Chasse au mammouth et autres proboscidiens

Les humains au paléolithique chassaient le mammouth régulièrement, parfois intensivement, en Europe, Asie et Amérique du nord. L’intensité de la chasse a probablement contribué, sans être le facteur unique, à la disparition des mammouths, comme de plusieurs autres très gros animaux, à la fin du pléistocène.
Dans d’autres régions du globe, c’est l’éléphant ou le mastodonte américain qui étaient chassés.

Hunting and processing of straight-tusked elephants 125.000 years ago: Implications for Neanderthal behavior [Texte]
Gaudzinski-Windheuser et al.
Science Advances, 2023

Our archaeozoological study of the largest P. antiquus assemblage known, excavated from 125,000-year-old lake deposits in Germany, shows that hunting of elephants weighing up to 13 metric tons was part of the cultural repertoire of Last Interglacial Neanderthals there, over >2000 years, many dozens of generations. The intensity and nutritional yields of these well-documented butchering activities, combined with previously reported data from this Neumark-Nord site complex, suggest that Neanderthals were less mobile and operated within social units substantially larger than commonly envisaged.

On the efficacy of Clovis fluted points for hunting proboscideans [Texte]
Eren et al.
Journal of archaeologic science, 2021

Clovis points are multi-functional tools, not specialized weapons for dispatching megafauna.
Proboscidean hunting did not likely play a substantial role in the diet of Clovis groups.

Stable isotopes reveal patterns of diet and mobility in the last Neandertals and first modern humans in Europe [Texte]
Wißing et al.
Nature Scientific Reports, 2019

For both UPMH individuals, the two most relevant prey species are the mammoth and the reindeer. Each species comprised roughly 25–30% of the meat protein source. The rhinoceros contributed ca. 15 to 20%, the bovines and horses around 10% of the dietary proteins. Cave bears played the least important role, with a maximum contribution of around 5% of the total protein intake. These results are similar to those of Neandertals, which indicates that both UPMHs and Neandertals had a similar prey choice with preference for mammoth and reindeer.
[…] The zooarchaeological records from Goyet and Spy fully support mammoth hunting episodes with a special preference for younger individuals and possibly their mothers. Interestingly, based on stable isotopes, the mammoth seems to contribute the major part of the dietary protein of humans in a time range between 50,000 and 30,000 years ago and across wide areas spanning from SW France to the Crimean Peninsula

Mammouth pourcentages consommation

Animal residues found on tiny Lower paleolithic tools reveal their use in butchery [PDF]
Venditi et al.
Nature Scientific reports, 2019

In addition to the plethora of stone arte-facts, thousands of butchered animal bones were also retrieved from the site, including those of elephants, who played a prominent role in human diet and whose bones served as raw material for tools. The site also yielded direct evidence for the use of large stone tools in animal processing. Revadim is an open-air site dated to ca 500–300 kyr

Mammoth hunting strategies during the Late Gravettian in Central Europe as determined from case studies of Milovice I (Czech Republic) and Kraków Spadzista (Poland) [Abstract]
Wilczynski et al.
Quaternary science reviews, 2019

The hunter-gatherers at both sites had a mammoth-hunting focus, although they used different sized lithic weapon tips for hunting and thus probably had different strategies for procuring prey. The mammoth mortality profiles are significantly different at the two sites. At Milovice I, mid-life adults dominate the profile, while juveniles greatly dominate at Kraków Spadzista.

The earliest direct evidence of mammoth hunting in Central Europe – The Kraków Spadzista site (Poland) [Texte]
Piotr Wojtal et al.
Quaternary science review, 2019

The oldest unequivocal evidence of mammoth hunting in prehistoric Central Europe has been found in the Gravettian archaeological site Kraków Spadzista (Poland). The site contains thousands of lithic artifacts and the remains of >100 woolly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius), with radiocarbon dates clustering ∼25–24 ka uncal BP. A fragment of a flint shouldered point is embedded in a mammoth rib, and more than 50% of the site’s flint shouldered points and backed blades bear diagnostic traces of hafting and impact damage from use as spear tips. Additional support for mammoth killing is the mortality profile of 112 mammoths from the site: some age groups may have been depleted due to recurring heavy hunting by humans during periods of environmental stress. The evidence for intensive human hunting could portend a development thousands of years later, at the end of the Pleistocene, when climate-caused habitat changes were more extreme, and, in combination with opportunistic human hunting, may have led to woolly mammoth extinction.

