Skip to comments.Reindeer: It's What Was For Dinner
Posted on 12/22/2007 10:07:24 AM PST by blam
Reindeer: It's What Was For Dinner
Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News
Once a Staple
Dec. 20, 2007 -- Reindeer meat went from being an occasional treat to everyday fare among prehistoric cavemen who lived in Southwest France and what is now the Czech Republic, two new studies suggest.
In fact, so many nibbled-on reindeer bones were present in their caves that possible calendars circa 26,000 years ago might have been carved on the leftover bones. They may have also been used as counting devices or for ornamentation.
The first study, authored by J. Tyler Faith, analyzed bones found in limestone cave and rock shelters at a site called Grotte XVI at Dordogne near Bordeaux. The numbers and types of bones revealed plenty -- how, for instance, the hunters butchered the meat, how far they traveled to hunt, and details about populations of the animals themselves.
"If an archaeological assemblage of large mammals is dominated by only the most nutritional skeletal parts (thigh bones, for example), it suggests that the other skeletal elements of lower nutritional value (foot bones, skulls, little bones) were probably discarded at the kill site," Faith told Discovery News.
"Conversely, if we see equal frequencies of all types of skeletal elements it suggests that carcasses were transported intact and that minimal butchery was taking place at the kill site," said Faith, a George Washington University anthropologist.
He determined that 64,600 years ago, the cave dwellers -- including Neanderthals -- only brought back the choicest reindeer cuts. The meat seemed to multiply over the years so that by 12,285 years ago, virtually all parts of the reindeer were being eaten, with the animals constituting 90 percent of large mammal game.
This suggests the reindeer population in the region steadily increased over the years, so the cavemen didn't have to travel far out of their homes to get a nutritious reindeer dinner.
"If you don't have to carry the carcass very far, why both investing lots of time butchering it at the kill site and carrying only certain parts of it back home?" Faith said.
By the looks of things in the cave, during the Magdalenian era the dwellers filled themselves on everything from reindeer ribs to roast of reindeer as a result. The findings have been accepted for publication in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
Donald Grayson, a University of Washington anthropologist who has also extensively studied the French site, told Discovery News that the new study is "important, insightful and innovative."
The pollen record for the region, which reflects past vegetation, shows ever-decreasing summer temperatures favored more and more reindeer, which thrive under cooler conditions. According to Faith, when temperatures rose sharply after around 12,000 years ago, "reindeer became locally extinct and their southern boundary in Europe retreated northwards."
Before this happened, prehistoric hunters in what is now the Czech Republic were also up to their ears in leftover reindeer bones.
A separate study published in this month's Antiquity describes two decorative art pieces from Predmosti that were carved on bone that likely was reindeer. Rebecca Farbstein, who co-authored the paper with Jiri Svoboda, admitted to Discovery News that "the small size and fragmentary nature of these pieces make interpretation about their meaning speculative."
Farbstein, a researcher in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge, and her colleague determined that the bones were covered with a distinctive grid pattern on one side.
Based on a review of other objects from the same time period, the carved bones could indicate that prehistoric Europeans may have marked their time on bone calendars made out of the then-common
A moose bit my sister once.
She thought he was a reindeer. So she ate him.
A Written Record?
Or another “natural formation?” :)
Could have been used as a grater or to smooth something. Grate husks off grains?
They still eat it in Iceland.
Early patent application for Rice Chex.
I am having difficulty reconciling this.
If the meat was plentiful they would only take the choicest meat because it was so plentiful. It would seem that they would only take the whole carcass if the food was in short supply - or the human population took off and they needed all parts of the deer to support the tribe.
Reindeer sausage is available locally. Reindeer herds are allocated racially.
“They still eat it in Iceland.”
...and in NJ after a stint in Canada for a week or two...same goes for moose which, IMHO, is even better eating than “boo”.
I learned recently there was a great experiment in Alaska to grow Reindeer as a cash crop. The problem was, the females ran off wifh the amorous and perhaps genetically superior wild caribou males.
OK, then, I’m staying up late Christmas Eve with a 30 .06. I’ll just wait until Santa’s gone down the chimney. That one with the red nose ought to be pretty easy to pop.
“That one with the red nose ought to be pretty easy to pop.”
Better watch out for that one, all of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names and where are they in history? LoL
So do the Sami.
Must have been about the time Fred Flintstone and his Neanderthal peers started driving those cars of theirs and caused the global warming of that era.
Reindeer is still a tasty meat. Very lean, but add a little suet, and it makes excellent sausage. Yum.
Bump and Ping