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Experiments on subaqueous meat caching

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... At the request of symposium organizers, this paper is a retrospective account of the context and origin of a brief report introducing ideas on underwater meat storage (Fisher, 1995) and a preliminary review of more recent discoveries that bear on these ideas. I will also attempt to address issues that remain open and require new studies. ...
... Brief descriptions of the Heisler site have been included in several previous publications (e.g., Fisher, 1987Fisher, , 1995Fisher, , 2009), but the site as a whole has not yet been described. Multiple dates are available, most notably, an AMS date on bone collagen (XAD-purified gelatin hydrolysate), returning a calibrated age of 13,825-13,361 calBP and an AMS date on plant material in the anchor-like feature in Figure 16.3, yielding a range of 13,476-13,009 calBP (Birks et al., 2019). ...
... The task might be easiest if the pond was frozen in winter. Even a nondescript chopper made of bone or stone would have sufficed to start a hole in ice, which could then be enlarged (not to mention the sunlit-boulder option summarized in Fisher, 1995). By choosing the spot with reference to the emergent upper end of a marking post, and remembering the deployment of parts on the pond bottom, one could in principle make a prior selection of carcass parts to retrieve. ...
Chapter
Animal exploitation strategies have occupied a prominent place in the debate about the timing and nature of the modern human behavior. The discussions have basically focused on the ability to make an intensive use of seasonal resources, to hunt large or dangerous animals and to exploit fast-moving small game. Both large-sized herbivores and small prey are therefore considered a key variable to assess fundamental aspects of the evolution of subsistence strategies. In this work we present zooarchaeological data from the Middle Pleistocene site of Bolomor Cave (Valencia, Spain, MIS 9–5e), which has been interpreted as a habitat place. Its taxonomic representation extends from very large-sized herbivores (elephants, hippopotamuses and rhinoceroses) to very small-sized animals (lagomorphs, birds and tortoises), or even exotic animals like macaque. Elephant specimens are documented along the stratigraphic sequence from level Ia, IV, V, XII, XIII and XVII. Most of the elephant individuals are immature and partially represented. Nevertheless, the bone fragments recovered coincide with the general anatomical profile of the medium- and large-sized ungulates, which is mainly characterized by stylopodials, zeugopodials and mandibles. Evidence of human use of small prey from the earliest phases of site occupation (sublevel XVIIc) is also attested in form of cut marks, intentional bone breakages, human tooth marks and burning patterns. The exploitation of small prey, alongside to the very large game identified at the site, indicates a generalist human behavior based on a broad spectrum diet (BSD), which contributes to document the diversity in the lifestyles of the human communities of the European Middle Pleistocene.
... The hypothesis we are working with is that the masses of sand, gravel, and associated plant debris were "clastic anchors" (Fisher, , 1995; see the Supplementary Materials) made by humans introducing clastic material into sections of the mastodon's large intestine, after emptying at least some of its normal contents , as part of a strategy of underwater meat storage (Fisher, 1995). Remaining intestinal contents formed the layer of plant debris around the clastic material. ...
... The hypothesis we are working with is that the masses of sand, gravel, and associated plant debris were "clastic anchors" (Fisher, , 1995; see the Supplementary Materials) made by humans introducing clastic material into sections of the mastodon's large intestine, after emptying at least some of its normal contents , as part of a strategy of underwater meat storage (Fisher, 1995). Remaining intestinal contents formed the layer of plant debris around the clastic material. ...
... Disarticulated skeletons of mammoths and mastodons preserved within lake sediments are widespread in the Midwest (Widga et al., 2017). It seems possible that the practice of caching carcasses in small lakes was a common method of preserving the meat (Fisher, , 1995). In any case, this is the hypothesis within which we currently understand these two otherwise puzzling occurrences of mastodon intestinal contents. ...
Article
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We analyzed intestinal contents of two late-glacial mastodons preserved in lake sediments in Ohio (Burning Tree mastodon) and Michigan (Heisler mastodon). A multi-proxy suite of macrofossils and microfossils provided unique insights into what these individuals had eaten just before they died and added significantly to knowledge of mastodon diets. We reconstructed the mastodons’ habitats with similar multi-proxy analyses of the embedding lake sediments. Non-pollen palynomorphs, especially spores of coprophilous fungi differentiated intestinal and environmental samples. The Burning Tree mastodon gut sample originates from the small intestine. The Heisler mastodon sample is part of the large intestine to which humans had added clastic material to anchor parts of the carcass under water to cache the meat. Both carcasses had been dismembered, suggesting that the mastodons had been hunted or scavenged, in line with other contemporaneous mastodon finds and the timing of early human incursion into the Midwest. Both mastodons lived in mixed coniferous-deciduous late-glacial forests. They browsed tree leaves and twigs, especially Picea . They also ate sedge-swamp plants and drank the lake water. Our multi-proxy estimates for a spring/summer season of death contrast with autumn estimates derived from prior tusk analyses. We document the recovered fossil remains with photographs.
