Volumen 1 Number 1 Year 2003

2019-11-06T21:29:39+02:00October 26th, 2019|Volumen 1. Number 1. Year 2003.|

Introduction to a New Journal for Taphonomic Research.

Manuel Domínguez-Rodrigo, Travis Rayne Pickering, Luis Alcalá.

Free Download

Quantification and Sampling of Faunal Remains in Owl Pellets.

R. Lee Lyman, Emma Power, R. Jay Lyman.


[+info] VOLUME 1. NUMBER 1. APRIL 2003 (2 issue)

Paleozoologists and taphonomists have long recognized various properties of quantification and sampling with respect to collections they study. Those same properties attend samples of modern owl pellets. The particular skeletal elements identified and the way in which prey remains are grouped for tallying both influence measures of relative prey abundance in a collection of 56 barn-owl (Tyto alba) pellets from southeastern Washington. As the number of prey and the number of pellets in a collection increases across 107 published collections of North American barn-owl pellets, the richness of mammalian genera per collection increases. As the size of the most abundant prey taxon in a pellet collection decreases, the average number of individual prey per pellet increases. Pellets with more identifiable mammalian remains contain more individual prey. Larger pellets contain more individual prey than smaller pellets. These observations indicate that the properties of quantification and sampling so well known to paleozoologists can be created during the biostratinomic phase of a taphonomic history. Modern owl pellets are an excellent educational resource for teaching principles of taphonomy and zooarchaeology.

Free Download

Large Mammal Skeletal Element Transport: Applying Foraging Theory in a Complex Taphonomic System.

Curtis W. Marean, Naomi Cleghorn


[+info] VOLUME 1. NUMBER 1. APRIL 2003 (3 issue)

The transport and processing of large mammal carcasses by humans seems to provide a perfect data-set for the application of foraging theory. However, such applications in archaeology have generally been unsuccessful in that the results diverge widely from the predictions of foraging theory, and ethnographic applications have been rare and the results mixed. These applications require good estimates of skeletal element return rates, but to date we have insufficient net return rate data. Using some basic parameters we can rank skeletal elements by gross return rate, and classify them into high cost and low cost elements. We examine three of the best data-sets on hunter-gatherer skeletal element transport (Hadza, Nunamiut, and Kua), and find that the Nunamiut and Kua data diverge significantly from the Hadza data. We argue that this difference is not due to differences in skeletal element transport, but rather that the Hadza data-set represents observed instances of transport while the Nunamiut and Kua data-sets represent discarded bone assemblages that were scavenged by carnivores. Thus the Nunamiut and Kua sets represent a first stage in bone destruction after discard by people, and this would be followed by further destruction as such assemblages are transformed into archaeological samples. This result, when joined to taphonomic data on skeletal element survival, leads to a general model of bone survival that separates skeletal elements into two groups: 1) a low-survival set defined by a lack of non-cancellous thick cortical portions, and 2) a high-survival set defined by the presence of thick cortical bone portions lacking cancellous bone. The archaeological representation of the low survival set is primarily the product of post-discard destructive processes, and most low survival elements also belong to the high cost set. The relative abundance of the high survival elements in archaeological contexts is primarily the product of what was discarded after processing, and most of these belong to the low cost set. Foraging theory needs to be linked to the realities of skeletal element survival and destruction as understood in taphonomy, connecting the general and middle range theory, respectively. We need a synthetic taphonomic-foraging theory model, and we provide some foundations for that model here.

Free Download

Quantitative Fidelity of Brachiopod-Mollusk Assemblages from Modern Subtidal Environments of San Juan Islands, USA.

Michal Kowalewski, Monica Carroll, Lorraine Casazza, Neal S. Gupta, Bjarte Hannisdal, Austin Hendy, Richard A. Krause Jr., Michael LaBarbera, Dario G. Lazo, Carlo Messina, Stephaney Puchalski, Thomas A. Rothfus, Jenny Sälgeback, Jennifer Stempien, Rebecca C. Terry, Adam Tomašových.


