when analyzing issues related with symbolic
behavior such as inhumation practices, the display of graphical
expression, and the organized use of space.
Future research will have to face analysis related to the transfer
of the resulting knowledge of experimentation to archaeological
research that display Neanderthalecarnivore interactions. Future
research needs to continue the characterization of materialized
actions of bears (and other carnivores) in caves, in order to provide
data that aim to differentiate between carnivore activity and
hominin intentional actions.
In conclusion, our research veries how complex the interaction
between hominins and carnivores could have been during the
Pleistocene, and the important consequences it may have con-
cerning the study of Neanderthal modern and complex behavior.
We would like to thank help received by Parque de la Naturaleza
de Cab
arceno (Cantabria) and CANTUR, S.A. to develop our experi-
ments in Cab
arceno. 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 Com-
petitividad (HAR2010-19957/HIST and HAR2013-48784-C3-1-P)
and Ag
encia de Gesti
odAjuts Universitaris i de Recerca (AGAUR 2014-
SGR-900 and 2014/100573). E. Camar
os is beneciary of a FI/AGAUR
(DGR2013) grant of the Catalan Government.
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of Neanderthal behavior, Quaternary International (2015),
... 29 Daschek (2014a) Fig. 89. 143. 30 Camarós et al. (2013Camarós et al. ( , 2017. 31 The longest distance is between sectors III/1 (V-1) and VI/6 (V-2), up to a maximum of 11 m in a straight line, to a depth of -200 cm. ...
... 84 74 Blumenschine (1986). 75 Camarós et al. (2013Camarós et al. ( , 2017; Bourdillat (2014). The list of sites is not exhaustive; for some sites the faunal list is unknown or incomplete. ...
... 98 Gábori-Csánk és Kretzoi (1968); Daschek és Mester (2020). 99 Camarós et al. (2013Camarós et al. ( , 2017; Bourdillat (2014). ...
Absztrakt Ez a tanulmány hozzájárul a barlangi hiéna szerepének megértéséhez az érdi állatcsontmaradványok eredete és felhalmozódási folyamata kapcsán, amelyben a neandervölgyi emberek tevékenysége is világosan kimutatható. Megkísérel betekintést nyújtani e ragadozó pusztító potenciáljába Érd és a magyarországi lelőhelyek korpuszában.
... In the case of European caves, the clawing by cave bears and even of animals still present in the caves, such as badgers or bats, is very well known and documented (Camarós et al., 2017). There are experimental programs and studies that characterize animal markings (Lorblanchet and Le Tensorer, 2003), apparently similar to the ones presented at Rising Star Cave (Fig. 2). ...
... Spatial refitting, defined as the spatial connection between two or more adjacent objects originally constituting one entity, is a powerful tool to address human spatial behaviour (Vaquero et al. 2017) and has a long tradition in Palaeolithic archaeology (Cziesla et al. 1990;Hofman and Enloe 1992;Conard and Adler 1997;Enloe 2010;Romagnoli and Vaquero 2019). For example, spatial refitting can be useful for identifying various anthropic processes having affected the original distribution of archaeological artefacts (Deschamps and Zilhao 2018; Baena Preysler and Torres Navas 2019; Méndez- Quintas et al. 2022), the influence of carnivores in the distribution of finds (Camarós et al. 2013(Camarós et al. , 2017 and for assessing the overall stratigraphical integrity of archaeological deposits (Morin et al. 2005). Considering human spatial behaviour, refitting studies can identify connections between different activity areas (Clark 2016;Vaquero et al. 2017;Eixea et al. 2020;Fernández-Laso et al. 2020) or occupation events (Chacón et al. 2015;Gabucio et al. 2018) and also can be applied to the analysis of lithic reduction sequences and tool use (Ortiz Nieto-Márquez et al. 2014;Vaquero et al. 2019;Courbin et al. 2020) or carcass processing and food sharing (Enloe and David 1992;Rosell et al. 2019;Real et al. 2020). ...