... Sharp (1981) notes similar behavior among the Chipewyan people, who store reindeer carcasses in ice-cold lake water. Archaeological parallels are reported by Fisher (1995Fisher ( , 2009, who interpreted finds of mastodon remains with butchery marks in North American lake sites as evidence for subaqueous storage of meat. Experiments that he conducted demonstrated good preservation conditions using this method (Fisher, 1995). ...
... Archaeological parallels are reported by Fisher (1995Fisher ( , 2009, who interpreted finds of mastodon remains with butchery marks in North American lake sites as evidence for subaqueous storage of meat. Experiments that he conducted demonstrated good preservation conditions using this method (Fisher, 1995). Similarly, Pohlhausen (1953) suggested that storage behavior was responsible for the accumulation of reindeer remains at the late Paleolithic lake site of Stellmoor. ...
... This scenario would suggest that human activity took place on a frozen lake surface, which subsequently melted away. Using frozen lake and river surfaces as activity areas for hunting, butchery, and storage is a common practice in northern latitudes (McHugh, 1972;Landals, 1990;Fisher, 1995Fisher, , 2009Helm, 2000;Brink, 2008). The animals are driven onto lake or river ice, where the slippery surface works as a trap decreasing the animal's mobility. ...
... Sharp (1981) notes similar behavior among the Chipewyan people, who store reindeer carcasses in ice-cold lake water. Archaeological parallels are reported by Fisher (1995Fisher ( , 2009, who interpreted finds of mastodon remains with butchery marks in North American lake sites as evidence for subaqueous storage of meat. Experiments that he conducted demonstrated good preservation conditions using this method (Fisher, 1995). ...
... Archaeological parallels are reported by Fisher (1995Fisher ( , 2009, who interpreted finds of mastodon remains with butchery marks in North American lake sites as evidence for subaqueous storage of meat. Experiments that he conducted demonstrated good preservation conditions using this method (Fisher, 1995). Similarly, Pohlhausen (1953) suggested that storage behavior was responsible for the accumulation of reindeer remains at the late Paleolithic lake site of Stellmoor. ...
... This scenario would suggest that human activity took place on a frozen lake surface, which subsequently melted away. Using frozen lake and river surfaces as activity areas for hunting, butchery, and storage is a common practice in northern latitudes (McHugh, 1972;Landals, 1990;Fisher, 1995Fisher, , 2009Helm, 2000;Brink, 2008). The animals are driven onto lake or river ice, where the slippery surface works as a trap decreasing the animal's mobility. ...
... Sharp (1981) notes similar behavior among the Chipewyan people, who store reindeer carcasses in ice-cold lake water. Archaeological parallels are reported by Fisher (1995Fisher ( , 2009, who interpreted finds of mastodon remains with butchery marks in North American lake sites as evidence for subaqueous storage of meat. Experiments that he conducted demonstrated good preservation conditions using this method (Fisher, 1995). ...
... Archaeological parallels are reported by Fisher (1995Fisher ( , 2009, who interpreted finds of mastodon remains with butchery marks in North American lake sites as evidence for subaqueous storage of meat. Experiments that he conducted demonstrated good preservation conditions using this method (Fisher, 1995). Similarly, Pohlhausen (1953) suggested that storage behavior was responsible for the accumulation of reindeer remains at the late Paleolithic lake site of Stellmoor. ...
... This scenario would suggest that human activity took place on a frozen lake surface, which subsequently melted away. Using frozen lake and river surfaces as activity areas for hunting, butchery, and storage is a common practice in northern latitudes (McHugh, 1972;Landals, 1990;Fisher, 1995Fisher, , 2009Helm, 2000;Brink, 2008). The animals are driven onto lake or river ice, where the slippery surface works as a trap decreasing the animal's mobility. ...
