Faunal assemblages and biomes at the anthropological frontier around 50-40 ka BP
At the present state of research, the faunal environment of the last Neanderthals seems to have been roughly similar to that of Early Homo sapiens. However, a closer look at the faunal assemblages from the time range crucial to the first occurrence of Homo sapiens in Europe between 50,000 and 40,000 years ago (MIS 3), reveals a serious problem: Whereas the few early Upper Palaeolithic assemblages (ca. 40 ka B.P.) are well dated and well analysed, the late Middle Palaeolithic assemblages are badly dated - though much more numerous. Moreover, a systematic overview of mid-MIS3 species is not available. New radiometric dating of 30 selected assemblages from Central Europe, connected with re-evaluation of contained species, will shed new light on the question, which kind of faunal assemblages really belong to the very last stage of the Middle Palaeolithic. We will try to engage, for each site, at least two dating techniques to be compared. The project will particularly profit from recent methodological advances in bone collagen dating and single-grain OSL dating. Subsequent evaluation of the latest MPal faunae compared to their UPal complements will contribute to the reconstruction of regional biomes. Integration of geochronological and palynological data will result in comprehensive models of regional biomes and their temporal dynamics. The project will finally address the question if particularly attractive biomes paved the routes of early Homo sapiens to Europe and if Neanderthals and Home sapiens were demographic competitors within either similar or rather differing biomes. Do the biomes mirror the anthropological frontier between the Neanderthal and Homo sapiens during mid-MIS 3?