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Butchering of small mammals in the Epigravettian levels of the Romanelli Cave (Apulia, Italy)

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  • Soprintendenza al Museo Nazionale Preistorico ed Etnografico "L. Pigorini"
Article

Butchering of small mammals in the Epigravettian levels of the Romanelli Cave (Apulia, Italy)

... The distribution of the anatomical elements provided important information about dismembring of the carcass before it was cooked (Vigne et al., 1981;Vigne & Marinval-Vigne, 1983;Cassoli & Tagliacozzo, 1997;Henshilwood, 1997;Tagliacozzo & Fiore, 1998;Hockett & Ferreira Bicho, 2000;Laroulandie, 2001;Lloveras et al., 2009;Medina et al., 2012). ...
... Cut marks produced by lithic tools on the red squirrel remains show the same features of those found on the bones of other small animals, e.g. birds, big rodents, small carnivores (Alhaique, 1996;Cassoli & Tagliacozzo, 1997;Tagliacozzo & Fiore, 1998;Laroulandie, 2000;Fiore, 2003;Fiore et al., 2004;Gala & Tagliacozzo, 2004: they are usually rare (given the small size of the animal it is not always necessary to use the tool to disarticulate the carcass in a repeated way, unlike what happens for the large-sized animals); striae are short, superficial and sometimes isolated (for the limited bone surface that the tools can touch). However, the micromorphology of the traces (inlet and outlet of the tool, presence of secondary striae), their localisation (functional to carcass processing) and their association to other anthropic traces (peeling, arrachement, combustion) allow to attribute them to intentional cuts. ...
... Only in recent years detailed taphonomic analyses have highlighted that the small-game activity, i.e. the hunt to the small vertebrates (birds, small mammals, reptiles), should not be considered as one of the last skills acquired by anatomically modern man, linked especially to the use of the bow, as it was formerly believed, but this practice was already performed by Neanderthal man (Stiner, 1994;Thun Hohenstein et al., 2001;Peresani et al., 2011), and perhaps as old as the genus Homo (see Fernández Jalvo et al., 1999). Apart from rare exceptions, Italian taphonomic studies on small mammal remains are relatively rare (e.g., Alhaique, 1996Alhaique, , 2003Tagliacozzo & Fiore, 1998;Fiore, 2003;Fiore et al., 2004;Mussi et al., 2008;Romandini et al., 2012) and those relating to the red squirrel still less (Alhaique, 1994;Cassoli & Tagliacozzo, 1994). Thus, we can talk about a relationship between humans and squirrels in the prehistory of Italy is nearly impossible and necessarily limited to the site of Arene Candide. ...
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The genus Sciurus is known since Late Miocene in the European fossil record, but it is quite rare. Fossil remains of squirrels occur in relatively few sites and generally with very few specimens, sometimes only one or two teeth. Recent finds of a Sciurus vulgaris mandible from Grotta Mora Cavorso (Latium), and the reanalysis of the red squirrel remains from the Caverna delle Arene Candide (Liguria), the Riparo Soman (Veneto) and the Grotta del Santuario della Madonna (Calabria) provide new data and insights on the change in size of the rodent and on its geographic and ecological distribution in the Pleistocene and Holocene of Italy. The study of food preferences of the current red squirrel predators provides solid comparative data to measure the relative rarity of the bone remains found in the Late Pleistocene and Holocene paleontological deposits and archaeological contexts. Taphonomic analysis, particularly on the latest Pleistocene remains from the Caverna delle Arene Candide, sheds light on the alimentary and cultural use of the rodent made by prehistoric man, allowing to say that so far the human contribution to the accumulation of his bones has been underestimated.
... Lo sfruttamento dei piccoli mammiferi è testimoniato in diversi siti del Paleolitico superiore italiano (Alhaique 1996;Fiore 2003;Fiore et alii 2004;Romandini et alii 2010;Tagliacozzo, Fiore 1998). I carnivori sono rappresentati dalla volpe, dal tasso, e dal gatto selvatico. ...
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Grotta di Pozzo (AQ) is a Lateglacial cave site of central Italy, where a well-dated stratigraphic sequence accumulated between 23,000 and 9,000 cal BP. Early Epigravettian, Final Epigravettian and Sauveterrian industries were all discovered. Human activity is especially well documented with the Final Epigravettian. During the Lateglacial, the most frequently hunted animals were ungulates, and namely wild goats (chamois and ibex) and red deer. The diet, however, also included a number of small preys, such as marmot, hare, black grouse and trout. During the Holocene, ungulate remains are scarce, and fish remains altogether lacking, but a shell-midden accumulated. Helix delpretiana, and endemic terrestrial gastropod, was collected during distinct, short-lived phases of seasonal activity.
... Bald and Verreaux's eagles swallow fewer bones than do other predators (Armstrong and Avery, 2014); consequently predation and feeding damage in the forms of punctures and pits are more often preserved in comparison to great horned owls and coyotes where the same marks were obscured by digestion damage and fragmentation (Armstrong and Avery, 2014; Armstrong, 2016). Signatures of human involvement in the accumulation of small mammals include cut-marked bone, percussion notches for marrow extraction (especially size 1 bovid long-bones and leporid hind limb bones), and burned bones (Hockett, 1991; Yellen, 1991a,b; Henshilwood, 1997; Tagliacozzo and Fiore, 1998; Fern andez-Jalvo et al., 1999; Hockett and Bicho, 2000; Hockett and Haws, 2002; Tortosa et al., 2002; Parkington and Fisher, 2006 ). Therefore the relative frequencies of digested, fragmented, pitted, punctured, cut marked, percussion notched, and burned bone are the suite of diagnostic bone surface modifications that are used in this study to differentiate between human, carnivore, and raptor accumulation of small mammals. ...