Article
Full-text available
Geoarchaeological research at the Middle Pleistocene site of Schöningen 13 II-4, often referred to as the Speerhorizont, has focused on describing and evaluating the depositional contexts of the well-known wooden spears, butchered horses, and stone tools. These finds were recovered from the transitional contact between a lacustrine marl and an overlying organic mud, originally thought to be a peat that accumulated in place under variable moisture conditions. The original excavators proposed that hominin activity, including hunting and butchery, occurred on a dry lake shore and was followed by a rapid sedimentation of organic deposits that embedded and preserved the artifacts. Our geoarchaeological analysis challenges this model. Here, we present evidence that the sediments of Schöningen 13 II-4 were deposited in a constantly submerged area of a palaeolake. Although we cannot exclude the possibility that the artifacts were deposited during a short, extreme drying event, there are no sedimentary features indicative of surface exposure in the sediments. Accordingly, this paper explores three main alternative models of site formation: anthropogenic disposal of materials into the lake, a geological relocation of the artifacts, and hunting or caching on lake-ice. These models have different behavioral ramifications concerning hominin knowledge and exploitation of the landscape and their subsistence strategies. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
... During the first dissection, as Lyuba began to thaw and we began to expose soft tissues in close quarters, a distinctive, mildly sour smell became perceptible. This smell was different from the strong, distasteful odor of aerobic soft-tissue decomposition, but was familiar to one of us as a result of earlier experiments on sub-aqueous meat storage (Fisher, 1995). In these experiments, the smell was associated with meat stored underwater (in lakes, ponds, or bogs) and colonized by lactic acid-producing bacteria that occur naturally in many aquatic settings, especially where pH and oxygen levels are low. ...
... Our hypothesis for lowered tissue pH is that Lyuba's body (with the possible exception of parts of her intestinal tract, which would normally have been neutral to basic) could have been colonized after death by lactic-acid-producing bacteria that occur naturally within some aquatic environments. Their activity would have elevated carbon dioxide concentration (lowering pH even on its own) and produced lactic acid (and bacteriocins; Klaenhammer, 1988), inhibiting colonization by bacteria more commonly associated with soft tissue decomposition (most of which require a basic environment; Fisher, 1995). This process could have retarded breakdown of soft tissues, permitting Lyuba's body to remain intact during the interval of time e possibly years long e during which Lyuba's death and burial site was gradually incorporated into permafrost. ...
Article
A well-preserved woolly mammoth calf found in northwest Siberia offers unique opportunities to investigate mammoth anatomy, behavior, life history and taphonomy. Analysis of the fluvial setting where the specimen was found suggests it was derived from eroding bluffs during ice-out flooding in June 2006. It then lay exposed on a point-bar surface until recovery the following May. AMS dating of bone collagen and plant tissues from the intestine provide age estimates that average about 41,800 14C yrBP. Anatomical features of interest include a hemispherical mass, apparently composed of brown fat, on the back of the neck. This may have functioned in thermoregulation for the neonate mammoth, born before onset of spring. Abundant subcutaneous fat and milk residues in the alimentary tract demonstrate that this animal was in good nutritional condition before death, making other features of its life history relevant for general studies of mammoth paleobiology. Plant remains from the intestine (mixed with milk residue in a manner consistent with frequent, small meals) show evidence of mastication by adult mammoths, suggesting that this calf ingested fecal material, probably from its mother and presumably to inoculate its intestinal tract with a microbial assemblage derived from a healthy adult. Discrepancies between the season of death we infer (spring) and seasonal indicators from the intestine implicate coprophagy (involving old fecal boli) by the mother. This animal’s trachea and bronchi are completely occluded with fine-grained vivianite (hydrated iron phosphate) such as occurs in some lacustrine settings. Because this vivianite does not penetrate the lung beyond the bronchi, we infer that it must have entered as a viscous mass that occluded the airway, causing asphyxia. Nodular vivianite in the cranial region and interiors of long bones must have originated postmortem, but its distribution may be partly controlled by peripheral vasoconstriction, a physiological response to asphyxia. Nodular vivianite may have formed from iron derived from hemoglobin and phosphate liberated by partial demineralization of bones. Demineralization could have been caused by lactic acid, for which the main evidence is loss of tissues dominated by Type 1 collagen (denatured in lactic acid). We propose that this was consequent on postmortem colonization of the body by lactic acid-producing bacteria. These bacteria and their metabolites may have promoted preservation during the time before the body was incorporated in permafrost and could also have inhibited scavenging and bacterial decomposition following recent exposure of the specimen.
... Second, once a large beast was killed, there was no efficient way to conserve vast amounts of meat. There were some valiant attempts such as underwater meat caching, first discovered in the Heisler site in Michigan (Fisher, 1995), and possibly the use of salt as well -but this was hardly enough. Therefore, a highly efficient use of megafaunal meat is unlikely. ...
