The Chronometric Dating and Subsistence of Late Neanderthals and Early Anatomically Modern Humans in the Central Balkans: Insights from Šalitrena Pecina (Mionica, Serbia)
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ABSTRACT: Eastern Europe, particularly the Balkans, played a major role as a likely cul-de-sac for late Neanderthal survival and as a gateway to Europe for Anatomically Modern Humans (AMH) during the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition. Despite the importance of the region, the known archaeological record during this period is still very limited, with little available site information. The recently excavated site of Šalitrena Pe?ina (Mionica, Serbia), south of the Danube River, contains archaeological evidence of late Mousterian, Aurignacian, and Gravettian occupations and presents an opportunity for understanding the behavior of both human populations in this eastern European region. Here we present the first radiocarbon dates for Neanderthal and AMH occupations in Serbia, as well as preliminary evidence on subsistence strategies obtained from the Mousterian and Aurignacian macrofaunal assemblages in Šalitrena Pe?ina. Radiocarbon dates indicate that Neanderthal and AMH groups may not have coexisted and interacted in this site. Nevertheless, zooarchaeological and taphonomic results show that both human populations were the main depositional agents of macrofaunal accumulation at the cave. The general compositions of the faunal assemblages reflect subtle differences between both human types and point to the necessity of further multidisciplinary research in southeastern Europe to increase our knowledge about human behavior and the causes of the demise of the Neanderthals in the Balkans.