Stable isotope evidence for increasing dietary breadth in the European mid-Upper Paleolithic

Michael P. Richards, Paul B. Pettitt, Mary C Stiner, Erik Trinkaus

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New carbon and nitrogen stable isotope values for human remains dating to the mid-Upper Paleolithic in Europe indicate significant amounts of aquatic (fish, mollusks, and/or birds) foods in some of their diets. Most of this evidence points to exploitation of inland freshwater aquatic resources in particular. By contrast, European Neandertal collagen carbon and nitrogen stable isotope values do not indicate significant use of inland aquatic foods but instead show that they obtained the majority of their protein from terrestrial herbivores. In agreement with recent zooarcheological analyses, the isotope results indicate shifts toward a more broad-spectrum subsistence economy in inland Europe by the mid-Upper Paleolithic period, probably associated with significant population increases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6528-6532
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - May 22 2001



  • Early modern humans
  • Middle Paleolithic
  • Neandertal
  • Subsistence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • General

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