Chapter
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As Alfred Russell Wallace once wrote, we live in a zoologically impoverished world, from which most of the largest, strangest and most spectacular animals disappeared quite recently. About two thirds of all animal species larger than 50 kg (the so-called megafauna) were extinct from the late Pleistocene onwards, starting in Australia at about fifty thousand years ago and following humans' footsteps is their expansion throughout Eurasia and the Americas. The extinctions went on through the Holocene, reaching islands all around the globe, that can be seen as 'time machines' where megafauna survived for millennia after the continental extinctions, such as the Caribbean, the islands off Alaska, and Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean. In Madagascar and New Zealand, extinctions are but a few centuries old. These late Quaternary extinctions were a global phenomenon that begs for a global explanation. Climatic hypotheses fail to explain these patterns for several reasons, for example, there were dozens of other glacial cycles throughout the Pleistocene, without associated mass extinctions; extinctions in Australia and the islands did not coincide with glacial peaks; and climate changes cannot explain why extinctions were systematically more recent on islands. However, the pieces of the puzzle immediately fit together when we observe the clear correspondence between the dates of humans' arrival and of megafaunal extinction in each landmass. Bernardo Araujo recently analysed the chronology of extinctions of megafaunal genera around the world. He found that extinctions took place closer than expected by chance to periods of high climatic variation alone in only two of the analysed cases, to dates of human arrival alone in seventy-four cases, and to both in eight cases, with 40 cases unexplained. Thus, anthropogenic impact is the most plausible and parsimonious main cause of the late Quaternary extinctions. In a modern view, the extinctions were a long process that took several millennia to occur in most continents, with a few stragglers like the Irish elk and the North American mastodons. Low reproductive potential was the main determinant of the extinct species; the apparent selection by size is an artefact of the inverse correlation between the two variables. The absence of evolved instincts against newly arrived humans, the difficulty of conserving meat and the lack of perception of the world's finitude must have contributed to the outcome. Thus, human-megafauna interactions are an important and undervalued part of human history that merits being represented on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Furthermore, learning from the extinctions of the past is crucial to allow us to minimise extinctions in the future. Candidate sites in the Americas might include those that show consumption of megafauna (such as Monte Verde), remarkable rock paintings (such as Serra da Capivara, Brazil) and the latest American megafauna (such as Las Breas de San Felipe, Cuba).
... Not only was the preservation of this site reliant upon wetland chemistry, but it also appears that bogs and freshwater and salt-water marshes provided construction material and food for the Monte Verde culture (Dillehay, 1989). Likewise, in North America, lacustrine aquatic wetlands preserved mastodon intestines fi lled with sand and gravel, indicating that prehistoric humans fi lled these organs as "clastic anchors" to keep the bodies on the bottoms of peaty, anoxic ponds for winter meat storage (Fisher, 1995). ...
Article
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The fossil record of wetlands documents unique and long-persistent fl oras and faunas with wetland habitats spawning or at least preserving novel evolutionary characteristics and, at other times, acting as refugia. In addition, there has been an evolution of wetland types since their appearance in the Paleozoic. The fi rst land plants, beginning in the Late Ordovician or Early Silurian, were obligate dwellers of wet substrates. As land plants evolved and diversifi ed, different wetland types began to appear. The fi rst marshes developed in the mid-Devonian, and forest swamps originated in the Late Devonian. Adaptations to low-oxygen, low-nutrient conditions allowed for the evolution of fens (peat marshes) and forest mires (peat forests) in the Late Devonian. The differentiation of wetland habitats created varied niches that infl uenced the terrestrialization of arthropods in the Silurian and the terrestrialization of tetrapods in the Devonian (and later), and dramatically altered the way sedimentological, hydrological, and various biogeochemical cycles operated globally. Widespread peatlands evolved in the Carboniferous, with the earliest ombrotrophic tropical mires arising by the early Late Carboniferous. Carboniferous wetlandplant communities were complex, and although the taxonomic composition of these wetlands was vastly different from those of the Mesozoic and Cenozoic, these communities were essentially structurally, and probably dynamically, modern. By the Late Permian, the spread of the Glossopteris fl ora and its adaptations to more temperate or cooler climates allowed the development of mires at higher latitudes, where peats are most common today. Although widespread at the end of the Paleozoic, peat-forming wetlands virtually disappeared following the end-Permian extinction. The initial associations of crocodylomorphs, mammals, and birds with wetlands are well recorded in the Mesozoic. The radiation of Isoetales in the Early Triassic may have included a submerged lifestyle and hence, the expansion of aquatic wetlands. The evolution of heterosporous ferns introduced a fl oating vascular habit to aquatic wetlands. The evolution of angiosperms in the Cretaceous led to further expansion of aquatic species and the fi rst true mangroves. Increasing diversifi cation of angiosperms in the Tertiary led to increased fl oral partitioning in wetlands and a wide variety of specialized wetland subcommunities. During the Tertiary, the spread of grasses, rushes, and sedges into wetlands allowed for the evolution of freshwater and salt-water reed marshes. Additionally, the spread of Sphagnum sp. in the Cenozoic allowed bryophytes, an ancient wetland clade, to dominate high-latitude mires, creating some of the most widespread mires of all time. Recognition of the evolution of wetland types and inherent framework positions and niches of both the fl ora and fauna is critical to understanding both the evolution of wetland functions and food webs and the paleoecology of surrounding ecotones, and is necessary if meaningful analogues are to be made with extant wetland habitats.