Elephant and Mammoth Hunting during the Paleolithic: A Review of the Relevant Archaeological, Ethnographic and Ethno-Historical Records [Texte] [PDF]
Agam & Barkai
Quaternary, 2018

This study examines the archaeological evidence of proboscidean hunting during Paleolithic times, and provides a review of ethnographic and ethno-historical accounts, demonstrating a wide range of traditional elephant-hunting strategies. We also discuss the rituals accompanying elephant hunting among contemporary hunter-gatherers, further stressing the importance of elephants among hunter-gatherers. Based on the gathered data, we suggest that early humans possessed the necessary abilities to actively and regularly hunt proboscideans; and performed this unique and challenging task at will.

Climate warming and humans played different roles in triggering Late Quaternary extinctions in east and west Eurasia [Texte]
Wan & Zhang
Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 2017

Here, our analyses showed that temperature change had significant effects on mammoth (genus Mammuthus), rhinoceros (Rhinocerotidae), horse (Equidae) and deer (Cervidae). Rapid global warming was the predominant factor driving the total extinction of mammoths and rhinos in frigid zones from the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene. Humans showed significant, negative effects on extirpations of the four mammalian taxa, and were the predominant factor causing the extinction or major extirpations of rhinos and horses. Deer survived both rapid climate warming and extensive human impacts.

A simulation of anthropogenic Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi) extinction [PDF]
Clapman & Capaldi
Historical Biology, 2017

Previous research has been conducted on the overkill hypothesis for the Columbian mammoth using a continuous differential equations model. We improved on this work by developing a computationally more efficient and more realistic discrete stochastic model. Most model parameters were obtained directly from the literature; migration parameters were informed by the literature and calibrated for the model. Our results provide evidence in support of the overkill hypothesis.

Isotopic analyses suggest mammoth and plant in the diet of the oldest anatomically modern humans from far southeast Europe [Texte]
Drucker et al.
Nature scientific reports, 2017

The inferred human trophic position values point to terrestrial-based diet, meaning a significant contribution of mammoth meat, in addition to a clear intake of plant protein.

Records of Growth and Weaning in Fossil Proboscidean Tusks as Tests of Pleistocene Extinction Mechanisms (thèse de doctorat [PDF]
Michael Dennis Cherney
University of Michigan Library, 2016

Tusk analyses for Ziegler Reservoir mastodons (Snowmass Village, CO) show no evidence that populations were struggling during the previous interglacial (Sangamonian) when climate was similar to current conditions. Poor nutrition is likely to result in later weaning age in mammals. However, in the interval of warming leading up to their extinction, Siberian woolly mammoths were apparently weaning earlier than they had been during the last glacial maximum. The shift to earlier weaning at the end of the Pleistocene refutes climate-related nutritional stress as a mechanism for their extinction. Population pressure from human hunting, which is expected to result in earlier weaning, is a more likely explanation for mammoth population declines.

Early human presence in the Arctic: Evidence from 45,000-year-old mammoth remains [Abstract]
Pitulko et al.
Science, 2016

Archaeological evidence for human dispersal through northern Eurasia before 40,000 years ago is rare. In west Siberia, the northernmost find of that age is located at 57°N. Elsewhere, the earliest presence of humans in the Arctic is commonly thought to be circa 35,000 to 30,000 years before the present. A mammoth kill site in the central Siberian Arctic, dated to 45,000 years before the present, expands the populated area to almost 72°N. The advancement of mammoth hunting probably allowed people to survive and spread widely across northernmost Arctic Siberia.

A taste of an elephant: The probable role of elephant meat in Paleolithic diet preferences [PDF]
Hagar Reshef & Ran Barkai
Quaternary International, 2015

We suggest that early hominins might have had taste preferences and that elephant meat played a significant role in their diet, when available. Furthermore, the archaeological evidence coupled with ethnographic observations and the study of frozen mammoths suggest that juvenile elephants were specifically a delicacy and were hunted intentionally since their specific meat and fat composition seems to have had a better taste and a better nutritional value.

