Taphonomy of Ungulate Ribs and the Consumption of Meat and Bone by 1.2-Million- Year-Old Hominins at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania

ArticleinJournal of Archaeological Science 40(2) · February 2013with 226 Reads

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  • Article
    Carnivore consumption has been identified in the Holocene levels of El Mirador Cave (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain). Remains of domestic dogs, wild cats, badgers, and foxes, recovered from Neolithic to Bronze Age levels (sixth millennium to second millennium cal BC), present evidence of human consumption. This evidence includes cut marks, bone breakage, signs of culinary processing and human tooth marks. This is some of the oldest evidence documented either in the Iberian Peninsula or in Europe as a whole, and it is the first time that human tooth marks are used to confirm the human consumption of these carnivores. Dog consumption is sporadic but occurs repeatedly in time, whereas the consumption of small wild carnivores is more limited in time. These practices could be linked with the provision of extra food during periods of shortage and/or with meat of special consideration, especially dog meat.
  • Article
    Pleistocene level TD6-2 of the Gran Dolina site (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain) is the result of anthropogenic accumulation. Hominin groups occupied the cave as a home base, where they brought in, butchered and consumed the carcasses of ungulates and other hominins. In this paper, we reassess the role of carnivores in the formation and/or modification of the assemblage. We employed different methods to explore the scenario in which the TD6-2 assemblage was formed: (1) identifying the actor responsible for tooth marks; (2) determining the frequency of carnivore tooth marks and their distribution; (3) identifying the co-occurrence of modifications (butchering marks and carnivore tooth marks); (4) calculating the percentage of change and the epiphysis to shaft ratio. Carnivore tooth marks are scarce, as is the co-occurrence of hominin and carnivore modifications. However, not all tooth marks have been attributed to a particular agent due to the high equifinality between human and carnivore tooth marks. For these reasons, the frequency of tooth marks and the co-occurrence of modifications have been of little help in interpreting the role of carnivores. Axial skeletal remains and the epiphyses of the long bones are in large part missing. The percentage of change and the epiphysis to shaft ratio suggest moderate carnivore ravaging activity. Our data indicate that the role of carnivores in TD6-2 seems to have had an impact on the original assemblage after hominins had extracted a large amount of nutrients from the carcasses. Cannibalized hominin remains showed no carnivore tooth marks and have a greater presence of low survival bones compared to ungulate remains. These findings point to a different taphonomic history suggesting that TD6-2 represents a succession of settlements having different characteristics.
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    Accurate interpretation of the cause and timing of bone breakage is essential for understanding the archaeological record. However, many variables potentially influencing break morphology have yet to be systematically explored. Focusing primarily on hammerstone breakage, we introduce new analytical methods for comparing fracture angles using the absolute values of the angle from 90°. We systematically control for intrinsic variables such as taxon, skeletal element, limb portion and skeletal age. We also compare experimental assemblages of femora broken by hammerstone and spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta). We show that fracture angles are influenced by breakage plane, skeletal element and limb portion. While the latter two have been suggested before, this is the first time the differences have been quantified. We suggest that researchers stratify their assemblages by these variables if they are using fracture angles in analyses. At the assemblage level, hyenas created more oblique fracture angles on oblique breaks than did hammerstones.
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    Pilot experiments involving the butchering of bird carcasses and the use of non-retouched flint flakes were performed. The executed actions comprised skinning and defeathering various avifaunal species (Circaetus gallicus and Gyps fulvus). The main aim of this experimental programme was to document the use-wear on flint implements employed in the treatment of the avifaunal carcasses in order to help researchers identify this activity in the archaeological record. An additional focus of this study concerned the experimental organic residues (soft tissue and feathers) associated with the bird species used in the experiments. For each residue type, a detailed chemical elemental analysis and morphological characterisation were performed, with the aim of creating an experimental database for comparison with the micro-residues that will potentially be found on archaeological stone tools. For microscopic observations, we employed both Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) and Optical Light Microscopy (OLM). A detailed description of the use-wear features and residue types was achieved through a systematic comparison of micrographs taken with both techniques. In addition, EDS (energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy) was applied to determine the elemental composition of the residues. Taphonomic analysis of the bones of the carcasses used in the experimental programme was performed with the principal aim of comparing the distribution of cut marks on bones with the use-wear pattern on the lithic implements employed. Future developments of our research will improve the methodology by expanding the experimental programme and by applying it to archaeological collections (at sites where the processing of these kinds of animals has already been identified).
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    Cave bear (Ursus spelaeus), brown bear (Ursus arctos), and Neanderthals were potential competitors for environmental resources (shelters and food) in Europe. In order to reinforce this view and contribute to the ongoing debate on late Neanderthal behavior, we present evidence from zooarchaeological and taphonomic analyses of bear bone remains discovered at Rio Secco Cave and Fumane Cave in northeast Italy, an extended geographic area north of the Adriatic Sea. The remains from both caves come from layers dated to 49-42 ky cal. BP, and suggest close interactions between humans and bears, with data not only limited to the association of Mousterian lithic artifacts with numerous bear remains, but also the detection of clearly preserved traces of human modification such as cut and percussion marks, which enable a reconstruction of the main steps of fur recovery and the butchering process. Examples of Neanderthal bear exploitation are extremely sporadic in Europe, and Grotta Rio Secco and Grotta Fumane can be considered rare cases of remain accumulations generated by the human predation of bears of varied age classes during or near the end of hibernation. All of this evidence suggests that bears had a strategic role in the nomadic economy of Neanderthal hunting groups.
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    Middle Pleistocene unit TD10 of the Gran Dolina site is nearly four metres thick and is divided into four subunits (TD10.1, TD10.2, TD10.3, TD10.4). To date, the upper two subunits (TD10.1 and TD10.2) have been completely excavated and have been studied from zooarchaeological, taphonomic and occupational perspectives. The top of the sequence (Upper TD10.1), however, has not undergone these types of studies until now. In this paper we report the results of our analyses of the anatomical profiles, age, and the anthropogenic and carnivore-induced modifications in this assemblage. Methods employed to evaluate sequential scenarios (carnivore to hominin; hominin to carnivore; carnivore to hominin to carnivore) have led to contradictory results. We conclude that the formation of Upper TD10.1 is the product of the overlap of independent events (hominin only and carnivore only), with limited commensalism between the two agents. The type of accumulation is consistent with the characteristics of an accumulative palimpsest generated by different actors. Unlike those documented in the lower levels of TD10 (TD10.1BB and TD10.2BB), hominin occupations in this part of the sequence were very brief. This scenario completes the picture of the types of occupations that took place during the end of Middle Pleistocene at Gran Dolina. In short, level TD10 was the site of three types of occupation by Middle Pleistocene hominins: a kill/butchering site in TD10.2BB, a long-term residential camp in TD10.1BB, and finally, logistical and short-term occupations in Upper TD10.1.
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    The fat- and nutrient-rich marrow of animal bones can be extracted using different techniques. Passive hammerstone percussion has been the primary focus of experimental bone breaking and the main analogy to understand archaeological bone breakage. Here, the term ‘passive’ is applied because the bone to be broken passively receives the impact from a hammerstone. In addition to this technique, there is another bone-breaking method that also requires direct percussion, but in an active way. This method is percussion by ‘batting’, in which the bone is actively hit against an anvil until the bone breaks. This technique has rarely been considered at an experimental level and, therefore, has been omitted in the majority of the archaeological interpretations of faunal assemblages with pre-use of fire technologies. In this study, we attempt to analytically characterize this type of bone-breaking technique through a systematic comparison with hammerstone percussion. The applied statistical tests will allow us to distinguish some diagnostic modifications, such as the outlines of the fracture planes and the type of notches or their location with respect to the longitudinal axis of the bone. These features and their proportions allow the consideration of the use of this technique in Pleistocene anthropogenic faunal assemblages.
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    Practically all archeological assemblages are palimpsests. In spite of the high temporal resolution of Abric Romaní site, level O, dated to around 55 ka, is not an exception. This paper focuses on a zooarcheological and taphonomic analysis of this level, paying special attention to spatial and temporal approaches. The main goal is to unravel the palimpsest at the finest possible level by using different methods and techniques, such as archeostratigraphy, anatomical and taxonomical identification, taphonomic analysis, faunal refits and tooth wear analysis. The results obtained are compared to ethnoarcheological data so as to interpret site structure. In addition, activities carried out over different time spans (from individual episodes to long-term behaviors) are detected, and their spatial extent is explored, allowing to do inferences on settlement dynamics. This leads us to discuss the temporal and spatial scales over which Neanderthals carried out different activities within the site, and how they can be studied through the archeological record.