[+info] VOLUME 1. NUMBER 1. APRIL 2003 (4 issue)

Whereas a majority of previous fidelity studies have dealt exclusively with mollusks, this study evaluates the compositional fidelity of mixed brachiopod-mollusk benthic assemblages sampled from the San Juan Islands area (Washington State, USA). A total of ca. 2500 live specimens and over 7500 shells and shell fragments were recovered from nine samples dredged along a subtidal transect. The shell material was dominated by fragments; less than 500 dead specimens were represented by complete valves or shells. The compositional fidelity was high: over 60% of live species and over 70% of live genera were also found in the death assemblage and over 60% of dead species and genera were represented in the life assemblage. These high numbers were consistent for all analyzed size fractions (2.3, 4, and 12mm). The life and death assemblages displayed a significant Spearman rank correlation (r = 0.41, p = 0.0001) suggesting that, despite the biasing action of taphonomic processes and time-averaging, the relative abundance of species in the original communities is at least partly preserved in the resulting death assemblages. The results also indicate that a restrictive analytical approach, with fragments excluded from the datasets, appears to provide more credible estimates of diversity and fidelity than an exhaustive approach, which included all fragments. Differences between the two analytical strategies most likely reflect the presence of several genera (e.g., Chlamys), which were readily identifiable from fragments (the five most abundant species in the exhaustive death assemblage were all identifiable from even small and heavily altered fragments). The “Chlamys effect” illustrates a general principle, because species often vary in their morphological distinctness, the inclusion of fragments is likely to notably distort the taxonomic composition of the studied death (or fossil) assemblages and may depress estimates of diversity and evenness. This study suggests that mixed brachiopod-mollusk associations are reasonably well preserved in the death assemblage in terms of taxonomic composition and rank abundance of dominant taxa. Moreover, despite considerable microstructural and compositional differences between brachiopod and mollusk shells, the class-level fidelity is excellent when fragments are excluded from the analysis. The results are highly congruent with patterns observed previously in fidelity studies focused exclusively on mollusks.

Free Download

The Taphonomist´s Corner | Hungry Lions.

Manuel Domínguez-Rodrigo.

Free Download

Volumen 4. Number 1. Year 2006.

2019-11-06T21:39:05+02:00October 26th, 2019|Volumen 4. Number 1. Year 2006.|

VOLUME 4. NUMBER 1. 2006

Dissolution Behavior of Calcareous Nannoplankton and Possible Alteration of Their Assemblages.

Kyoma Takahashi-Shimase, Satoru Nakashima.


[+info] VOLUME 4. NUMBERS 1. 2006 (1 issue)

In order to evaluate alteration of calcareous nannoplankton assemblages during their deposition-diagenesis, a dissolution experiment of calcareous nannoplankton from a marine sediment sample was carried out. An assemblage of calcareous nannoplankton (coccoliths) found in surface sediments taken from the Caribbean Sea was put in stirred pure water with a fixed ionic strength (0.7 mol/l KCl) at 27.5°C to trace their dissolution behaviors. Temporal changes in pH and Ca concentration during the dissolution experiment indicated that the dissolution kinetics were similar to those found in the simple calcite system. By counting numbers of different species and taxonomic groups, the apparent dissolution rates were determined for each species and taxonomic group. The obtained individual dissolution rates differ among different species and taxonomic groups up to a factor of about 9. The resulted nannoplankton assemblages after dissolution were therefore very different from the original ones. This implies that the fossil assemblage can be altered during the deposition-diagenesis by carbonate dissolution processes.

Download [Restricted Access]

The Taphonomy of the Micromammals from the Late Middle Pleistocene Site of Hoedjiespunt 1 (Cape Province, South Africa).

Thalassa Matthews, John E. Parkington, Christiane Denys.


[+info] VOLUME 4. NUMBERS 1. 2006 (2 issue)

The palaeontological site of Hoedjiespunt 1 (HDP1) has been dated to the late Middle Pleistocene. The rich mammalian fauna, recovered from the site, including four hominid teeth, is believed to have been accumulated by a hyaena. Micromammals were recovered from within the same horizons as the macro fauna. Previous analyses of the micromammals from the hyaena lair did not include a taphonomic analysis, and the agent of accumulation was assumed to be the hyaena responsible for the accumulation of the larger mammals. This assumption had not, however; been verified by a taphonomic analysis of the micromammal assemblages. A taxonomic and taphonomic study was thus carried out on the HDP1 micromammals in order to identify the predator(s) or agents responsible for the micromammal accumulation, and to evaluate the suitability of the assemblage for palaeoenvironmental analysis. The general pattern of species distribution of the murids from the two main fossil-bearing horizons at Hoedjiespunt 1 suggests that the micromammals have come from the same, original assemblage. The similarity observed in the micromammal taxonomy of these horizons is echoed in the taphonomy. The digestion on prey incisors, together with the range and activity patterns of prey species, suggests that the predator responsible for the fossil accumulation was a barn owl. The assemblage may provide a brief window into the micromammal population living on the west coast, in the immediate vicinity of the site, during the late Middle Pleistocene.

Download [Restricted Access]

Middle-Range Theory in Paleolithic Archaeology: The Past and the Present.

