PhD Title :
Hyaenas and Neanderthals in the British Middle Palaeolithic.
PhD Research :
This research aims to establish the ecological niche of spotted hyaenas and Neanderthals in Britain during two periods of the Upper Pleistocene. The earlier period (Marine Isotope Stage 5e, 130 – 115 kya) has evidence of hyaena accumulated assemblages only as there is no unambiguous evidence of human occupation during this time while the later period (Marine Isotope Stage 3, 60 – 35 kya) has evidence of both.
Stable isotope analysis has shown that hyaenas and Neanderthals were top-level carnivores and European data show that they were dependant on the same range of large herbivores. It is possible that hyaenas and Neanderthals inhabited the same environments during MIS3 and therefore would have been direct competitors for resources. While much of the past research has focused on the predator-prey relationship between Neanderthals and their prey or hyaenas and their prey, the nature of any interaction between the predators themselves is very poorly understood. Research in modern day Africa has shown that hyaenas are attracted to human settlement areas for the scavenging opportunities, and it may be the case that Neanderthals actively scavenged from hyaena kills in the Middle Palaeolithic.
This research will therefore focus on faunal assemblages from Middle Palaeolithic open air and cave sites to establish the taxonomic nature and diversity of prey, body part distribution and age structure of the prey, taphonomic features of the assemblages and the morphometric nature of both hyaenas and the herbivores. Comparisons can then be made between the hyaena accumulated assemblages of both time periods to establish any differences in predatory behaviour and whether this may be due to increased competition with Neanderthals for resources in MIS3.