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    The presence of elephants, and specifically of elephant head remains, is well demonstrated in many Paleolithic sites in Europe, Africa, and Asia. However, the possible mechanisms for the exploitation of this enormous body part are rarely discussed, and it is often suggested that elephants' heads were exploited specifically for the extraction and consumption of the brain. In this paper, we discuss the nutritional potential that lies within elephants' heads as implied by ethnographic and zoological literature, and present archaeological evidence from Paleolithic sites for the exploitation of proboscideans' heads. The data show that the prevailing view should be re-evaluated, and that the nutritional potential within the elephant's head extends far beyond the brain. We suggest that organs such as the temporal gland, the trunk, the tongue, the mandible and the skull itself were exploited routinely as an integral part of early humans' diet. The nutritional potential of the elephant head provides a parsimonious explanation for the investment early humans put into transporting and exploiting this specific body part at open-air sites but particularly at cave sites, and serves as a significant beacon in understanding Paleolithic human behavior in relation to proboscidean remains.
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    The technological innovation involving the controlled use of fire represents a decisive change in human subsistence. Hearths and the spatial distribution patterns associated with them constitute a valuable element in deepening our knowledge on human behaviour and its evolution. Studies focused on hearths and on the use of fire in general are diverse and carried out through different perspectives. Thus, hearths are studied for their meaning in terms of diet, caloric and light capacity and spatial organisation as well as for their role as communication and socialization focal points. The site of Qesem Cave (Israel) shows evidence of the controlled use of fire as early as 400 ka, judging by the burned bones from the lowest units of the stratigraphic sequence. A particular superimposed central hearth that was repeatedly used as a focus for human activities ca. 300 ka is the topic of this study. This succession of hearths at the same location in the cave yields dense faunal and lithic remains as well as evidence for spatial differentiation between areas. Here, we present faunal taphonomical data from this specific archaeological context, which includes not only the hearth area (approximately 4 m2) but also the surrounding areas (approximately 11 m2). The most common prey species is the Mesopotamian fallow deer (Dama cf. mesopotamica), which displays a wide age range and a biased anatomical profile including mainly marrow-rich bones such as long-limb bones. These characteristics, especially those regarding the relative abundance of infantile and young fallow deer, lead us to propose that social hunting techniques were practised following a seasonal regime. This paper provides data on human subsistence behaviour during the formation of the hearth and the archaeological unit around it, comparing the two from a taphonomical perspective. Elements such as size (length) of bone fragments and intensity of burning are spatially plotted to show differential space division. All these data are considered in the reconstruction of subsistence strategies and hominin behaviour in the Acheulo-Yabrudian Cultural Complex in the Levant.
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    The Lower Paleolithic locality of Schöningen 13 II-4 is famous for the discovery of wooden spears found amongst the butchered remains of numerous horses and other large herbivores. Although the spears have attracted the most interest, other aspects of the associated artifact assemblage have received less attention. Here we describe an extraordinary assemblage of 88 bone tools from the 'Spear Horizon.' This sample includes numerous long bone shaft fragments (mostly of horse), three ribs used as 'retouchers' to resharpen flint tools, and a complete horse innominate that was used as an anvil in bipolar knapping. Most of the retouchers were prepared by scraping the diaphysis of fresh and dry long bones. Technological analysis of the associated lithic assemblage demonstrates exhaustive resharpening to maintain functional cutting edges. Whereas the flint tools were brought to the site, curated, and maintained, the retouchers had a shorter use-history and were either discarded after a limited period or broken to extract marrow. Horse and bison metapodials with flaked and rounded epiphyses are interpreted as hammers used to break marrow bones. Several of the 'metapodial hammers' were additionally used as knapping percussors. These constitute the earliest evidence of multi-purpose bone tools in the archeological record. Our results highlight the advanced knowledge in the use of bones as tools during the Lower Paleolithic, with major implications for understanding aspects of non-lithic technology and planning depth in early hominins.
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    The debate over hominidecarnivore interactions during the Pleistocene has been mainly approached from a human perspective, with the aim of contributing to the knowledge of the evolution of human cultural capabilities in the different periods. Regarding the European Middle Palaeolithic, it is most commonly concluded that Neanderthals were clearly superior to carnivores in the context of competitive relationships, with respect to both prey and the occupied space. Therefore, the presence of some human groups in the environments usually inhabited by carnivores could be perceived, from an ecological point of view, as a disturbance in the balance of the ecosystems. In order to assess the ecological impact of these human groups, the present study analyses the Unit III of Teixoneres Cave (MIS 3;Moià, Barcelona, Spain) through a comparison of palaeoecological and archaeological data. The site is located in the highlands between the two main rivers connecting the central region of Catalonia with the Mediterranean coast: the Llobregat and the Ter. Palynological and paleontological data indicate a cold landscape dominated by woodlands and some wet meadows. The high vertebrate diversity recorded in this stratigraphic unit suggests an environment marked by a balanced predatoreprey dynamic, which may have been interrupted by the occasional presence of small human groups. According to the archaeological data, these human groups tended to predate the same prey as did carnivores, which may have generated a certain perturbation in the system. However, the small size of the groups and the brevity of their visits to Teixoneres Cave seem to have minimised the perturbation, allowing the environment to recover its original balance.
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    The interaction between hominins and carnivores can lead to archaeological scenarios where these relationships materialise in palimpsests. The alternate use of caves and shelters results in overlapped occupations where the action of both predators becomes difficult to trace. Their presence in archaeological sites like cave/shelter-environments have been sufficiently contrasted, but despite this, few neo-taphonomic studies of small carnivore burrows have been developed, and mostly in open-air sites. Here we present data from a cave identified as a badger sett through photo/video-trap systems. The material recovered was located in 3D, and subsequently analysed from a taphonomic perspective. The scavenging behaviour of this small carnivore shows a wide range of animals with a bias for appendi-cular elements. Taphonomically, pits/punctures and scores are the most abundant alteration, although some other mechanical damage has been identified, such as crenulated edges and crushing. Small-sized bones present the highest percentage of tooth-marks and, as to skeletal regions, appendicular elements and girdles are the most affected items. ARTICLE HISTORY
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    There is general agreement that the diet of early hominins underwent dramatic changes shortly after the appearance of stone tools in the archaeological record. It is often assumed that this change is associated with dietary expansion to incorporate large mammal resources. Although other aspects of the hominin diet, such as aquatic or vegetal resources, are assumed to be a part of hominin subsistence, identifying evidence of these adaptations has proved difficult. Here we present a series of analyses that provide methodological support for the inclusion of aquatic resources in hominin dietary reconstructions. We suggest that bone surface modifications in aquatic species are morphologically distinguishable from bone surface modifications on terrestrial taxa. We relate these findings to differences that we document in the surface mechanical properties of the two types of bone, as reflected by significant differences in bone surface microhardness values between aquatic and terrestrial species. We hypothesize that the characteristics of bone surface modifications on aquatic taxa inhibit the ability of zooarchaeologists to consistently diagnose them correctly. Contingently, this difficulty influences correspondence levels between zooarchaeologists, and may therefore result in misinterpretation of the taphonomic history of early Pleistocene aquatic faunal assemblages. A blind test using aquatic specimens and a select group of 9 experienced zooarchaeologists as participants was designed to test this hypothesis. Investigation of 4 different possible explanations for blind test results suggest the dominant factors explaining patterning relate to (1) the specific methodologies employed to diagnose modifications on aquatic specimens and (2) the relative experience of participants with modifications on aquatic bone surfaces. Consequently we argue that an important component of early hominin diets may have hitherto been overlooked as a result of (a) the paucity of referential frameworks within which to identify such a component and (b) the inability of applied identification methodologies to consistently do so.
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    Here we present a new site in the Sierra de Atapuerca (Burgos, Spain): Galería de las Estatuas (GE), which provides new information about Mousterian occupations in the Iberian Plateau. The GE was an ancient entrance to the cave system, which is currently closed and sealed by a stalagmitic crust, below which a detritic sedimentary sequence of more than 2 m is found. This has been divided into five litostratigraphic units with a rich assemblage of faunal and lithic remains of clear Mousterian affinity. Radiocarbon dates provide minimum ages and suggest occupations older than 45 ¹⁴ C ka BP. The palynological analysis detected a landscape change to increased tree coverage, which suggests that the sequence recorded a warming episode. The macromammal assemblage is composed of both ungulates (mainly red deer and equids) and carnivores. Taphonomic analysis reveals both anthropic, and to a lesser extent, carnivore activities. The GE was occupied by Neanderthals and also sporadically by carnivores. This new site broadens the information available regarding different human occupations at the Sierra de Atapuerca, which emphasizes the importance of this site-complex for understanding human evolution in Western Europe.