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The Middle Pleistocene site of Schöningen 13II-4 “Spear Horizon” is well known not only for the presence of a series of wooden spears, but also for the excellent preservation and richness of its faunal assemblage, the high resolution of its stratigraphical sequence and the large expanse of the excavated surface. These characteristics offer excellent conditions for developing refitting analyses. In this paper, we present the spatial analysis of the first refitting analysis of the faunal assemblage. Results from the refitting spatial analysis suggest that post-depositional processes had little influence on the displacement of the faunal assemblage, supporting previous studies that confirm the integrity of the site. In contrast, the movement of bones, bone fragments and bone tools throughout the site is due to biotic agents, mostly the result of hominin activity along with a limited carnivore activity. Refitting analysis allows distinguishing two major depositional zones—the main shoreline and the lake basin—not immediately connected to each other, each one showing distinct spatial patternings, and provides a detailed reconstruction of butchering activities at the “Spear Horizon”, including prey distribution, butchery processes and tool use. These results offer new insight on hominins use of space, group size and work organization during the Middle Pleistocene.
... From the perspective of DAP, animals come into view as potent faunal accumulators with the capacity to create unique material patterns and object assemblages, and they also figure as significant agents of interference -manipulating, reconfiguring and at times, overprinting the distinct materialities and activity traces of other landscape actors such as hominins (e.g. Camarós et al. 2017). This agentive interference of past animals is not only documented in alterations of a site's spatial, structural or stratigraphic profile, but may also be reflected in trampling patterns or bite and gnawing marks preserved on the recovered faunal remains of other animals or even on hominin fossils themselves (Camarós et al. 2016). ...
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The deep past harbours exceptionally rich and diverse communities of non-human animals, and iconic species such as mammoth and reindeer are in the focus of popular and academic narratives on early human evolution. Yet paradoxically, the large majority of research on this critical timeframe continues to reinforce human-centred understandings of deep history and tends to overlook or even dismiss the role of animals as active agents and potent history-makers. This paper identifies three influential intellectual orientations which have contributed to this marginalisation of past animal agencies and legacies: anthropocentrism, environmental determinism and radical relationism. It then motivates and frames the project of ‘Deep Animal Prehistory’ (DAP) in an attempt to overcome some of the limitations tied to these orientations and to make space for the self-sufficient analysis of animals’ varied yet significant contributions to the remote past. This proposal offers a suite of new arguments for the importance and necessity of studying animal agency in the deep past, illustrating some of the advantages of adopting, developing and pursing a zoocentric research perspective. Key ideas and insights from human-animal studies and animal history are integrated with theories, taxonomies and perspectives from ecology, evolution, animal ethology and comparative behaviour studies providing a preliminary inventory of valuable concepts to trace, discuss and compare how non-human animals have influenced and shaped shared planetary pasts. In conclusion, this paper situates DAP within a broader, life-oriented approach to historical processes. It primarily formulates a critique on persistent anthropocentric tropes and categorisations in current palaeoarchaeological research, and catalogues emerging opportunities of empirical investigation and theory-building with the promise to counterbalance human-centred readings of the past, re-instating other animals to the heart of deep-historical accounts, narratives and debates.
... Debido a la imposibilidad de llevar a cabo un análisis tafonómico en profundidad por el mal estado de conservación de los restos, no es posible valorar el posible aporte de restos de fauna producido por este animal. Por otra parte, tampoco debe descartarse la posibilidad de que los osos fuesen también abatidos por los cazadores humanos (Camarós et al., 2017), si no tanto con finalidad cinegética, si para aprovechar su piel o por competencia por el territorio de caza, entre otros motivos. ...
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Iberian prehistory Upper Palaeolithic Middle Palaeolithic Upper Palaeolithic Art Levantine Art Neolithic
... la Torre and Wehr 2018; Spagnolo et al. 2019Spagnolo et al. , 2020Coil et al. 2020, inter alia). Knowledge of the evolution of the site and the processes that could have taken part in its formation (human activities, animals, and/or natural factors) allow for integral comprehension by combining of data from different disciplines, not only archaeology (Camarós et al. 2013(Camarós et al. , 2017Arilla et al. 2020). Therefore, an understanding of the nature of the deposit is essential, because it is very likely that the processes that generated the accumulation of the archaeopaleontological materials and the formation of the host sedimentary unit could have been different. ...
