The Faunal assemblage from the Riparo Mochi site (Balzi Rossi): new insights on the Mousterian-Aurignacian human-environment relationship.

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Andrea Perez
Fabio Santaniello
Ursula Thun Hohenstein
Stefano Grimaldi


Due to its geography, the Liguria region represented an obligatory pathway for animals and human groups that moved along the northern Mediterranean route, connecting the central Italian peninsula to the South-eastern France. Among the several Ligurian sites yielding traces of palaeolithic human activities, Riparo Mochi is a key site to understand the human peopling dynamics occurred during the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic Transition (MUPT). Its archaeological deposit is in fact one of the most complete and well dated MUPT sequences in this region. This study will contribute to increase our knowledge about the behavioural differences between the last Neanderthals and the first Anatomically Modern Humans (AMHs) who inhabited the sites as well as the palaeoenvironmental changes that occurred from Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 5 to 3. To do so, our study is focused on the zooarchaeological analysis of faunal remains coming from the Mousterian (Unit I), Protoaurignacian (Units H and G), and Aurignacian (Unit F) units of the site. Neanderthals inhabited the site during the early phases (MIS 5-4), hunting mainly Cervus elaphus and other middle-large size ungulates. A great variability in the faunal spectrum is shown during the coldest phases of the Mousterian. A decrease in variability is observed in the upper layers of Unit H, corresponding whit the first AMHs occupation of the site. Despite the warmer climatic conditions, a decrease in diversity of faunas is observed, maybe due to a different hunting strategy operated by the Protoaurignacian occupants. Red deer is still the most common prey, but hunting seems also oriented on alpine taxa, such as Capra ibex. Deer hunting in the Proto- and Aurignacian economy might be highlighted by the production of antler tools founded only in the Upper Palaeolithic (UP) layers. Zooarchaeological and paleoenvironmental data from Riparo Mochi shows a region characterized by an overall climatic and biological stability, reflected in the almost constant presence of certain species of large mammals during the MUPT. Nevertheless, the variations observed since the beginning of the UP appear to be related to an economic behavioural change attributable to the disappearance of Neanderthals and the arrival of AMHs at the site.

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How to Cite
Perez, Andrea, Fabio Santaniello, Ursula Thun Hohenstein, and Stefano Grimaldi , trans. 2022. “The Faunal Assemblage from the Riparo Mochi Site (Balzi Rossi): New Insights on the Mousterian-Aurignacian Human-Environment Relationship”. Alpine and Mediterranean Quaternary 35 (2): 135-55.