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    Despite its largely hyper-arid and inhospitable climate today, the Arabian Peninsula is emerging as an important area for investigating Pleistocene hominin dispersals. Recently, a member of our own species was found in northern Arabia dating to ca. 90 ka, while stone tools and fossil finds have hinted at an earlier, middle Pleistocene, hominin presence. However, there remain few direct insights into Pleistocene environments, and associated hominin adaptations, that accompanied the movement of populations into this region. Here, we apply stable carbon and oxygen isotope analysis to fossil mammal tooth enamel (n = 21) from the middle Pleistocene locality of Ti’s al Ghadah in Saudi Arabia associated with newly discovered stone tools and probable cutmarks. The results demonstrate productive grasslands in the interior of the Arabian Peninsula ca. 300–500 ka, as well as aridity levels similar to those found in open savannah settings in eastern Africa today. The association between this palaeoenvironmental information and the earliest traces for hominin activity in this part of the world lead us to argue that middle Pleistocene hominin dispersals into the interior of the Arabian Peninsula required no major novel adaptation.
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    In this article, we present the first results on the large mammal fauna from the new open-air Lower Palaeolithic locality Marathousa 1 (MAR-1) (Megalopolis Basin, Peloponnesus, Greece). MAR-1 belongs to the Marathousa Member of the Choremi Formation and its large mammal faunal list (collection 2013–2016) includes the castorid Castor fiber, the mustelids Mustela sp. and Lutra simplicidens, the felid Felis sp., the canids Vulpes sp. and Canis sp., the elephantid Palaeoloxodon antiquus, the hippopotamid Hippopotamus antiquus, the bovid Bison sp., and the cervids Dama sp. and Cervus elaphus. This faunal association is common in the Galerian (Middle Pleistocene) mammal communities of Europe (ca. 0.9–0.4 Ma). The MAR-1 fauna is consistent with a temperate climate and is indicative of a landscape with substantial woodland components with more open areas, close to permanent and large freshwater bodies. Of particular interest are an elephant cranium and numerous postcranial elements, which were found in close anatomical association and are attributed to a single individual of the straight-tusked elephant Palaeoloxodon antiquus. The skeleton belonged to a male individual in its late adulthood close to or in its sixties, with live skeletal height around 3.7 m at the shoulder and body mass around 9.0 tonnes. The good state of preservation of the MAR-1 bones allows the identification of taphonomic modifications. Cut marks on the elephant skeleton, and on other elephant and mammal bones, indicate human exploitation by means of butchering activities, in accordance with the traits of the lithic assemblage and its spatial association with the bones. Carnivore activity is also recorded on some elephant and cervid bones. Marathousa 1 is among the oldest elephant butchering sites in Europe and the only one known in Southeastern Europe.
  • Chapter
    The complex architectural design, numerous deliberate depositions, and the finds suggest that the circular enclosure of Pömmelte-Zackmünde, Saxony-Anhalt, was used as a place for various social practices, performances and ritual activities. It is one of the few sanctuaries from the late 3rd millennium BC in central Europe. Of particular importance are several flat graves and 29 shaft-like pits containing offerings or disposed ceremonial paraphernalia. The “regular” graves respect the enclosure’s layout. They only contained the skeletal remains of males of mainly adult age. The formal burial within the enclosure was probably not something granted to everyone. In contrast to this group are female, infant and juvenile individuals that were thrown into the aforementioned deposition shafts. Most of them miss body parts and some skeletons bear multiple perimortal trauma. The evidence indicates that these individuals were treated impiously and that some were killed. The gendered burial practices in the Pömmelte enclosure not only show that it served as a place to reinforce social order. They also indicate that this included gender specific violence. Contextual information suggests these acts of violence were legitimized by their ritual meaning, but may equally be the result of intergroup conflicts for non-ritual reasons. While this remains unclear, evidently the victims of gender specific violence were meaningful in the ritual activities carried out in the enclosure. Integrating the evidence, it may be concluded that the archaeological record possibly tells a story about the Honoured and the Sacrificed.
  • Article
    Objectives: Humanly induced modifications on human and non-human bones from four archaeological sites of known funerary rituals (one interpreted as cannibalism and three interpreted as funerary defleshing and disarticulation after a period of decay) were analyzed to ascertain whether macromorphological and micromorphological characteristics of cut marks can be used to distinguish cannibalistic from secondary burial practices. Material and methods: Four collections were analyzed: the Magdalenian assemblage from Gough's Cave (UK) and the Mesolithic-Neolithic bone samples from Lepenski Vir, Padina and Vlasac (Serbia). A total of 647 cut marks (345 on human and 302 on non-human remains) were imaged and measured using an optical surface measurement system, the Alicona InfiniteFocus, housed at the Natural History Museum (London, UK). Results: The frequency of cut marks at Gough's Cave exceeds 65%, while it is below 1% in the Serbian sites, and no human tooth marks and only one case of percussion damage have been observed on the three Serbian collections. The distribution of cut marks on human bones is comparable in the four assemblages. Cannibalized human remains, however, present a uniform cut mark distribution, which can be associated with disarticulation of persistent and labile articulations, and the scalping and filleting of muscles. For secondary burials where modification occurred after a period of decay, disarticulation marks are less common and the disarticulation of labile joints is rare. The micromorphometric analyses of cut marks on human and non-human remains suggest that cut marks produced when cleaning partially decayed bodies are significantly different from cut marks produced during butchery of fresh bodies. Conclusions: A distinction between cannibalism and secondary treatment of human bodies can be made based on frequency, distribution and micromorphometric characteristics of cut marks.
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    Recent excavations in Level 4 at BK (Bed II, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania) have yielded nine hominin teeth, a distal humerus fragment, a proximal radius with much of its shaft, a femur shaft, and a tibia shaft fragment (cataloged collectively as OH 80). Those elements identified more specifically than to simply Hominidae gen. et sp. indet are attributed to Paranthropus boisei. Before this study, incontrovertible P. boisei partial skeletons, for which postcranial remains occurred in association with taxonomically diagnostic craniodental remains, were unknown. Thus, OH 80 stands as the first unambiguous, dentally associated Paranthropus partial skeleton from East Africa. The morphology and size of its constituent parts suggest that the fossils derived from an extremely robust individual who, at 1.338±0.024 Ma (1 sigma), represents one of the most recent occurrences of Paranthropus before its extinction in East Africa.
  • Article
    The remains of Terminal Pleistocene megafauna in North America represent a continent-wide case study in understanding the taphonomic processes that affect bones, and the use and reuse of bones among some of North America's earliest inhabitants. The complex dynamics of bone fracture, bone degradation, and the effects of natural and cultural taphonomic processes present a challenge for interpreting the nature of fractured and fragmented zooarchaeological material in North America. The role of the environment in affecting bones and their suitability for use and reuse is profound. Natural processes affect the preservation of bones and their suitability for use, which presents an interpretive challenge for archaeologists examining fractured and fragmented remains. This paper seeks to explain, describe, and resolve some of the problems inherent in assessing and understanding the use and reuse of bones as raw materials, using evidence from two Terminal Pleistocene sites in North America (Owl Cave in Idaho, and the Inglewood site in Maryland) as case studies that highlight the cultural, environmental, and interpretive differences that are manifest in zooarchaeological (and paleontological) assemblages.
  • Article
    Neo-taphonomic studies of carnivores are commonly used to explain the formation processes of Pleistocene faunal assemblages. However, these works have been developed mostly with large carnivores—e.g. hyenas. On the contrary, small and medium-sized carnivores have been scarcely studied in spite of their presence in most of the archaeological sites. Here, we present a study trying to characterise the wild predator behaviour from a taphonomic perspective, describing consumption patterns on 23 small-sized ungulate carcasses eaten by red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) during a 2-year period in the Spanish Pyrenees. The aim of this work, therefore, is to characterise taphonomically this predator and to obtain data to distinguish them from other most common carnivores. For that, a combination of observational data from photo/video-trap and taphonomic analyses was compiled, allowing us to control variables like seasonality and time of consumption, as well as the spatial dispersion of skeletal remains. The initial interest by foxes lies in the disassembly of the anatomical elements and their transport to secluded places giving rise to dispersion of bones. Regarding to seasonality, bone modification increases at the end of winter/spring time, and proportionally, the time of consumption decreases. When the carcass is complete, viscera seem to be an important resource, followed by meat covering femur and humerus. This phenomenon causes significant damage on axial bones (mainly fractures and tooth marks), and to a lesser extent, on pelvis and proximal stylopodials.
