Document Type



Over the past several decades a variety of models have been proposed to explain perceived behavioral and cognitive differences between Neanderthals and modern humans. A key element in many of these models and one often used as a proxy for behavioral “modernity” is the frequency and nature of hunting among Palaeolithic populations. Here new archaeological data from Ortvale Klde, a late Middle–early Upper Palaeolithic rockshelter in the Georgian Republic, are considered, and zooarchaeological methods are applied to the study of faunal acquisition patterns to test whether they changed significantly from the Middle to the Upper Palaeolithic. The analyses demonstrate that Neanderthals and modern humans practiced largely identical hunting tactics and that the two populations were equally and independently capable of acquiring and exploiting critical biogeographical information pertaining to resource availability and animal behavior. Like lithic techno-typological traditions, hunting behaviors are poor proxies for major behavioral differences between Neanderthals and modern humans, a conclusion that has important implications for debates surrounding the Middle–Upper Palaeolithic transition and what features constitute “modern” behavior. The proposition is advanced that developments in the social realm of Upper Palaeolithic societies allowed the replacement of Neanderthals in the Caucasus with little temporal or spatial overlap and that this process was widespread beyond traditional topographic and biogeographical barriers to Neanderthal mobility.


© 2006 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.
Published in Current Anthropology, Vol. 47, No. 1, pp. 89-118 (February 2006) at