Not the brain alone: The nutritional potential of elephant heads in Paleolithic sites [PDF]
Agam & Barkai
Quaternary international, 2015

The presence of elephants, and specifically of elephant head remains, is well demonstrated in many Paleolithic sites in Europe, Africa, and Asia. However, the possible mechanisms for the exploitation of this enormous body part are rarely discussed, and it is often suggested that elephants’ heads were exploited specifically for the extraction and consumption of the brain. In this paper, we discuss the nutritional potential that lies within elephants’ heads as implied by ethnographic and zoological literature, and present archaeological evidence from Paleolithic sites for the exploitation of proboscideans’ heads. The data show that the prevailing view should be re-evaluated, and that the nutritional potential within the elephant’s head extends far beyond the brain. We suggest that organs such as the temporal gland, the trunk, the tongue, the mandible and the skull itself were exploited routinely as an integral part of early humans’ diet. The nutritional potential of the elephant head provides a parsimonious explanation for the investment early humans put into transporting and exploiting this specific body part at open-air sites but particularly at cave sites, and serves as a significant beacon in understanding Paleolithic human behavior in relation to proboscidean remains.

Reconstruction of the Gravettian food-web at Předmostí I using multi-isotopic tracking (13C, 15N, 34S) of bone collagen [PDF]
Bocherens et al.
Quaternary International, 2015

Strong reliance on mammoth meat was found for the human of the site, similarly to previously analyzed individuals from other Gravettian sites in Moravia. Interestingly, the large canids interpreted as “Palaeolithic dogs” had a high proportion of reindeer/muskox in their diet, while consumption of mammoth would be expected from the availability of this prey especially in case of close interaction with humans. The peculiar isotopic composition of the Palaeolithic dogs of Předmostí I may indicate some control of their dietary intake by Gravettian people, who could have use them more for transportation than hunting purpose.

Hunters of the giants: Woolly mammoth hunting during the Gravettian in Central Europe
Wojtal & Wilczynsky

Quaternary international, 2015

Between 30,000 and 20,000 years ago, Gravettian hunter-gatherers spread across most of Europe. In Central Europe, large and important sites have been discovered, especially those in the Czech Republic at the base of the Pavlovské (Palava) Hills, and in southern Poland. The remains of different mammalian carnivores and herbivores accumulated in bone assemblages at these Gravettian sites. Mammoth bones and teeth are significant components in them. Mammoths certainly played a significant role in the lifetime of the Central European societies of Gravettian hunter-gatherers. These Pleistocene giants provided not only food, but also raw materials for tools and the production of ornaments. The presence of the remains of many mammoths shows that the Gravettian people were specialized in the hunting of these animals.

Recent elephant-carcass utilization as a basis for interpreting mammoth exploitation
Quaternary International, 2015

Both Pavlovian and Clovis people were close-range hunters who used spears and may or may not have had spear-throwers. The use of bow-and-arrow has also been proposed for Pavlovian, but not for Clovis. Both cultural complexes also probably used nets and snares to capture smaller animals. Lithic technology differed considerably – small blades in Pavlovian and bifaces in Clovis are the dominant forms. The larger Pavlovian settlements were preferentially situated in animal-migration bottlenecks, corridors connecting plains separated by mountains or highlands (Svoboda, 2007: 208). Herd animals that migrated through these corridors – reindeer, mammoths, horses – were hunted, and carnivores were also taken for food and furs, or for bones and teeth to use as raw materials (Table 3). Clovis sites are not so preferentially located in such well defined physiographic settings in North America. The extent that animals other than mammoths were taken by Clovis hunters for food is not clear; a continent-wide faunal list from 31 Clovis-era sites includes ∼20 mammalian taxa (Table 4), although not all of them may have been subsistence-related (Haynes and Hutson, 2013).

In the elephant, everything is good: Carcass use and re-use at Castel di Guido (Italy)
Boschian & Saccà
Quaternary international, 2015
(Dans un numéro fabuleux :
The Origins of Recycling: A Paleolithic Perspective)

These aspects indicate that the bones of large taxa, mostly elephant, were part of a complex subsistence system characterised by hunting and scavenging on one side, and an extremely fuzzy boundary among use, re-use and recycling on the other one. This system was based on the recycling – or transfunctionalisation – of the carcasses, which were exploited for food consumption (meat and possibly marrow), and later for raw material procurement over a long time of permanence and availability on the surface of the site.