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    Neotaphonomic studies of large carnivores are used to create models in order to explain the formation of terrestrial vertebrate fossil faunas. The research reported here adds to the growing body of knowledge on the taphonomic consequences of large carnivore behavior in temperate habitats and has important implications for paleontology and archaeology. Using photo- and videotrap data, we were able to describe the consumption of 17 ungulate carcasses by wild brown bears (Ursus arctos arctos) ranging the Spanish Pyrenees. Further, we analyzed the taphonomic impact of these feeding bouts on the bones recovered from those carcasses. The general sequence of consumption that we charted starts with separation of a carcass's trunk; viscera are generally eaten first, followed by musculature of the humerus and femur. Long limb bones are not broken open for marrow extraction. Bears did not transport carcasses or carcass parts from points of feeding and did not disperse bones appreciably (if at all) from their anatomical positions. The general pattern of damage that resulted from bear feeding includes fracturing, peeling, crenulation, tooth pitting and scoring of axial and girdle elements and furrowing of the upper long limb bones. As predicted from observational data, the taphonomic consequences of bear feeding resemble those of other non-durophagus carnivores, such as felids, and are distinct from those of durophagus carnivores, such as hyenids. Our results have paleontological and archaeological relevance. Specifically, they may prove useful in building analogical models for interpreting the formation of fossil faunas for which bears are suspected bone accumulators and/or modifiers. More generally, our comparative statistical analyses draw precise quantitative distinctions between bone damage patterns imparted respectively by durophagus (modelled here primarily by spotted hyenas [Crocuta crocuta] and wolves [Canis lupus]) and non-durophagus (modelled here by brown bears and lions [Panthera leo]) carnivorans.
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    Cut-marked and broken human bones are a recurrent feature of Magdalenian (~17–12,000 years BP, uncalibrated dates) European sites. Human remains at Gough’s Cave (UK) have been modified as part of a Magdalenian mortuary ritual that combined the intensive processing of entire corpses to extract edible tissues and the modification of skulls to produce skull-cups. A human radius from Gough’s Cave shows evidence of cut marks, percussion damage and human tooth marks, indicative of cannibalism, as well as a set of unusual zig-zagging incisions on the lateral side of the diaphysis. These latter incisions cannot be unambiguously associated with filleting of muscles. We compared the macro- and micro-morphological characteristics of these marks to over 300 filleting marks on human and non-human remains and to approximately 120 engraved incisions observed on two artefacts from Gough’s Cave. The new macro- and micro-morphometric analyses of the marks, as well as further comparisons with French Middle Magdalenian engraved artefacts, suggest that these modifications are the result of intentional engraving. The engraved motif comfortably fits within a Magdalenian pattern of design; what is exceptional in this case, however, is the choice of raw material (human bone) and the cannibalistic context in which it was produced. The sequence of the manipulations suggests that the engraving was a purposeful component of the cannibalistic practice, implying a complex ritualistic funerary behaviour that has never before been recognized for the Palaeolithic period.
  • Conference Paper
    The technological innovation involving the controlled use of fire represents a decisive change in the hominin subsistence. Hearths and the spatial distribution patterns associated with them constitute a valuable element to deepen our knowledge about human behaviour and its evolution. Studies focussed on the use of fire are approached by different disciplines and through different points of view. Thus, hearths were studied for their meaning in the diet, the caloric and light capacity, spatial organisation and their role as communication and socialization focal points. The site of Qesem Cave (Israel) shows evidence of the controlled use of fire as early as 400 kya. A particular superimposed central hearth that was repeatedly used as a focus for human activities ca. 300 kya is the topic of this presentation. This succession of hearths at the same location in the cave yields dense faunal and lithic remains as well as evidence for spatial differentiation of activities around it. Here, we present faunal taphonomical data from this specific archaeological context, which includes not only the hearth area (approximately 4 m2), but also surrounding areas (approximately 11 m2). The most common prey species is the Mesopotamian fallow deer (Dama cf. mesopotamica), whose wide age range and anatomical profile (marrow-rich bones such as long limb bones) led us to propose the development of social hunting techniques and seasonal occupations. Here, we will provide data on human subsistence behaviour during the formation of this archaeological unit as well as compare it to other areas from a taphonomical point of view. Elements such as taxonomical attribution, size (length) of bone fragments and intensity of burning are used for spatial differentiation of activities around the hearth. This study is designed to contribute to our understanding of subsistence strategies and hominin behaviour during the Acheulo-Yabrudian Cultural Complex in the Levant.
  • Article
    Taphonomy – Edged, Incised, Hacking, and Impaling Traumas Among the more spectacular, or gruesome, injuries encountered within accidental or intended death scenes are those classified under sharp or edged forces. The physical acts which cause such injuries are intimate acts. In interpersonal attacks they require the victim and subject to be in close physical contact. Even more psychologically intimate than distance is the requirement of edged weapon attacks that the subject, or victim in the case of suicide, feel the impact the weapon has in creating the trauma. For this reason the reader is referred to citations under Criminal and Cultural Behavior. As with ballistic wounds, topics of tool mark examination consider characteristics of edged weapon wounds. Those marks may extend from the substrates of the victim's outer garments into that of bone. Because edged trauma, like blunt and ballistic wounding, may generate patterned blood stains, citations under Blood Stain Identification and Interpretation may aid researchers using this bibliography. An interesting and perhaps unconsidered cross-reference to the instant section is to Fingerprint, Footprint, Earprint, and Tatto Evidence or Other Body Modification Evidence in as much as scarification constitutes healed edged wounds. Hacking trauma has been included within this category. Unlike other wounds created by edged implements, the act of hacking imparts blunt trauma in addition to sharp force injury. Therefore, citations included under Blunt, Fracture, and Crushing Traumas may include reference to hacking injury. Penetrating wounds, like incised or stab wounds as well as bullet wounds, are often sites to which scavenging insects are first attracted. Citations under Entomology may discuss same.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    The archaeological record indicates that elephants must have played a significant role in early human diet and culture during Palaeolithic times in the Old World. However, the nature of interactions between early humans and elephants is still under discussion. Elephant remains are found in Palaeolithic sites, both open-air and cave sites, in Europe, Asia, the Le-vant, and Africa. In some cases elephant and mammoth remains indicate evidence for butchering and marrow extraction performed by humans. Revadim Quarry (Israel) is a Late Acheulian site where elephant remains were found in association with characteristic Lower Palaeolithic flint tools. In this paper we present results regarding the use of Palaeolithic tools in processing animal carcasses and rare identification of fat residue preserved on Lower Palaeolithic tools. Our results shed new light on the use of Palaeolithic stone tools and provide, for the first time, direct evidence (residue) of animal exploitation through the use of an Acheulian biface and a scraper. The association of an elephant rib bearing cut marks with these tools may reinforce the view suggesting the use of Palaeolithic stone tools in the consumption of large game.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    Two archaeological assemblages from the Sierra de Atapuerca sites show evidence of an-thropogenic cannibalism. These are the late Early Pleistocene level TD6-2 at Gran Dolina, and the Bronze Age level MIR4 in the Mirador Cave. Despite the chronological distance between these two assemblages, they share the common feature that the human remains exhibit a high frequency of anthropogenic modifications (cut marks, percussion pits and notches and peeling). This frequency could denote special treatment of bodies, or else be the normal result of the butchering process. In order to test these possibilities, we subjected a chimpanzee carcass to a butchering process. The processing was intensive and intended to simulate preparation for consumption. In doing this, we used several simple flakes made from quartzite and chert from quarries in the Sierra de Atapuerca. The skull, long bones, metapodials and phalanges were also fractured in order to remove the brain and bone marrow. As a result, about 40% of the remains showed some kind of human modification. The frequency, distribution and characteristics of these modifications are very similar to those documented on the remains of Homo antecessor from TD6-2. In case of the MIR4 assemblage , the results are similar except in the treatment of skulls. Our results indicate that high frequencies of anthropogenic modifications are common after an intensive butchering process intended to prepare a hominin body for consumption in different contexts (both where there was possible ritual behavior and where this was not the case and the modifications are not the result of special treatment).