... Caching of meat in water (Fisher, 1995a) is a potential explanation at Ayer Pond though unlikely in view of the low-yield nature of the remaining bones, unless this was a utilized cache from which pieces had already been removed. It may be that this is an example of caching on ice, with partial utilization. ...
Article
Full-text available
Bone modifications on well-preserved Bison antiquus remains recently discovered during pond construction in the Pacific Northwest provide evidence suggestive of Late Pleistocene human activity. Since excavation and recovery conditions were not ideal careful evaluation of all observations separated those that can be made with confidence, and identified and discounted those less reliable. The report focuses on the context of the discovery, the taphonomic evidence, and compares modifications to those from other reported kill sites, considering evidence for human butchering and predator and scavenger damage. New test results confirm the bison is Late Pleistocene in age. A recent AMS radiocarbon date involving different pretreatment protocols places the event at 11,990 14C BP, slightly older than the first test results of 11,760 14C BP. These dates and observations were used to conclude that the bison was butchered by humans shortly after deglaciation.
... Caching of meat in water (Fisher, 1995a) is a potential explanation at Ayer Pond though unlikely in view of the low-yield nature of the remaining bones, unless this was a utilized cache from which pieces had already been removed. It may be that this is an example of caching on ice, with partial utilization. ...
Article
Full-text available
A Bison antiquus cranium and partial skeleton from Ayer Pond wetland on Orcas Island, San Juan Islands, Washington, date to 11,760 ± 70 14C yr BP. They lay in lacustrine sediments below peat, unconformably above emergent Everson Glaciomarine Drift (> 12,000 14C yr BP). Several bison finds in similar contexts on Orcas and Vancouver Islands dating between 11,750 and 10,800 14C yr BP indicate an early postglacial land mammal dispersal corridor with reduced water barriers between mainland and islands. New bison dates and published shell dates allow estimation of early postglacial relative sea-level trends for the San Juans, with a drop below modern datum ∼ 12,000 14C yr BP, and assist in evaluation of marine reservoir corrections. Emergence by ∼ 60 m is suggested by data from nearby areas. A tundra-like or meadow community and succeeding open pine parkland before 11,000 14C yr BP supported bison but horn-core reduction suggests suboptimal forage or restricted habitat. Expanding mixed-conifer forests after 11,000 14C yr BP contributed to bison extirpation. Dispersing ungulates such as bison must have influenced island vegetation establishment and early succession. Possible evidence for butchering by early coastal people adds significance to the Ayer Pond discovery, given its pre-Clovis age.
... 144,163). Meat could have also been preserved without the use of fire, by sun-drying [167,168], or by burying it in an anaerobic environment, underground or underwater [169,170]. Similar abilities could have been a part of the Homo erectus behavioural repertoire, enabling them to cope with the great amount of meat and fat provided by an elephant carcass, thus making the effort involved in obtaining it worthwhile. Moreover, we believe that the important role of elephant meat and fat in the diet of Acheulian hominins necessitated an active approach in the procurement of elephants, further supporting the various hunting scenarios. ...