How do you kill 86 mammoths? Taphonomic investigations of mammoth megasites [PDF]
Pat Shipman
Quaternary International, 2014

« The large number of individual mammoths and the scarcity of carnivore toothmarks and gnawing suggest a new ability to retain kill mammoths and control of carcasses. Age profiles of such mammoth-dominated sites with a large minimum number of individuals differ statistically at the p < 0.01 level from age profiles of Loxodonta africana populations that died of either attritional or catastrophic causes. However, age profiles from some mammoth sites exhibit a chain of linked resemblances with each other through time and space, suggesting the transmission of behavioral or technological innovation. I hypothesize that this innovation may have been facilitated by an early attempted domestication of dogs, as indicated by a group of genetically and morphologically distinct large canids which first appear in archaeological sites at about 32 ka B.P. »

Not one but two mammoth hunting strategies in the Gravettian of the Pavlov Hills area (southern Moravia) [Extraits]
Alexis Brugère
Quaternary international, 2014

two hunting strategies have been identified in the Pavlov Hills area: one affecting subadults and adults, and the second one affecting young and subadult individuals. Chronology and the physical condition of the mammoth population are not convincing arguments to explain such a difference. Human behaviour was involved, and we suggest economic goals related to mammoth resources were the reasons for such a hunting selection.

Evidence from the Yana Palaeolithic site, Arctic Siberia, yields clues to the riddle of mammoth hunting
Nikolskiy & Pitulko
Journal of archeological science, 2013

The data suggest that Palaeolithic Yana humans hunted mammoths sporadically, presumably when ivory was needed for making tools. Such non-intensive hunting practiced by humans over millennia would not be fatal to a sustainable mammoth population.

(Middle Pleistocene)

Elephants at the Middle Pleistocene Acheulian open-air site of Revadim Quarry, Israel
Rabinovich et al.
Quaternary international, 2012

The unprecedented quantity of elephant remains at the site is accompanied by large and rich lithic assemblages. Of special interest are several elephant bones with cut marks, and the earliest appearance in the southern Levant of bones that seem to have been shaped to resemble tools. The site bears testimony to complex exploitation of proboscideans.

Elephants and subsistence. Evidence of the human exploitation of extremely large mammal bones from the Middle Palaeolithic site of PRERESA (Madrid, Spain) [Texte]
Yravedra et al.
Journal of Archaeological Science, 2012

Man the Fat Hunter: The Demise of Homo erectus and the Emergence of a New Hominin Lineage in the Middle Pleistocene (ca. 400 kyr) Levant [Texte]
Ben-Dor et al.
PLOS One, 2011

The worldwide association of H. erectus with elephants is well documented and so is the preference of humans for fat as a source of energy. We show that rather than a matter of preference, H. erectus in the Levant was dependent on both elephants and fat for his survival.

Pre-Clovis Mastodon Hunting 13,800 Years Ago at the Manis Site, Washington [Abstract]
Waters et al.
Science, 2011

The Manis site, combined with evidence of mammoth hunting at sites in Wisconsin, provides evidence that people were hunting proboscideans at least two millennia before Clovis.

Mammuthus trogontherii pourrait avoir été chassé en Asie, ou du moins consommé, dès -1,7Ma.

New materials of the steppe mammoth, Mammuthustrogontherii, with discussion on the origin and evolutionary patterns of mammoths [PDF]
Wei et al.
Science China, Earth science, 2010

The relationship between mammoths and humans deserves discussion. The coexistence of mammoth fossils and human remains or artifacts in many Paleolithic sites of Eurasia since the Pleistocene indicates that mammoths and humans inhabited the same biozone for a long time. For example, the coexistent interval of steppe mammoths and humans was at least 0.6 Ma in the Nihewan Basin of North China. The interval between the age of Majuangou site and Donggutuo site both including M. trogontherii fossils and artifacts was 1.7–1.1 Ma [16]. At the Majuangou site, one recovered rib of M. trogontherii with distinct chopping and scraping traces demonstrates mammoth-hunting by humans. There is synchronization between mammoth speciation and human evolution. The emergence of Australopithecus afarensis, Homo rudolfensis/Homo habilis, Homo erectus,and Homo heidelbergensis may correlate with the evolution of M. rumanus (3.5–3.0 Ma), M. meridionalis (2.6–2.5 Ma), M. trogontherii (1.8 Ma), and M. primigenius (0.8 Ma). On the other hand, the appearance of new species of mammoth, as many other terrestrial mega-mammals, closely follows palaeomagnetic reversal or global climatic events.

