Reconstructing diet and behaviour of neanderthals from central Italy through dental macrowear analysis

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Neanderthals have been traditionally considered at the top of the food chain with a diet mostly consisting of animal proteins. New findings challenged this view and suggested that Neanderthals living in areas with more favourable climatic conditions exploited various food sources, including plant materials. In this study, the attention is focused on dental macrowear of Neanderthals from Central Italy, whose diet has been largely unexplored. Three-dimensional digital models of teeth have been examined through occlusal fingerprint analysis (OFA), a method used to understand how wear facets are formed. The results show a close similarity between the specimens of Saccopastore 1 and 2, with a wear pattern that indicates the use of diverse sources of food, but with a predominance of animal proteins. On the other hand, the specimens of Guattari 2 and 3 display a slightly different dental wear from each other, which probably reflects the chronological sequence of the Guattari Cave. It appears that at the end of the marine isotope stage (MIS) 5 the occupants of this cave consumed marginally more plant foods, while during MIS 3 they relied more on animal proteins. Finally, a close look at the Saccopastore maxillary molars reveals the presence of a distinct type of wear that has been previously described in some Neanderthals and early Homo sapiens from Near East, and it provides additional information about the culture and lifestyle of these Pleistocene human populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-133
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Anthropological Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Guattari
  • Occlusal compass
  • Saccopastore
  • Wear facets

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