Levent Atici


[+info] VOLUME 4. NUMBERS 1. 2006 (3 issue)

Middle-range theory (MRT), as the concept of intermediate theory between observed empirical data and general theories, was first formulated by the sociologist R.K. Merton in the context of the positivist waves of the 1960s as a reaction to the doctrinaire and descriptive paradigms of previous decades. Among the first archaeologists to employ this concept was L.R. Binford, whose work was particularly influential in the subsequent development of MRT in archaeology. Understanding site formation processes and the mechanisms responsible for generating, modifying and destroying traces of the past has been equated with MRT, particularly in Paleolithic archaeology. The development of MRT has played a crucial role in the formation and elaboration of field techniques, research designs, and new methodologies and, as such, has stimulated new directions and new questions in Paleolithic archaeology. This paper elaborates the definition of middle-range theory and discusses its development and application by archaeologists. Relevant components of MRT such as ethnographic analogy, ethnoarchaeology, experimental archaeology, taphonomy, and uniformitarianism are addressed, and some representative case studies are presented.

Download [Restricted Access]

Volumen 4. Number 2. Year 2006.

2019-11-06T21:39:50+02:00October 26th, 2019|Volumen 4. Number 2. Year 2006.|

VOLUME 4. NUMBER 2. 2006

Evidence of High-Frequency Storm Disturbance in the Middle Devonian Arkona Shale, Southwestern Ontario.

Cameron J. Tsujita, Carlton E. Brett, Michael Topor, John Topor.


[+info] VOLUME 4. NUMBERS 2. 2006 (1 issue)

The importance of storms as agents of deposition and erosion is obvious in many ancient offshore marine
successions. Indeed, storm-generated shell beds are among the most prominent small-scale features in
otherwise monotonous successions, particularly those dominated by mudstones. Shell beds are usually
interpreted as products of rare episodes of storm-generated disturbance punctuating long periods (tens, to
hundreds, to thousands of years) of quiescence, the shell beds representing storms of greatest severity.
The taphonomic attributes of shell beds in the Middle Devonian Arkona Shale (southwestern
Ontario) indicate that even “simple” shell beds can have complex histories. Shell-rich beds dominated by
well-preserved remains of small rugose corals, spiriferid brachiopods, and a variety of crinoids, are
commonly associated with pavements of shell debris reworked by earlier storms. Taphonomic dissection
of five examples, informally called the lower Arthroacantha bed, the in situ Mucrospirifer bed, the upper
Arthroacantha bed, the auloporid bed, and the Microcyclus bed, reveals a common theme; initial priming
of the seafloor by one or more storms, was followed by colonization of the primed substrate by shelly
benthic fauna which, in turn, was followed by final disturbance and burial of the faunal remains by a later
For storms to have produced multiple signatures in single shell beds of the Arkona Shale, the
frequencies of seafloor disturbance must have been very high, probably on the order of a few years.
Such frequencies are much higher than those implied by stratigraphic occurrences of conspicuous shell beds
(i.e., without considering internal features of the shell beds). This implies that individual shell beds do
not necessarily represent the most severe storms recorded in mudstone successions but can, in some
cases, merely represent the most obvious products of storm disturbance by virtue of their shell content.
Regardless of storm severity, the disturbance of a muddy seafloor lacking abundant shell material would
produce an indistinct mud-on-mud contact that would be much less likely to be noticed than a shell-rich
horizon. By the same token, both low-magnitude (but high-frequency) storms and high magnitude (but
low-frequency) storms can produce shell beds, provided that sufficient shell material is available for
reworking. Obviously, the key to the formation of shell-rich horizon is an abundance of shelly material
on the seafloor. For this, a cause other than storm deposition must be sought; in most cases, these beds
also record interludes of relative sediment starvation and increased seafloor oxygenation.
Interpretations of storm severity from storm-generated shell beds should therefore be approached with
caution and be considered in context of the faunal dynamics and depositional characteristics of a
sedimentary succession as a whole.

Download [Restricted Access]

The Taphonomy of Owl-Deposited Fish Remains and the Origin of the Homestead Cave Ichthyofauna.

Jack M. Broughton, Virginia I. Cannon, Shannon Arnold, Raymond J. Bogiatto, Kevin Dalton.