Pas de certitudes quant à la chasse, mais boucheries des différentes parties de l’animal, dont organes, suggérant une acquisition de carcasses entières ou presque (« early acces »). Paléolithique moyen, Acheuléen.

Cut marks on the Middle Pleistocene elephant carcass of Áridos 2 (Madrid, Spain) [PDF]
Yravedra et al.
Journal of Archaeological Sciences, 2010

Cut marks have been found on the scapula and one rib of the
elephant at Áridos 2, indicative of butchery and involving both
defleshing and evisceration. This is suggestive of early access to the
carcass by hominins. Haynes (2005) shows that viscerae disappear
fast in the consumption of elephant carcasses by carnivores. This is
also indicative of large carcass consumption during the Middle
Pleistocene by hominins, not solely restricted to the Upper Pleis-

Possible evidence of mammoth hunting during the Epigravettian at Yudinovo, Russian Plain [PDF]
Germonpré et al.
Journal of anthropological archeology, 2008

The combination of the homogeneous weathering rate of the mammoth bones, the isolated state of most of the skeletal elements, the restricted spatial range of the carnivore gnawing traces, the breakage pattern of the skulls and long bones, the sex ratio, the small body size of the adult mammoths, the age profile (with an important frequency of prime-aged cows), and the large number of individuals, suggest that the bone complexes at Yudinovo were constructed from body parts and bones that were extracted from freshly killed mammoths and that mammoth hunting was practised at this site during the Epigravettian.

Climate Change, Humans, and the Extinction of the Woolly Mammoth [Texte]
Nogués-Bravo et al.
PLOS Biology, 2008

Results of the population models also show that the collapse of the climatic niche of the mammoth caused a significant drop in their population size, making woolly mammoths more vulnerable to the increasing hunting pressure from human populations. The coincidence of the disappearance of climatically suitable areas for woolly mammoths and the increase in anthropogenic impacts in the Holocene, the coup de grâce, likely set the place and time for the extinction of the woolly mammoth.

Late Pleistocene mammoth herd structure, migration patterns, and Clovis hunting strategies inferred from isotopic analyses of multiple death assemblages [PDF]
Kathryn A. Hoppe
Paleobiology, 2004

High levels of variability in each of the isotope systems at Clovis sites suggest that all of the sites examined represent time-averaged accumulations of unrelated individuals, rather than the mass deaths of family groups.

Grandes proies ou petites proies ?

Deconstructing Hunting Returns: Can We Reconstruct and Predict Payoffs from Pursuing Prey?
Morin et al. (Bliege Bird)
Journal of archeological method and theory, 2021

We find that body size is a poor predictor of on-encounter return rate, while prey characteristics and behavior, mode of procurement, and hunting technology are better predictors. Although prey body size correlates well with processing costs and edibility, relationships with pursuit time and energetic value per kilogram are relatively weak.

Brain expansion in early hominins predicts carnivore extinctions in East Africa
Faurby et al.
Ecology letters, 2020

hunting hominins are likely to behave in similar ways to other carnivores (Carbone et al. 1999) by focussing on relatively large prey (i.e. species of approximately the same body mass as themselves), selecting a few large prey items, rather than many small, and therefore competing more with large than with small carnivores.