  • Article
    Full-text available
    Zooarcheological research is an important tool in reconstructing subsistence, as well as for inferring relevant aspects regarding social behavior in the past. The organization of hunting parties, forms of predation (number and rate of animals slaughtered), and the technology used (tactics and tools) must be taken into account in the identification and classification of hunting methods in prehistory. The archeological recognition of communal hunting reflects an interest in evolutionary terms and their inherent implications for anticipatory capacities, social complexity, and the development of cognitive tools, such as articulated language. Late and Middle Paleolithic faunal assemblages in Europe have produced convincing evidence of communal hunting of large ungulates allowing for the formation of hypotheses concerning the skills of Neanderthals anatomically modern humans as social predators. However, the emergence of this cooperative behavior is not currently understood. Here, faunal analysis, based on traditional/long-established zooarcheological methods, of nearly 25,000 faunal remains from the “bison bone bed” layer of the TD10.2 sub-unit at Gran Dolina, Atapuerca (Spain) is presented. In addition, other datasets related to the archeo-stratigraphy, paleo-landscape, paleo-environmental proxies, lithic assemblage, and ethno-archeological information of communal hunting have been considered in order to adopt a holistic approach to an investigation of the subsistence strategies developed during deposition of the archeological remains.
  • Article
    Anthropic fracture of avian bones has received scarce experimental attention. Prehistoric bird consumption is assumed from references in studies of lagomorphs or small mammals, despite the fact that avian bones are quite different from those of mammals and rodents. Their consumption by humans can be addressed experimentally. This paper presents the results of a study in which fresh chicken (Gallus) thighs were fractured using hands and teeth, with no technological assistance. Results showed that fractures are different from those of larger animals, resulting in the proposal of a new classification of fragments. The location of the fracture influences its line and angle and, above all, the ensuing splintering. The fracture types and characteristics of notches, tooth marks, scores and depressions have led the authors to propose a model of fragmentation and marks that can be applied to avian remains at archaeological sites.
  • Article
    In a recent paper, Stiner reviewed certain trends in the Middle Palaeolithic (MP) economy and social behaviour, including most notably galvanization of the prime-age ungulate hunting niche, and the intensification of occupations in the form of domestic-residential camps. However, the emergence of these trends is blurred when we observe the European archaeological record before Marine Oxygen Isotope Stage 7. Our aim in this paper is to test the validity of some key arguments related to subsistence and occupation to assess the Lower Palaeolithic roots of these MP trends, using the faunal record of the TD10.1 bone bed level (ca. 300ka) at Gran Dolina (Atapuerca). The taphonomic results from this level indicate an assemblage composed almost exclusively of prime-age ungulates. Anthropogenic marks are very abundant, reflecting a wide variety of domestic activities. Early primary access to the carcasses by hominins, indicated by the taxonomic and mortality patterns, suggests the procurement of animal carcasses by regular hunting. Red deer, accompanied in lower proportions by other prey species, reinforce the selective character of the hominin subsistence strategies at the Gran Dolina TD10.1 bone bed, expanding temporally and geographically our documentation of the MP hominin predatory niche. Taphonomy, together with other results from technology and archaeo-stratigraphy, suggest that the bone bed accumulation reflects long-term hominin use of the site as a residential base camp, suggesting deep roots for the observed MP subsistence and occupational patterns.
  • Article
    Archaeological studies of human cannibalism and its causes have never lacked controversy. The reasons for this are both the difficulties in identifying cannibalism and the inherent complexity, by the many nuances that can have the behaviour of eating other humans. After Turner’s detailed studies in the Southwestern USA, reports were published in the 1990s of cannibalism during European prehistory. Archaeological sites identified with cannibalism have been found that date from the early Pleistocene to the Iron Age. In this study, we review data from Western Europe’s prehistoric sites, which allow us to discuss the various labels that accompany interpretations of cannibalism. The most common interpretation is not ritual but is rather gastronomic, nutritional or dietary. However, there is no agreement on this interpretation. Following the data review, we propose dividing cannibalism into the following broad, objective and useful categories: exocannibalism, endocannibalism and survival cannibalism, although it is not always easy to choose one option. We also review the taphonomic characteristics of these assemblages, which enable us to establish the most common taphonomic markers of prehistoric cannibalism. These features include abundant anthropogenic modifications (on more than of 20 % of human remains), the intensive processing of bodies, greater abundance of cut marks related to defleshing and filleting that dismembering and the presence of human tooth marks or chewing marks.
  • Article
    Objectives We provide descriptions and functional interpretations of 11 >2.0 Ma hominin vertebral and upper limb fossils from Sterkfontein. Materials and methods We employed taphonomic methods to describe postmortem damage observed on the fossils. We used osteometric tools and measurements to generate quantitative descriptions, which were added to qualitative descriptions of the fossils. These observations were then interpreted using published data on the same skeletal elements from extant and extinct hominoid taxa. Results Six of the fossils carry carnivore tooth marks. Two vertebrae show morphologies that are consistent with fully developed lordosis of the lumbar spine, but which are not completely consistent with bipedal loading of the same intensity and/or frequency as reflected in the lumbars of modern humans. A clavicle shows a combination of humanlike and apelike features, the latter of which would have endowed its hominin with good climbing abilities. When combined, analyses of fragmentary radius and ulna fossils yield more ambiguous results. Discussion The new fossil collection presents a mix of bipedal and climbing features. It is unclear whether this mix indicates that all Sterkfontein hominins of >2.0 Ma were terrestrial bipeds who retained adaptations for climbing or whether the collection samples two differently adapted, coeval hominins, Australopithecus africanus and Australopithecus prometheus, both of which are represented at Sterkfontein by skull remains. Regardless, the significant frequency of tooth‐marked fossils in the sample might indicate that predation was a selection pressure that maintained climbing adaptations in at least some Sterkfontein hominins of this period.
  • Article
    The late Early Pleistocene site of Untermassfeld, dated to the Jaramillo subchron (ca. 1.07 millions of years ago), is well known for its rich Epivillafranchian fauna. It has also recently yielded stone artefacts attesting hominin occupation. Now, we report here, for the first time, evidence of hominin butchery such as cut marks and intentional hammerstone-related bone breakage. This probable subsistence behaviour was detected in a small faunal subsample recovered from levels with Mode 1 stone tools. The butchered faunal assemblage was found during fieldwork and surveying in fluvial riverbanks (Lower Fluviatile Sands) and channel erosion sediments (Upper Fluviatile Sands). The frequent occurrence of butchery traces on bones of large-sized herd animals (i.e., Bison) may imply a greater need for meat in seasonal habitats characterised by a depletion of nutritive plants in winter. Early access to carcasses, before their consumption by carnivores, provided hominins with sufficient quantities of meat. This access was acquired with a Mode 1 lithic industry, to ensure food procurement and survival at high latitudes in Europe. Stone tools and faunal remains with signs of anthropic intervention recovered at Untermassfeld are evidence of the oldest hominin settlement at continental mid-latitudes (50° N).
  • Article
    Full-text available
    The oldest direct evidence of stone tool manufacture comes from Gona (Ethiopia) and dates to between 2.6 and 2.5 million years (Myr) ago 1 . At the nearby Bouri site several cut-marked bones also show stone tool use approximately 2.5 Myr ago 2 . Here we report stone-tool-inflicted marks on bones found during recent survey work in Dikika, Ethiopia, a research area close to Gona and Bouri. On the basis of low-power microscopic and environmental scanning electron microscope observations, these bones show unambiguous stone-tool cut marks for flesh removal and percussion marks for marrow access. The bones derive from the Sidi Hakoma Member of the Hadar Formation. Established 40 Ar– 39 Ar dates on the tuffs that bracket this member constrain the finds to between 3.42 and 3.24 Myrago, and stratigraphic scaling between these units and other geological evidence indicate that they are older than 3.39 Myr ago. Our discovery extends by approximately 800,000 years the antiquity of stone tools and of stone-tool-assisted consumption of ungulates by hominins; furthermore, this behaviour can now be attributed to Australopithecus afarensis.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    The interpretation of the baboon protogelada evolutionary transition as a response to the exploitation of new food resources, the availability of grasses and their seeds in open savanna country, is reasonable on dental and ecological evidence. But the extension of this model by Jolly (1970) to explain hominid origins is not justified, as detailed functional comparison of the known hominid dentitions indicates. It appears that the morphotype of the Plio Pleistocene hominid dentitions evolved in response to strong positive selection for increased incisivation and increased molar ability to withstand compressive forces. It is argued that these features, given the phylogenetic heritage of the first hominids from their pongid ancestry, are particularly appropriate to meat tearing and bone crushing, and that the protohominid dentition became adapted to a dietary regime consisting primarily, but not exclusively, of scavenging.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    Spotted hyena dens are usually characterized by moderate to intense ravaging of bones, high tooth mark rates and the presence of digested bone. This paper presents a taphonomic study of such a den and of a nearby natural-death assemblage. Together these studies widen the known range of variability of taphonomic attributes of assemblages accumulated and/or modified by spotted hyenas. The den, which is the focus of our study, is characterized by a low degree of bone breakage and ravaging, intermediate tooth mark frequencies, a moderate amount of trampled bone and a lack of digested bone. In a comparative discussion, drawing on several published hyena-made assemblages, we highlight several features of hyena accumulations that are quite variable. Such variability should be well-understood when applying actualistic studies to the fossil record.