... Dans le cas du blaireau, animal fouisseur par excellence, la reconnaissance de stries de boucherie est un argument en faveur de son introduction par l'Homme (Zeiler, 1987 ;Tagliacozzo, Fiore, 1998). Ainsi, la question de l'agent responsable de la présence de cette espèce dans les sites de Châleux et des Nutons doit être reconsidérée. ...
... Collectively, these and other studies (Andrews, 1990;Andrews and Evans, 1983;Elkin and Mondini, 2001;Erlandson et al., 2007;Hockett, 1999;Landt, 2007;Lupo andSchmitt, 2002, 2005;Mondini, 2004;Munro and Bar-Oz, 2005;Schmitt and Lupo, 2008;Tagliacozzo and Fiore, 1998;Yellen, 1991a,b, and others) form the core of small mammal comparative taphonomy. Yet the criteria used to characterize the signatures of predator involvement in small mammal accumulations and the range of variability within those signatures remain less-well defined. ...
... Aunque existen varios ejemplos de la incorporación de vertebrados pequeños a la subsistencia humana (Bridault, 1997;Vigne et al., 1997;Tagliacozzo & Fiore, 1998;Stiner et al., 1999; entre otros), los mamíferos que más se acercan a la masa de los cuises y cuyo despiece está estudiado ampliamente son los conejos (Oryctolagus cuniculus) de sitios arqueológicos del Paleolítico ibérico y la liebre africana (Pedetes capensis) explotados por los !Kung San de Africa. Ambos casos son diferentes en el despiece respecto de los cuises. ...
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In the last few years several studies have reassessed the attraction and the role of small game in the subsistence economy of hunter-gatherers across Europe and the Mediterranean region since the Middle Paleolithic. The exploitation of small mammals intensified during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition, when some unusual faunal assemblages were recorded in the Alpine arch and the Prealpine belt. In this region marmot became a relevant resource during the Late Glacial, albeit the relative foraging systems were mostly focused on the exploitation of medium and large size herbivores. In this report we present zooarchaeological data from Grotte di Pradis (northeastern Italy) which displays a faunal assemblage composed of at least 637 marmot individuals, representing about the 99% of the total remains. Taphonomic evidence suggests a standardized processing of marmot carcasses finalized to the deferred consumption and utilization of different resources. The intensive exploitation together with the acquisition through repetitive hunting events and the ecological and ethological factors proper of this animal, substantially affected its definition of prey type and its ranking in terms of energy return balance. Hence, in this particular context marmot might be regarded as a high-ranked resource, seasonally exploited within a well-established logistical mobility system which reflects a repetitive regional phenomenon peculiar of the alpine area throughout the Late Glacial.
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Pleistocene skinning and exploitation of carnivore furs have been previously inferred from archaeological evidence. Nevertheless, the evidence of skinning and fur processing tends to be weak and the interpretations are not strongly sustained by the archaeological record. In the present paper, we analyze unique evidence of patterned anthropic modification and skeletal representation of fossil remains of cave lion (Panthera spelaea) from the Lower Gallery of La Garma (Cantabria, Spain). This site is one of the few that provides Pleistocene examples of lion exploitation by humans. Our archaeozoological study suggests that lion-specialized pelt exploitation and use might have been related to ritual activities during the Middle Magdalenian period (ca. 14800 cal BC). Moreover, the specimens also represent the southernmost European and the latest evidence of cave lion exploitation in Iberia. Therefore, the study seeks to provide alternative explanations for lion extinction in Eurasia and argues for a role of hunting as a factor to take into account.
Article
1823 remains of the wild cavids Cavia aperea and Galea tixiensis were analyzed in the late Holocene (ca. 1,000 BP.) sites of Cueva Tixi and Cueva El Abra, Tandilia Range, Argentina. These bones feature cut-marks carried out with lithic instruments and exhibit a well defined pattern. A simple sequence of butchering based on the location, frequency and function of the cuts reveais careful skinning for later skin use and defleshing of the animais. In this process neither the marrow was consumed nor the carcass dismembered. The use of animais so small is unusual in the Pampean Region and only comparable to the use of rodents by the northern Selk'nam people of Tierra del Fuego. It is concluded that in very small species (i.e.,<l Kg) size is a variable that offers new possibilities to the butcher, because the fragility of the skeleton allows one to ignore the articulations as a constriction to guide the reduction of the carcasses.
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