A very interesting article from this week's Four Stone Hearth, based on a recent paper in in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Neanderthals Dried Fresh Meat, Wore Tailored Clothing Energy Study.
The paper is available in its entirety from Professor Sørensens website: Energy use by Eem Neanderthals [PDF - 60 kB]A paper in the Journal of Archaeological Science by Bent Sørensen of the University of Roskilde in Denmark, discusses how European Neanderthals living in the Eemian interglacial, dated to around 125,000 years bp might have conserved much needed energy by drying and storing meat, wearing fitted clothing, and sleeping beneath blankets of mammoth skin, behaviours that would have greatly increased their chances of surviving decreasing temperatures with the onset of ice ages.
An analysis of energy use by Neanderthals in Northern Europe during the mild Eem interglacial period is carried out with consideration of the metabolic energy production required for compensating energy losses during sleep, at daily settlement activities and during hunting expeditions, including transport of food from slain animals back to the settlement. Additional energy sources for heat, security and cooking are derived from fireplaces in the open or within shelters such as caves or huts. The analysis leads to insights not available from archaeological findings that are mostly limited to durable items such as those made of stone: Even during the benign Eem period, Neanderthals faced a considerable heat loss problem. Wearing tailored clothes or some similar measure was necessary for survival. An animal skin across the shoulder would not have sufficed to survive even average cold winter temperatures and body cooling by convection caused by wind. Clothes and particularly footwear had to be sewn together tightly in order to prevent intrusion of water or snow. The analysis of hunting activity evolvement in real time further shows that during summer warmth, transport of meat back to the base settlement would not be possible without some technique to avoid that the meat rots. The only likely technique is meat drying at the killing site, which indicates further skills in Neanderthal societies that have not been identified by other routes of investigation.