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The Châtelperronian open-air site of Aranbaltza II presents a set of very particular characteristics, such as the large number of well-preserved lithic materials in a small area and the presence of lobular accumulations that represents the 33% of different size and shape of lithic materials of the whole assemblage. Through the application of density, hotspots, and 3D-fabric analysis, in combination with sedimentological data, we discuss the factors responsible of the accumulation of these archaeological materials. The main goal of this work is inferring the formation processes from a geoarchaeological perspective and the spatial organization of this site, unraveling the high-density accumulations of this site and therefore the activities carried out. The complexity of site formation processes has not traditionally been taken into account, leading to explanatory proposals in terms of human behavior disconnected from the sedimentary context. In this work, we highlight the need to analyze site formation processes before making assumptions about human behavior. Thus, the difficulties of dismantling and interpreting high density concentrations of materials in reduced areas are addressed, as it is also observed in other Châtelperronian open-air sites, like Vieux Coutets, Les Bossats at Omersson, Canaule II, or Le Basté, which show concentrations of lithic materials that have been interpreted as waste accumulations in knapping areas, where other activities also took place. The results obtained have revealed that some materials could have suffered a short-distance displacement followed by a rapid burial that protected them and their spatial integrity, thus allowing a preservation of the main zones of accumulation of materials and therefore the type of actions performed at Aranbaltza II.
... The importance of ursid places in Neanderthal landscapes may also be gleaned from Middle Paleolithic burial practices. As outlined by Camarós et al. (2017), the Neanderthal burial of La Chapelle-aux-Saint in Southwestern France may provide tentative evidence for the utilization of refurbished cave bear hibernation pits. The heated controversy on the intentional character of Neanderthal burials (Rendu et al. 2014(Rendu et al. , 2016Dibble et al. 2015) may then, in some instances at least, beg the actual question at hand and only detract attention from the 'hybrid' quality of the burials as partly anthropogenic and partly zoogenic. ...
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Late Pleistocene hominins co-evolved with non-analogue assemblages of carnivores and carnivorous omnivores. Although previous work has carefully examined the ecological and adaptive significance of living in such carnivore-saturated environments, surprisingly little attention has been paid to the social and cultural consequences of being-with, and adapting to, other charismatic predators and keystone carnivores. Focusing on Neanderthal populations in Western Eurasia, this paper draws together mounting archaeological evidence that suggests that some Late Pleistocene hominins devised specific behavioral strategies to negotiate their place within the vibrant carnivore guilds of their time. We build on integrative multispecies theory and broader re-conceptualizations of human-nature relations to argue that otherwise puzzling evidence for purported ‘symbolic’ behavior among Neanderthals can compellingly be re-synthesized with their ecology, settlement organization and lifeworld phenomenology. This re-framing of Neanderthal lifeways in the larger context of startling carnivore environments reveals that these hominins likely developed intimate, culturally mediated, and hence varied, bonds with raptor, hyena and bear others, rather than merely competing with them for resources, space and survival. This redressing of human-carnivore relations in the Middle Paleolithic yields important challenges for current narratives on evolving multispecies systems in the Late Pleistocene, complicating our understanding of Late Quaternary megafaunal extinctions and the roles of hominins in these processes.
... Similarly, carnivores are also attracted by the remains of the human refuse due to the smell of the bones, and meat and grease on the fire places. Carnivore visits on open-air or cave sites could consistently modify the original spatial distributions of the discarded items (Arilla et al. 2018;Camarós et al. 2013) or create new damages on the prey bones (Arilla et al. 2014;Camarós et al. 2017;Diedrich 2015;Fosse et al. 2012;Costamagno et al. 2009;Moncel et al. 2008;Discamps et al. 2012). At times, these carnivores' behaviours could generate a stratigraphic mixing of the archaeological floors making challenging the discrimination of the palimpsests (Egeland et al. 2004;Yravedra and Gómez-Castanedo 2014). ...