The role of small prey in hunter–gatherer subsistence strategies from the Late Pleistocene–Early Holocene transition site in NE Iberia: the leporid accumulation from the Epipalaeolithic level of Balma del Gai site [Texte]
Rosado-Mendez et al.
Archeological and anthropological science, 2019

certain assumptions about energy return balances and the difficulty of a mass capture of individuals without a minimum of appropriate technology for exploitation to be economically profitable call into question that there is a specialized exploitation of this type of prey before the emergence and expansion of anatomically modern humans

Les paléoanthropologues lient la capacité de Néandertaliens à chasser le lapin à l’acquisition de « stratégies de chasse avancées » :

The exploitation of rabbits for food and pelts by last interglacial Neandertals [Texte]
Pelletier et al.
Quaternary science review, 2019

The capture of such a hight number of this small mammal potentially required sophisticated acquisition techniques formerly known only from Upper Palaeolithic contexts. […] In fact, despite the typically low return rates compared to ungulates (Speth and Spielmann, 1983; Ugan, 2005), the socio-economic potential of leporids is also reflected by the fact that both their bones and pelts can be exploited. The regular incorporation of small game in subsistence strategies during earlier periods, particularly the Middle Paleolithic, has been questioned by some researchers who argue that Neandertals, unlike modern humans, lacked the cognitive capacity and/or a sufficiently well-developed technology for regularly exploiting small game. […] The pattern of Middle Palaeolithic rabbit exploitation documented at Pié Lombard currently finds no equivalent in Europe for this period and provides indirect evidence for the development of advanced hunting strategies by Neandertals during MIS 5-4 as well as their advanced cognitive capacities.

When bigger is not better: The economics of hunting megafauna and its implications for Plio-Pleistocene hunter-gatherers [PDF]
Lupo & Schmitt
Journal of anthropological archeology, 2016

These data challenge the idea that prey body size can be used as a proxy for profitability and rank in zooarchaeological analyses. Prey profitability, especially for large-sized and costly taxa, is strongly influenced by prey characteristics relative to existing dispatch technology and the range of nonconsumptive benefits associated with hunting certain megafauna. Nonconsumptive rewards associated with these opportunities can only be gained by certain individuals and are not broadly available to everyone. We suggest that the idea of ‘big game’ specialization needs to be reframed in archaeology.

En rentabilité pure de la chasse, les proies de 100 à  500kg, en gros semblent les plus rentables. Si on ajoute les coûts de traitement (dépeçage, fumage, par exemple), la rentabilité s’équilibre. Néanmoins, la chasse devrait à mon sens être considérée comme l’acte le plus difficile, qui conditionne le reste. De plus, ce graphique est valable avec les armes récentes (arc…), mieux adaptées aux petites proies. Les chasseurs étudées récemment, de plus, tendent à chasser souvent individuellement, ce qui n’était pas forcément le cas au paléolithique. Une autre limitation est sans doute la disponibilité des proies, les grandes proies étant nettement plus rares aujourd’hui qu’au paléolithique, même si les espèces n’ont pas disparu. Un autre point à considérer est la présence d’éléments particulièrement intéressant présents sur certains animaux : fourrures ou peaux, ivoire, corne, taux de masse graisseuse, etc.

Rentabilité Lupo 2016 2

Il a été supposé que Néandertal aurait été moins capable de s’adapter à la chasse de petites proies, et, lorque la biomasse des grosses a diminué, cela lui aurait été fatal. On suppose désormais qu’il avait lui aussi la capacité technique de chasser des petites proies.

Rabbits and hominin survival in Iberia [Extraits]
Fa et al.
Journal of human evolution, 2013

We suggest that hunters that could shift focus to rabbits and other smaller residual fauna, once larger-bodied species decreased in numbers, would have been able to persist. From the evidence presented here, we postulate that Neanderthals may have been less capable of prey-shifting and hence use the high-biomass prey resource provided by the rabbit, to the extent AMH did.

Paleolithic nutrition:what did our ancestors eat?
Brand-Miller et al, 2009

Table 2 shows the energy return rates for a variety of plant and animal foods that were known components of hunter-gatherer diets. Clearly, animal foods yield the highest energy return rates, and larger animals generally produce greater energy returns than smaller animals. Although the potential food mass would be similar between a single deer weighing 45 kg and 1,600 mice weighing 30 g each, foraging humans would have to expend significantly more energy capturing the 1,600 mice than a single deer. Hence, the killing of larger animals increases the energy capture/energy expenditure ratio not only because it reduces energy expenditure, but because it in-creases the total energy captured.

Energy return rate hunter gatherers


Recent elephant-carcass utilization as a basis for interpreting mammoth exploitation
Haynes, 2015

Charles R. Knight cro-magnon painting

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