  • Article
    In order to assess further the recent claims of ∼3.4 Ma butchery marks on two fossil bones from the site of Dikika (Ethiopia), we broadened the actualistic-interpretive zooarchaeological framework by conducting butchery experiments that utilized naïve butchers and rocks unmodified by human flaking to deflesh chicken and sheep long limb bones. It is claimed that the purported Dikika cut marks present their unexpectedly atypical morphologies because they were produced by early hominins utilizing just such rocks. The composition of the cut mark sample produced in our experiments is quite dissimilar to the sample of linear bone surface modifications preserved on the Dikika fossils. This finding substantiates and expands our earlier conclusion that—considering the morphologies and patterns of the Dikika bone surface modifications and the inferred coarse-grained depositional context of the fossils on which they occur—the Dikika bone damage was caused incidentally by the movement of the fossils on and/or within their depositional substrate(s), and not by early hominin butchery. Thus, contrary to initial claims, the Dikika evidence does not warrant a major shift in our understanding of early hominin behavioral evolution with regard to carcass foraging and meat-eating.
  • Article
    Human origins research by archaeologists has expanded the evidence of the diet and subsistence activities of ancient hominids. We examine an important component of that evidence, the 1.75-million-year-old faunal assemblage from the FLK Zinjanthropus site at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. Skeletal-part frequencies are used to evaluate hominid access to and differential transport of carcass portions of differing nutritional value. Cut-mark frequencies and locations are used to evaluate butchery patterns including skinning, disarticulation, and defleshing of carcasses. In contrast to other recently published assessments of the FLK Zinjanthropus data, we conclude that (1) ancient hominids had full access to meaty carcasses of many small and large animals prior to any substantial loss of meat or marrow bones through other predator or scavenger feeding; (2) ancient hominids were butchering animal carcasses by an efficient and systematic technique that involved skinning, disarticulation, and defleshing; and (3) the FLK Zinjanthropus site represents a place where the secondary butchering of selected carcass portions and the consumption of substantial quantities of meat and marrow occurred.
  • Article
    We show through blind tests that marks inflicted on bone surfaces by carnivore teeth, hammerstone percussion, and metal knife cutting and scraping can be distinguished with near perfect reliability without scanning electron microscopy or consideration of only conspicuous marks. Using low-cost and high-volume hand lens and low-power light microscope techniques, we determined the presence or absence of conspicuous and inconspicuous marks with 97% three-way correspondence, and diagnosed marks of known origin to actor and effector with 99% accuracy. Novices with less than 3h training on control collections correctly diagnosed 86% of classic but mainly inconspicuous marks. Novices spending several more hours studying control specimens elevated their diagnostic accuracy on morphologically representative marks to near-expert levels of 95%.Our results show that published cautions about mimicry among cut marks, percussion marks, and carnivore tooth marks are overstated. All types of marks examined can be identified reliably, regardless of conspicuousness. As such, fully standardized comparisons of mark frequencies can be drawn among assemblages, even those documented by different analysts. However, such robust interpretations can be attained only if analysts base diagnoses on (a) a firm familiarity with bones marked under strictly controlled conditions, (b) the systematic application of published morphological and contextual criteria, and (c) the use of prescribed low-power magnification techniques.
  • Article
    In order to obtain chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) mastication damage on bones, cleaned, disarticulated ribs and long bones of bovids and cervids were coated with food substances found palatable by captive chimpanzees. The bones were then presented to four groups of mixed sex and mixed age chimpanzees from the Tulsa Zoo (Oklahoma) and the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research (San Antonio, Texas). In the process of feeding on the coated bones, the chimpanzees inflicted discernible mastication damage on 73·61% of the total recovered bone specimens. Analysis of these chimpanzee-induced bone modifications reveals that non-technological hominoids of the same approximate size and with comparable dentition and bite force to the gracile australopithecines and earliestHomoare very capable of inflicting the same range and degree of damage to bones as are feeding carnivores. This finding implies that zooarchaeologists must take a contextual (configurational) approach when analysing mastication damage on arch-aeological bones, rather than automatically attributing all such damage to carnivores.
  • Article
    The perimortem butchering of human remains has been proposed for many sites in the Anasazi Culture Area of the southwestern United States at around ad 1000. This paper presents evidence that similar practices occurred in an adjacent culture area to the north. A cluster of Fremont sites in south-central Utah show evidence of this same processing pattern including scalping, dismemberment, cooking, and fracturing of long bones. The material from one of these Fremont sites, Backhoe Village, is presented to illustrate the similarities with butchering patterns found among the Anasazi. These parallels raise questions of contact between the two populations as well as having implications for the motives involved in these butchering practices. Copyright © 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
  • Article
    Bones of recent mammals in the Amboseli Basin, southern Kenya, exhibit distinctive weathering characteristics that can be related to the time since death and to the local conditions of temperature, humidity and soil chemistry. A categorization of weathering characteristics into six stages, recognizable on descriptive criteria, provides a basis for investigation of weathering rates and processes. The time necessary to achieve each successive weathering stage has been calibrated using known-age carcasses. Most bones decompose beyond recognition in 10 to 15 yr. Bones of animals under 100 kg and juveniles appear to weather more rapidly than bones of large animals or adults. Small-scale rather than widespread environmental factors seem to have greatest influence on weathering characteristics and rates. Bone weathering is potentially valuable as evidence for the period of time represented in recent or fossil bone assemblages, including those on archeological sites, and may also be an important tool in censusing populations of animals in modern ecosystems.
  • Article
    The nature of early hominid carnivory and the function of early archaeological sites have important implications for Plio-Pleistocene hominid behavioral ecology, yet there is a lack of consensus on many key issues. In part, this reflects a paucity of published primary data on the earliest archaeofaunas. Here new zooarchaeological data are reported from three Early Pleistocene assemblages in Bed II, Olduvai Gorge: BK, HWK E 1–2 and MNK (Main). In the context of experimental, natural and archaeological control samples, data are reported on stone tool and tooth marks, skeletal part frequencies focusing on variability in long bone meat- and marrow-yields, and measures of long bone fragmentation and portion representation. Results suggest the bone assemblages at HWK E 1–2 refer to bone-crunching carnivores, not hominids, and were accumulated in low competition settings (e.g., refuge locations). Given evidence for a wooded vegetation and for stone tool discard throughout the basal Bed II paleosol (equivalent to HWK E 1), this calls into question the basic tenet of the woodland scavenging models of hominid foraging and implies that stone tool-using hominids and bone-crunching carnivores foraged in the same general habitat. BK and, more equivocally, MNK (Main) resemble primary hominid accumulations scavenged by bone-crunching carnivores after hominid meat- and marrow-processing was accomplished. Inferred aspects of hominid carnivorous foraging include: (1) early carcass acquisition; (2) focus on long bone meat rather than marrow; (3) focus on larger (size 3/4) animals; (4) exploitation of a variety of carcass resources. Broader comparisons to the artefact sites from Bed I, Olduvai Gorge, and to the Turkana Basin in northern Kenya suggest that hominid behavioral variability may have significantly increased starting approximately 1·7Ma.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    At some as-yet-unknown point during hominid evolution, a dietary shift occurred which involved incorporating a larger proportion of food derived from animal resources. Features of predatory and non-predatory mammalian species are compared in order to identify features or characteristics that would be expected to change as a consequence of this dietary shift. The record of hominid evolution is then reviewed to determine when these expected changes occurred, insofar as they are visible in the fossil record. Characteristics of Homo erectus are most congruent with those predicted for a species that has become significantly more predatory than its antecedents.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    Taphonomic studies of carnivores have become an integral part of taphonomic research in the past two decades. These studies are developing a referential framework for the identification of carnivore signature variety in the fossil record. Hyaenas and felids are predominant in these studies, whereas other carnivores such as wolves have not received as much attention yet. This paper analyses wild horse carcasses processed by wild wolves and discusses the implications for the study of site formation in the Euroasian Pleistocene. Carcasses have undergone different kinds of consumption by wild wolves and show important differences in the degree of bone modification according to wolf hunting and scavenging strategies. The different degree of bone destruction when consumed in one or many events is also discussed.