It has been assumed that graphic behaviour, traditionally known as art, is a specific behaviour of Homo sapiens. Current archaeological information shows that there is evidence of such behaviour prior to the presence of H. sapiens in Asia, Africa, and Europe. The first evidence documented in Europe dates back to the transition between the Lower Palaeolithic and the Early Middle Palaeolithic, before the ‘classical’ Neanderthals and Middle Palaeolithic technological traditions. With Neanderthal populations, the number of portable objects with decoration increases progressively, and the first evidence of cave art appears in deep spaces. Themes are nonfigurative, and the variety in the linear patterns gradually increases, with repetition, organisation, and structuring of the forms. These representations display rhythm, order, and compositional hierarchy. The techniques used are engraving for portable art and drawing for cave art. Cave art research proposes that Neanderthals also achieved a new symbolic landmark in the social transcendence and durability of graphic communication systems. These results and the conclusions derived from them, which have opened an intense scientific debate, shatter the traditional idea that prehistoric portable and parietal art is exclusive to H. sapiens. Above all, they open the possibility of exploring and understanding cave art in a different way.
Various Neanderthal cultural remains can be interpreted as related to symbolic activities: burials, ornaments, pigments, unusual objects that do not fall within the technical sphere (wings, feathers, raptor claws), and more recently, the frequentation of deep underground environments which implies freeing of oneself from trepidations about darkness and relies on the discovery of unknown or even dangerous environments. The findings of the last few years are ground-breaking and have increased in number and quality, and among them, are unique and exceptional discoveries. However, many older discoveries still need to be revisited from a taphonomic perspective or through new dating programmes. The main conclusion is that Neanderthal cultural and behavioural capacities do not look very different from those of contemporary populations in Africa (Homo sapiens1 or other still undefined taxa) of the Near and Middle East. They are rather comparable or indistinguishable in some instances, up to and including technological innovations, which can also be attributed to the Neanderthal lineage, despite these innovations not being as widespread and rapidly adopted as they appear to have been in the Upper Palaeolithic.
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Although archaeologists have considered the social significance of animals, this has mostly been from a dualistic perspective and based on metaphoric or symbolic reference to the human world, with animals largely seen as culturally neutral in their own right. Recent anthropological and ethnographic studies, however, have shown animal appearance and behaviour, and differences in the frequency of interactions with animals, communicate changing meanings that affect how humans understand and treat animals, and thus how they understand themselves and the world around them. Building on this, my book examines how interactions with now extinct cave bears (Ursus spelaeus Rosenmüller 1794) impacted on hominins (Neanderthals and Anatomically Modern Humans – AMH) living in Central Europe (Moravia and Silesia – Eastern Czech Republic) during OIS3 (c. 60,000 – 24,000 Cal. BP). Considering hominins and cave bears in Central Europe during this period is ideal for the proposed project: bears are universally revered within ethnographic and ethnohistoric sources and their remains are common among relevant archaeological sites; and these prehistoric hunter-gatherers commonly interacted with animals, yet demonstrated significant cultural differences. This book addresses three key questions: how can we trace interactions? What was the nature of those interactions? And what was the significance of those interactions for past humans? I use published literature together with odontometric (tooth measurement) and tooth-wear analyses to identify hominins and cave bears, their chronology, site locations, hominin hunting and lithic raw material procurement practices and use of animal remains and depictions of animals, and cavebear demography, diet, appearance, perception, social affiliation, and predator/anti-predator behaviour. I use GIS (Geographic Information Systems) computer mapping techniques to create topographic, palaeohydrological, palaeovegetation, and friction maps, and to map hominin and cave-bear site locations and home ranges, hominin pathways, lithic raw material outcrops, cave-bear and prey species preferred habitats, prey species diversity, and cavebear population densities during contrasting climatic and seasonal periods. Potential interactions are identified by comparing contemporaneous hominin and cave-bear distribution patterns, and associated frequencies of interactions are used together with relevant archaeological data and new theoretical concepts to assess the significance of interactions for past humans. I address questions such as what were the distribution patterns of hominins and cave bears and how frequently did they interact, and what evidence is there for human use of cave-bear remains and depictions of cave bears.The results show that Neanderthals interacted with cave bears more often than AMH; AMH used cave-bear remains more frequently than Neanderthals; and AMH depicted bears and other animals whereas Neanderthals did not. Interactions were important for both Neanderthals and AMH, but Neanderthals were governed more by the immediacy of the dwelt-in world, rather than memories of the perceived world as was the case for AMH, and depictions of animals were more important than the use of animal remains for AMH.