Article
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Proboscideans and humans have shared habitats across the Old and New Worlds for hundreds of thousands of years. Proboscideans were included in the human diet starting from the Lower Paleolithic period and until the final stages of the Pleistocene. However, the question of how prehistoric people acquired proboscideans remains unresolved. Moreover, the effect of proboscidean hunting on the eventual extinction of these mega-herbivores was never seriously evaluated, probably because of the lack of acquaintance with the plethora of information available regarding proboscidean hunting by humans. The aim of this paper is to bridge this gap and bring to light the data available in order to estimate the extent and procedures of elephant and mammoth hunting by humans during the Quaternary. This study examines the archaeological evidence of proboscidean hunting during Paleolithic times, and provides a review of ethnographic and ethno-historical accounts, demonstrating a wide range of traditional elephant-hunting strategies. We also discuss the rituals accompanying elephant hunting among contemporary hunter-gatherers, further stressing the importance of elephants among hunter-gatherers. Based on the gathered data, we suggest that early humans possessed the necessary abilities to actively and regularly hunt proboscideans; and performed this unique and challenging task at will.
... However, no such features are observed on the remains recovered for Marito (although they are, admittedly, few). In the Great Lakes region of North America, Fisher (1987Fisher ( , 1995 has associated an autumn season of death with several male mastodons that were clearly butchered and utilized by humans. Such an interpretation is unwarranted here due to a lack of taphonomic evidence. ...
Article
Excavations associated with wastewater treatment facilities in the Santiago Basin of Chile uncovered remains of an adult male Stegomastodon platensis in Pleistocene fluvial sediments. The specimen included a skull with both tusks still in their alveoli. A small sample block of dentin and cementum was excised from the right tusk for analysis of compositional and structural variation recorded in the sequence of dentin layers. The sample was analyzed using serial isotope assays, microCT, and measurement of dentin increments in thin sections. These procedures allowed us to recover life history information relating to the final four years of life. Analyses show seasonal variation in composition, density, and growth rate, permitting identification of years. MicroCT features appear to recur semiannually, which has not been observed previously in proboscidean tusks; these features are interpreted to correspond to the winter-spring boundary and some other aspect of environment or behavior recurring within each year. Average annual apposition of dentin within the tusk is 10.4 mm for complete years studied, suggesting that this individual was healthy leading up to the final year of life. Recurrent periods of low rate of apposition measured in weekly dentin increments that formed during the summer are interpreted as representing periods of musth. Using the location of microCT features, annual appositional thickness, and the pattern of weekly growth within the final year of life, we interpret the season of death for this individual as being within the early autumn.
... To observe surface modifications of bones of middle and large herbivores and to identify human cut marks, chopping traces, carnivores' bites and rodents' grinds, the examples of Gifford (1981), Shipman and Rose (1983), Blumenschine (1988), Lyman (1994), Fisher (1995) and Zhang et al. (2011) were followed. To analyze the fracture patterns and broken characters of long bones of the middle and large herbivores and to learn the causes of such patterns and characters, the methods of Capaldo and Blumenschine (1994), Shipman (1981), Villa and Mahieu (1991) and Domínguez-Rodrigo and Barba (2006) were used. ...
Article
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Nearly three thousand specimens of mammalian remains were unearthed from Wulanmulun Paleolithic site in Ordos, Nei Mongol, during 2010–2012 rescue excavations. The majority of the remains belong to medium and large sized hoofed mammals, particularly woolly rhinoceros. The materials are mostly fragmental and associated with thousands of stone artifacts. Taphonomic analyses show that the remains were subjected to little alluvial transportation but some weathering before burial. Only two kinds of bone tools, antler hammers and shaft points, were identified. The cut marks on the bones showed that the animals were mostly hunted and butchered on the spot rather than scavenged. The prey were likely lured or driven into the site and trapped in the muddy alluvial deposits and butchered near or after their death. The site is more probably a trap for hunting large animals and a follow-up butchery shop.
... Assuming that radiocarbon-dated fossil abundance reflects population size, the mastodon continued its expansion in the boreal forest between 12 and 11 ka BP, as did the elk-moose, the second most commonly dated mammal fossil (Table IV). Alternatively, human hunting may have increased the numbers of animals dying or being cached at sites of good bone preservation, such as in small ponds and bogs, where finds of these fossils are typically located (Fisher, 1995). Paleoindians using fluted, lanceolate, projectile points had spread throughout most areas south of the ice sheets by 11 ka BP and possibly by 11.5 ka BP (Ellis et al., 1998;Canadian Archaeological Radiocarbon Database, 2005). ...