  • Thesis
    Subsistence diversification is achieved by adding different species to a diet. From the Broad Spectrum Revolution approach, several explanations have been proposed to explain this diversity in the food at the end of Pleistocene in Europe and Near East, such as demographic, ecological, nutritional and technological aspects, and mobility of hunter-gatherer groups. For several authors, this diversification, mainly based on the systematic acquisition of small prey, is still a highly debated topic during the pre-Upper Palaeolithic times in Europe. In this study, evidence of human use of small animals for food are presented from level XVII (MIS 9), XI (MIS 6) and IV (MIS 5e) of Bolomor Cave (Valencia, Spain) and from the TD10-1 sublevel (MIS 9) of Gran Dolina (Burgos, Spain). At these sites, the anthropogenic use of faunal resources not only is focused on small animals but also on large and small carnivores, in addition to ungulates. From the data obtained, changes in diet do not seem to be linear in time and space, but these seem to be influenced by behavioral diversity, occupational pattern and characteristics of the environment.
  • Article
    The consumption of small prey dates back to the Plio-Pleistocene chronologies in some African sites. However, the systematic acquisition and consumption of small prey in the pre-Upper Palaeolithic times is still a highly debated topic in Europe. Although the utilization of leporids has been recorded in several pre-Late Pleistocene European sites, the evidence of bird consumption is not as common for these periods. Nevertheless, Level XI (MIS 6) of Bolomor Cave has clear diagnostic elements to document the acquisition and use of birds (Aythya sp.) for food in the form of: (1) cutmarks on bones of both the front and hind limb; (2) presence of burning patterns on the extremities of the bones (areas of the skeleton with less meat); and (3) human toothmarks on limb bones. The capture of birds is classified as quick-flying game in the archaeological sites. The acquiring of fast-running (mostly lagomorphs) and quick-flying small prey requires a sophisticated technology and involves obtaining and processing ways different from those used for large- and medium-sized animals. From this perspective, the aim of this paper is to examine possible patterns in the processing sequence of birds from Level XI of Bolomor Cave and to improve the data on their butchery and human consumption in the Middle Pleistocene of Iberian Peninsula.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    An experimental study was conducted to assess the taphonomic signature derived from anthropic activities on rabbit bones. Nine wild European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) individuals were butchered using lithic tools, four were cooked and three of them were consumed by people. Cut marks resulting from skinning, disarticulation and defleshing as well as cooking damage and tooth marks caused by consumption were analysed and evaluated. Results show that butchery marks can be relatively abundant. Their location, intensity and orientation may differ according to the activity that caused them: skinning, disarticulation or defleshing of the carcass. Cooking damage is evidenced by specific burnt areas on the extremities of the bones. Tooth marks are scarce and often difficult to detect. They occur especially on long bones, with tooth pits being the most abundant type of damage. Finally, we attempt to address the way in which these marks can be archaeologically identified.
  • Article
    Past discussion on the unusual skeletal part representations at Klasies River Mouth is briefly summarized. Recent discussion in this journal, regarding the “Klasies Pattern”, has focused upon the differential destruction of small and large bovid bone epiphyses by carnivore ravaging and density-mediated attrition. Bartram & Marean (1999) argue, from ethnoarchaeological study and consideration of other archaeological sites, that, unless shaft fragments are painstakingly identified, the upper limb bone epiphyses of large bovids will be seriously under-represented. They therefore suggest that the “Klasies Pattern” is likely to be artefact of taphonomic and analytical processes. Klein, Cruz-Uribe & Milo (1999) replied with a defence of the analytical procedures employed during the original Klasies River Mouth analysis. They also state that there was very little evidence of carnivore ravaging at Klasies River Mouth. In this paper, it is pointed out that Bartram & Marean's (1999) study only considered the humerus, radius, femur, tibia and metapodia. However, in the “Klasies Pattern” it is the scapula that is most notably abundant in the small bovid classes and most notably scarce in the large bovid classes. It is argued that, from the study of bone mineral densities and Brain's (1981) carnivore ravaging experiment, there is no reason to expect a differentially greater taphonomic destruction of large bovid scapulae. In fact, exactly the reverse may be true. It is therefore argued that at least this aspect of the “Klasies Pattern” must be considered to represent human differential bone transport, rather than an artefact of taphonomic processes.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    Taphonomic data are presented for a bone assemblage composed of the remains of seven baboons killed and eaten by wild leopards in Mapungubwe National Park (South Africa). Mortality and sex distributions of the sample meet theoretical expectations of a leopard-produced assemblage and skeletal part patterning, as well as gross patterns of bone modification, match conditions of other leopard-derived faunas composed of small- and medium-size prey, but bone surface damage is much more intensive than previously documented in collections produced by leopards. These data are analyzed comparatively and their paleoanthropological relevance for the interpretation of important fossil primate faunas, such as those from Swartkrans Cave (South Africa), is discussed.
  • Article
    C.K. Brain documented two interesting patterns in the Pleistocene faunas of Swartkrans Cave, South Africa: (1) The earliest depositional units, Members 1 and 2, preserve high numbers of hominid fossils, while the numbers drop sharply in the more recent Member 3. (2) Burned bone specimens, which seem to have been altered in fires tended by hominids, appear for the first time in Member 3. It was suggested that mastery of fire provided a “shift in the balance of power”, allowing hominids to carry out activities in the cave for the first time unmolested by predators. A lack of butchered bones in Members 1 and 2 and their presence in Member 3 provided support for the hypothesis. However, we have now identified butchered bones in all three units. Further, our findings reveal a lack of variability in butchery patterns through time at Swartkrans; in all cases hominids appear to have been proficient carcass foragers. The real “shift” at Swartkrans does not appear to be one of eventual hominid dominance over carnivores, but rather one of a predominance of leopards at Swartkrans in Member 1 times to the alternating presence of leopards and hyenas in Members 2 and 3. Consistent leopard presence in Member 1 seems to have discouraged hominid activity in the vicinity of the cave. In contrast, by the time Members 2 and 3 were forming hominids may have temporarily used the cave, taking advantage of those periods of carnivore absence.
  • Before the early 1980s, the prevailing orthodoxy in paleoanthropology considered Early Stone Age archeological sites in East Africa to represent a primitive form of hominid campsites. The faunal evidence preserved in these sites was viewed as the refuse of carcass meals provided by hominid males in a social system presumptively characterized by sexual division of labor. This interpretation of early hominid life ways, commonly known as the “Home Base” or “Food Sharing” model, was developed most fully by Glynn Isaac.1–4 As Bunn and Stanford5 emphasized, this model was greatly influenced by a paradigm that coalesced between 1966 and 1968, referred to as “Man the Hunter.”6
  • Article
    Renewed excavations at FLK Zinj and its surrounding landscape have yielded valuable information regarding its paleoecological situation and the prehistoric behavioral function of the site. The density of materials at the main cluster of the site excavated by Leakey contrasts with the bone and lithic scatters surrounding the site. The location of FLK Zinj, situated a few hundred meters away from a freshwater spring, would have enabled hominins access to water, plants and game. The appeal of the spot for hominins (also explained by the presence of a wooded habitat) is confirmed by inferences of its redundant use prior and during the formation of the FLK Zinj paleosol, as witnessed by materials accumulated both under and on the waxy clay deposit that constitutes the FLK Zinj stratum. The single-cluster nature of the site indicates central-place behavior and evidence is provided that hominins occupied the site at a time of very low predation hazards in the area.
  • Article
    Competing explanations of early human behavior concerning animal carcass acquisition and exploitation are currently some of the most debated topics in the study of human evolution. Various hypotheses depict hominids as either hunters and flesh-eaters, or as scavengers who mainly consumed marrow and brains. One of the main arguments advanced to support the scavenging hypothesis is that flesh-bearing medium-sized carcasses (weighing between 150 kg and 350 kg) at early sites could have been obtained from large felid kills. This paper presents the results of a preliminary study, in which I have analyzed lion-killed carcasses with respect to the availability and disposal of flesh and conspicuous carnivore-inflicted bone damage patterns, so as to have a reference that can be applied both to archaeofaunas and to actualistic experiments that try to model early human behavior. Bone damage made by lions overlaps the damage patterns caused by other carnivores, such as canids and hyenids, although it is not as intense. Scraps of flesh available after consumption are rare and show a typical anatomical distribution. The scavenging hypothesis is thus testable by comparing the distribution of cut marks on fossil archaeofaunas to the location of flesh in lions' kills. Comparisons between carcasses in different environments show that scraps of flesh can be obtained in open habitats. Carcasses consumed by lions in closed habitats are flesh depleted. The application of this referential framework to archaeological bone assemblages can help to identify hominid foraging strategies, and indirectly, trophic dynamics on savannas: scavenging in open habitats is only feasible in wet savannas with a slightly marked seasonality and lack of migratory biomass [M. Tappen (1992) Ph.D. Thesis, Dept. Anthropology, Harvard Univ., Cambridge, MA]; scavenging in closed habitats can only be made in semi-arid seasonal savannas whose biomass is subjected to migratory processes [R.J. Blumenschine (1986) B.A.R. Int. Ser. 283, Oxford].
