Ensuring food for tomorrow - Upper Palaeolithic
A healthy diet? Meat, vegetables and fish
Added to the contribution of gathered vegetables, the hunting activity in Palaeolithic societies increased substantially the protein intake. In the Mediterranean Palaeolithic groups hunted mostly goats and deer. The lithic remains identified as spikes in many settlements correspond to the use of the bow and arrow in the Upper Palaeolithic as hunting method.
Of the hunted animals everything was used. After killing, processing followed quickly: meat, bone, vital organs and blood for consumption (immediate or delayed by applying conservation processes such as drying or smoking), the skin scraped with stone tools (scrapers) to remove grease and dried and then to make dresses, bags, blankets, sewing strips, etc.; fat could serve to preserve or for fuel, the tendons were also cleaned and processed for their use as cordage, and bones and antlers were used to elaborate a variety of functional instruments like needles, spears, awls, spatulas, propellers, etc., and ornamental objects as pendants.
These activities were carried out probably largely in group, although it is possible that once the animal was processed each person dedicated his/her efforts to some specific aspect.
Small game hunting is, in some geographical areas, of great importance. In the Mediterranean area the most hunted animal was the rabbit, but they also hunted birds like partridges and jackdaws, lizards, turtles, hares, foxes, bobcats, etc. Small game techniques are not specifically documented and could have been quite varied, including the use of the bow and arrow or traps. For some European Palaeolithic settlements the use of plant fibre networks has been suggested.
It is documented that those groups settled near the sea or rivers use to fish and shellfish thanks both to the existence of instruments directly related to it as to the remains of the consumption of fish, to some engravings with fish depictions and to the shells used as personal adornment or for its protein value. It is very likely that the method used for the preservation of fish was smoking. The instruments used for fishing during the Magdalenian, the final phase of Palaeolithic, were essentially the harpoons, single or double hooks and possibly traps made of vegetable fibres, documented 9,000 years ago in northern Europe and still continue to be used by traditional Mediterranean fishers.