Article
Biome maps spanning the interval from the last glacial maximum to modern times are presented. The biome distributions at 18 ka BP were probably as nearly in equilibrium with climate as are the modern distributions, but deglacial biomes were probably in disequilibrium. Ice sheet configuration was a strong control of climate until 7 ka BP. Regional climate trends Gan be inferred from changing biome distributions, but during periods of disequilibrium, biome distributions under-represent summer warming. Because of summer cooling by 2-4 °C during the Holocene, largely in the last 3-5 ka, middle and certain early Holocene biome distributions and species compositions are reasonable analogues of future equilibrium displacements due to equivalent warming, at least in areas that were long-since deglaciated. Past biome migration rates in response to rapid regional warming during deglaciation were mainly in the range of 100-200 m per year. If these rates pertain in the future, biomes may shift 10-20 km in most regions over the next century. A major impediment to using former Holocene conditions as a guide to future conditions is that warmer Holocene summers were accompanied by colder winters, whereas warmer future summers will be accompanied by warmer winters.
Chapter
I would like to address the topic of this chapter in calm reflection on a mature body of data, representing a balanced sampling of the empirical record and unhurried evaluation of its possible interpretations. I would also like to be 5 – no, 10 – years further along in the very labor-intensive process of compiling that empirical record! For now, however, I will have to settle for a status report on a series of ongoing investigations designed to assess the nature of late Pleistocene proboscidean occurrences and evaluate aspects of proboscidean paleobiology that have the potential to yield insights concerning the ecological stresses encountered by these animals during the centuries and millennia leading up to the time of their ultimate extinction. This book focuses on the broad problem of late Pleistocene losses of megafaunal taxa across the Americas, which is itself a geographically, taxonomically, and temporally restricted subset of the larger problem of worldwide losses of megafaunal diversity. In contrast, my title carves out an even smaller region (and set of taxa) as the domain for my analysis. Work in progress actually involves proboscideans from more diverse regions of the Americas and from Siberia as well, and it has involved a variety of aspects of proboscidean paleobiology, but only for the Great Lakes region of North America are there enough data in hand at this time to warrant a summary of trends that offer evidence of the cause of extinction.
Article
Megaherbivores are keystone species whose removal from landscapes can cause cascading ecosystem changes, yet the consequences of Late Quaternary megaherbivore extinctions remain uncertain. This paper tests the Megaherbivory Release Hypothesis (MRH), which posits that the decline and extinction of megaherbivores (body size >1000 kg) during the last deglaciation in eastern North America contributed to the expansion of more palatable hardwood tree taxa, the development of vegetation assemblages with no modern analogue, and increased fuel load and fire activity. Coprophilous fungal spores in lake sediment records are used as proxies for megaherbivore abundance and are essential to testing the MRH through analyses of lead/lag relationships among vegetation composition, megaherbivore abundance, fire, and climate. Although some prior analyses of coprophilous fungal spores from individual sites have supported the MRH, these interpretations have been complicated by 1) discrepancies in the timing of coprophilous spore declines versus megaherbivore extinction timing based on dated vertebrate remains, 2) reliance on a single fungal taxon (Sporormiella) rather than a full suite of coprophilous fungi taxa, and 3) uncertainties in the taphonomic processes that influence fungal spore abundances. To examine the spatiotemporal relationships among megaherbivory, vegetation, and fire, we developed five new multi-taxon coprophilous fungal spore records for comparison with existing pollen, spore, and charcoal records from 14 sites across eastern North America. The MRH was well supported in the northeast and central US, with most sites showing a coprophilous spore decline by ∼14.6 ka followed by a rise of hardwood taxa (∼14.4 ka). However, changes in fire regime varied widely among northeast and central US sites and may have preceded spore declines. The MRH was not well supported in the southeastern US, where a smaller rise in hardwood taxa (∼16.1–13.1 ka) generally preceded the decline in coprophilous spores at individual sites (∼15.8–12.7 ka). These site-level and regional differences suggest spatial variations in the strength of couplings among late-Quaternary megaherbivore extinctions, vegetation composition and structure, and fire regime. Possible explanations for the differences between the northern and southeastern US include (1) differences in landscape heterogeneity of canopy openness and palatability, (2) net primary productivity and sensitivity to top-down trophic effects, (3) megaherbivore density, and (4) climate trends and seasonality at orbital to millennial timescales.