  • Article
    The acquisition and consumption of small prey in the pre-Upper Palaeolithic is a highly debated topic at present. For some authors, the systematic obtaining of these animals is only part of the subsistence strategies used by anatomically modern Humans. However, the consumption of small prey dates back to the Plio-Pleistocene chronologies in some sites. Although the utilization of leporids has been recorded in several pre-Late Pleistocene European sites, the evidence of tortoise consumption is documented not as common for these periods. However, Level IV of Bolomor Cave has clear diagnostic elements to document the acquisition and use of tortoises (Testudo hermanni) for food in the form of: (1) cutmarks on limb bones and ventral surface of the carapace and plastron; (2) presence of burning on tortoise skeleton and shell; (3) elements of anthropogenic breakage on carapace and plastron: percussion pits, percussion notches and impact flakes; and (4) human toothmarks on limb bones. This paper tries to examine the possible patterns in the tortoise consumption sequence from Level IV of Bolomor Cave and improves data on the butchery process and tortoise consumption in the Late Middle Pleistocene.
  • Article
    Dental microwear analysis has proven to be a valuable tool for the reconstruction of aspects of diet in early hominins. That said, sample sizes for some groups are small, decreasing our confidence that results are representative of a given taxon and making it difficult to assess within-species variation. Here we present microwear texture data for several new specimens of Homo habilis and Paranthropus boisei from Olduvai Gorge, bringing sample sizes for these species in line with those published for most other early hominins. These data are added to those published to date, and microwear textures of the enlarged sample of H. habilis (n = 10) and P. boisei (n = 9) are compared with one another and with those of other early hominins. New results confirm that P. boisei does not have microwear patterns expected of a hard-object specialist. Further, the separate texture complexity analyses of early Homo species suggest that Homo erectus ate a broader range of foods, at least in terms of hardness, than did H. habilis, P. boisei, or the "gracile" australopiths studied. Finally, differences in scale of maximum complexity and perhaps textural fill volume between H. habilis and H. erectus are noted, suggesting further possible differences between these species in diet.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    The East African hominin Paranthropus boisei was characterized by a suite of craniodental features that have been widely interpreted as adaptations to a diet that consisted of hard objects that required powerful peak masticatory loads. These morphological adaptations represent the culmination of an evolutionary trend that began in earlier taxa such as Australopithecus afarensis, and presumably facilitated utilization of open habitats in the Plio-Pleistocene. Here, we use stable isotopes to show that P. boisei had a diet that was dominated by C(4) biomass such as grasses or sedges. Its diet included more C(4) biomass than any other hominin studied to date, including its congener Paranthropus robustus from South Africa. These results, coupled with recent evidence from dental microwear, may indicate that the remarkable craniodental morphology of this taxon represents an adaptation for processing large quantities of low-quality vegetation rather than hard objects.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    The announcement of two approximately 3.4-million-y-old purportedly butchered fossil bones from the Dikika paleoanthropological research area (Lower Awash Valley, Ethiopia) could profoundly alter our understanding of human evolution. Butchering damage on the Dikika bones would imply that tool-assisted meat-eating began approximately 800,000 y before previously thought, based on butchered bones from 2.6- to 2.5-million-y-old sites at the Ethiopian Gona and Bouri localities. Further, the only hominin currently known from Dikika at approximately 3.4 Ma is Australopithecus afarensis, a temporally and geographically widespread species unassociated previously with any archaeological evidence of butchering. Our taphonomic configurational approach to assess the claims of A. afarensis butchery at Dikika suggests the claims of unexpectedly early butchering at the site are not warranted. The Dikika research group focused its analysis on the morphology of the marks in question but failed to demonstrate, through recovery of similarly marked in situ fossils, the exact provenience of the published fossils, and failed to note occurrences of random striae on the cortices of the published fossils (incurred through incidental movement of the defleshed specimens across and/or within their abrasive encasing sediments). The occurrence of such random striae (sometimes called collectively "trampling" damage) on the two fossils provide the configurational context for rejection of the claimed butchery marks. The earliest best evidence for hominin butchery thus remains at 2.6 to 2.5 Ma, presumably associated with more derived species than A. afarensis.
  • Article
    Mammalian tooth enamel is often chipped, providing clear evidence for localized contacts with large hard food objects. Here, we apply a simple fracture equation to estimate peak bite forces directly from chip size. Many fossil hominins exhibit antemortem chips on their posterior teeth, indicating their use of high bite forces. The inference that these species must have consumed large hard foods such as seeds is supported by the occurrence of similar chips among known modern-day seed predators such as orangutans and peccaries. The existence of tooth chip signatures also provides a way of identifying the consumption of rarely eaten foods that dental microwear and isotopic analysis are unlikely to detect.
  • Article
    Thesis (PhD) - Indiana University, Anthropology, 2007 This dissertation examines variability in the foraging strategies of hominids and large carnivores during Bed I and II times (1.9-1.2 million years ago) at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. Nine levels from six sites are analyzed and three major issues addressed: (1) the relative roles of hominids and large carnivores in the formation of each faunal assemblage; (2) the identity of the carnivore(s) responsible for carcass accumulation and modification; and (3) the intensity of on-site competition for carcass resources. Competition is utilized as a unifying concept because of its ecological importance and taphonomic visibility. Other than BK in Bed II, little or no evidence for hominid carcass processing is present in the Olduvai faunas examined here. In Bed I, DK likely represents a predation/death arena that was sporadically utilized by hominids for carcass parts while FLKNN 2 and FLKN 5 reflect repeated carcass transport by felids to eating areas. Poor preservation at the Bed II sites of FC West and TK hinders a definitive link to either hominid or large carnivore behavior. A significant portion of the BK assemblage is the result of carcass part transport and processing by hominids. A strong felid taphonomic signature exists in the Bed I faunas, while in the Bed II assemblages hyena involvement with carcasses is much more pronounced. All of the Bed I sites examined here formed in relatively low competition settings. Concomitant with a general shift in site location during Bed II times, FC West, TK and BK all occur in higher competition environments. The co-occurrence of stone tools with fauna that lack butchery damage, especially at the Bed I sites, has important implications for hominid site use. A combination of the faunal and lithic data suggests that hominids were using these sites for activities unrelated to carcass processing. These finding highlight variability in hominid site use at Olduvai Gorge and beyond.
  • Article
    En esta tesis doctoral se estudia la industria lítica de dos secuencias arqueológicas del Pleistoceno inferior de África oriental, Olduvai y Peninj (norte de Tanzania). Las colecciones líticas de Olduvai fueron excavadas por M. Leakey en la década de 1960, y han sido revisadas en el Museo Nacional de Kenia en Nairobi. El análisis de las colecciones líticas de Peninj (oeste del lago Natron), se ha centrado fundamentalmente en el registro generado desde el año 2000 por el equipo de excavación actual, aunque también se han revisado los materiales excavados por Isaac décadas atrás y depositados en el Museo de Dar-es-Salaam. Todas las colecciones líticas han sido analizadas desde un enfoque tecnológico, que supone la reconstrucción de las cadenas operativas líticas. De esa forma, se ha tratado de averiguar qué estrategias tecnológicas guiaron el trabajo de la piedra de los homínidos que habitaron el norte de Tanzania en la primera fase del Pleistoceno inferior (entre 1,8 y 1,3 millones de años antes del presente). Además, las colecciones líticas han sido estudiadas siempre teniendo en cuenta la información contextual disponible, lo que permite evaluar no sólo los métodos de talla de la piedra, sino también ahondar en los procesos de formación de los yacimientos arqueológicos y deducir la funcionalidad de los mismos y, en definitiva, reconstruir la gestión del territorio por parte de los homínidos del Plio-Pleistoceno. En suma, esta tesis propone unos modelos de talla de la piedra entre los artesanos de Olduvai y Peninj, contextualiza esas estrategias tecnológicas en el marco más amplio de la gestión del paisaje por parte de estos homínidos, y por último reflexiona sobre el desarrollo de la primera tecnología conocida, el Olduvayense, y la posterior aparición del Achelense, todo ello en el marco de la evolución humana en África Oriental.