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Stone tools and mastodon bones occur in an undisturbed geological context at the Page-Ladson site, Florida. Seventy-one radiocarbon ages show that ~14,550 calendar years ago (cal yr B.P.), people butchered or scavenged a mastodon next to a pond in a bedrock sinkhole within the Aucilla River. This occupation surface was buried by ~4 m of sediment during the late Pleistocene marine transgression, which also left the site submerged. Sporormiella and other proxy evidence from the sediments indicate that hunter-gatherers along the Gulf Coastal Plain coexisted with and utilized megafauna for ~2000 years before these animals became extinct at ~12,600 cal yr B.P. Page-Ladson expands our understanding of the earliest colonizers of the Americas and human-megafauna interaction before extinction.
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Proboscideans may have been important prey for Pleistocene foragers in the Americas. Dozens of proboscidean sites have been claimed to show evidence of human involvement dating to MIS 3 or in a few cases even earlier. Summaries are provided here for >70 sites. Also presented are discussions of patterns and variability in the claims. Suggestive traces of human use of carcasses such as associated stone tools or butchering marks vary from few or none in the oldest sites to relatively many in the latest (Clovis-era) sites. Evidence to distinguish scavenging from killing is not clear in most cases, but cut marks on bones in a few sites indicate that fully fleshed carcasses were butchered before carnivores stripped meat. Only one assemblage contains a bone with a possible weapon tip fragment embedded in it, a kind of find that is also rare in Eurasian mammoth sites. The oldest sites in the Americas are notably different from Old World assemblages, including those dating >1 Ma
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Three elk (Alces alces) bones found in 1955 in Zug-Gartenstadt, Switzerland, two shoulder blades and a tibia fragment, have been analysed anew: They date to the Late Ice Age around 12400 BP (12776-12220 calBC) according to two C14 dates - the finds are currently the oldest known elk bones in Switzerland after the Last Glacial Maximum and represent the expansion of elk habitats in the Bølling interstadial. The tibia fragment shows cut marks and has been crushed for bone marrow extraction. The dating of the bones corresponds to late Magdalenian sites in the vincinity. J. Reinhard, R. Huber, D. Drucker, W. Müller, Von Irrtümern, Übersehenem und moderner Analytik. Neue Erkenntnisse zu den spätglazialen Elchknochen von Zug-Gartenstadt. Tugium 35, 2019, 129-138.
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Proboscidean remains have been documented in New England for well over a century, yet few radiocarbon dates exist for these animals in the region. Here, we report the first AMS radiocarbon date and stable carbon:nitrogen isotope analysis for the Mount Holly mammoth, Mount Holly, Vermont. Among proboscidean finds in New England the date of 10 860±30 (12 882–12 792 cal. BP) from the Mount Holly mammoth is the most recent radiocarbon date for a mammoth or mastodon in New England and the most precisely dated specimen possibly post‐dating the accepted age of the initial human settlement of the region during the onset of the Younger Dryas. Stable nitrogen isotope values are low for mammoths both regionally and globally, but consistent with a pattern of falling δ15N values for mammoths following the Last Glacial Maximum with particularly low values during the Younger Dryas.
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Mastodon (Mammut americanum) remains unearthed during excavation of ancient sediments usually consist only of skeletal material, due to postmortem decomposition of soft tissues by microorganisms. Two recent excavations of skeletal remains in anoxic sediments in Ohio and Michigan, however, have uncovered organic masses which appear to be remnants of the small and large intestines, respectively. Macrobotanical examinations of the composition of these masses revealed assemblages of plant material radiocarbon dated to approximately 11,500 years before the present and thought to be incompletely digested food remains from this extinct mammal. We attempted to cultivate and identify bacteria from the intestinal contents, bone-associated sediments, and sediments not in proximity to the remains using a variety of general and selective media. In all, 295 isolates were cultivated, and 38 individual taxa were identified by fatty acid-methyl ester (FAME) profiles and biochemical characteristics (API-20E). The taxonomic positions of selected enteric and obligately anaerobic bacteria were confirmed by 16S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) sequencing. Results indicate that the intestinal and bone-associated samples contained the greatest diversity of bacterial taxa and that members of the family Enterobacteriaceae represented 41% of all isolates and were predominant in the intestinal masses and sediments in proximity to the skeleton but were uncommon in the background sediments. Enterobacter cloacae was the most commonly identified isolate, and partial rDNA sequencing revealed that Rahnella aquatilis was the correct identity of strains suggested by FAME profiles to be Yersinia enterocolitica. No Bacteroides spp. or expected intestinal anaerobes were recovered. The only obligate anaerobes recovered were clostridia, and these were not recovered from the small intestinal masses. Microbiological evidence from this study supports other, macrobotanical data indicating the intestinal origin of these masses. Whether these organisms are direct descendants of the original intestinal microbiota, however, cannot be established.
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