[+info] VOLUME 4. NUMBERS 2. 2006 (2 issue)

We report a case of fish prey dominating the diet of modern barn owls (Tyto alba) and conduct a
descriptive taphonomic analysis on the fish remains the owls deposited. From a sample of 14 barn owl
pellets collected on the floor of a Nevada barn, we identified 3294 tui chub (Gila bicolor) bones. These
remains, derived from very small-sized fish, comprised nearly 90% of the total pellet NISP and were
characterized by relatively complete skeletal part representation, and minimal bone fragmentation and
digestive surface damage. We use this data-set, along with tui chub samples deposited by other agents,
to evaluate the origin of fish remains derived from late Quaternary deposits of Homestead Cave, located
in the northern Bonneville Basin, Utah. Quantitative comparisons of skeletal part representation and
digestive damage show that the Homestead Cave fish assemblage is statistically indistinguishable from
the owl-derived collection but different from chub samples originating from coyote (Canis latrans) scat
and human faeces. Qualitative evaluations of other agents also suggest an owl-based origin of the fauna.
Our analysis calls attention to the important role that owls can play in depositing fish in caves and
rockshelters and provides useful information to researchers interested in deciphering the taphonomic
history of fish remains recovered from these settings around the world.

Download [Restricted Access]

Success in Identification of Experimentally Fragmented Limb Bone Shafts: Implications for Estimates of Skeletal Element Abundance in Archaeofaunas.

Travis R. Pickering, Charles P. Egeland, Amy G. Schnell, Daniel L. Osborne, Jake Enk.


[+info] VOLUME 4. NUMBERS 2. 2006 (3 issue)

A strong pattern of high hindlimb representation (especially tibiae) was recognized in our survey of
zooarchaeological analyses that included limb bone shafts in estimates of element abundance in
assemblages from the Old and New Worlds, from widely spread time periods and with various hominid
species that acted as bone accumulators. Inter-element differences in bone mineral density and carcass
transport behavior by hominids do not explain the pattern satisfactorily. We hypothesized that shaft
fragments of hindlimb elements (especially tibiae) might be more “intrinsically identifiable” than are
fragments from other limb bones, and constructed an experiment to test this idea. Whole limb bones
were sectioned into shaft fragments of various sizes using a bandsaw. An experienced faunal analyst
(TRP), who was uninvolved in the bone selection and preparation, was required to identify the fragments
as accurately as possible to specific skeletal element. Identification bouts were divided into 14 individual
sorts, each consisting of 24 randomly assigned specimens. Sorts were constructed to replicate an
increasing degree of communition across three stages: two “Stage I” sorts contain large specimens, four
“Stage II” sorts contain smaller specimens and eight “Stage III” sorts contain the smallest specimens.
Refitting and guessing were not allowed and fragments identified to a non-element-specific category
(i.e.: upper limb segment, humerus or femur; intermediate limb segment, radius or tibia; lower limb
segment, metacarpal or metatarsal; limb bone shaft only) were not counted as a correct identification.
Of 336 total specimens, 195 (58.0 %) were correctly identified to element. Overall, the differences in
proportions of skeletally identified fragments for all six elements are not statistically significant. This
finding seemingly falsifies the hypothesis that shaft fragments from hindlimb elements (especially
tibiae) are more intrinsically identifiable than are fragments of other limb bones. However, our study
also highlights the need for additional testing of the hypothesis since most actual archaeofaunas preserve
many more specimens with complete or nearly complete diaphyseal circumference than does our
experimental sample, which is composed entirely of specimens with preserving <50 % of their original
circumferences. Our results suggest that bone specimen cross-sectional information, mostly lacking in
the experimental sample but not in real archaeofaunas, is one of the most important classes of data on
which accurate identification of shaft fragments are made.

Download [Restricted Access]

Volumen 9. Number 2. Year 2011.

2019-11-06T22:56:10+02:00October 26th, 2019|Volumen 9. Number 2. Year 2011.|

VOLUME 9. NUMBER 2. 2011

The Likely Accumulators of Bones: Five Cape Porcupine Den Assemblages and the Role of Porcupines in the Post-Member 6 Infill at Sterkfontein, South Africa.

Hannah J. O’Regan, Kathleen Kuman, Ronald J. Clarke.


[+info] VOLUME 9. NUMBERS 2. 2011 (1 issue)

The Cape porcupine, Hystrix africaeaustralis, is an acknowledged accumulator of bones in southern Africa. Here we examine porcupine accumulated material from five localities in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, including a re-analysis of the Nossob lair published by Brain (1981). These results are then compared to a Mid-Late Pleistocene assemblage (L/63) from Post-Member 6 at Sterkfontein. The taphonomic analyses indicate that porcupines are indiscriminate collectors of bones and other items. Unlike many other vertebrate bone accumulators porcupines do not appear to have a collection size bias, as the species represented in the assemblages range in body mass from >0.14kg to <940kg. Not all bones collected had been gnawed, and we propose a threshold of >60% gnawed bones is needed to establish that material has been collected by Cape porcupines rather than as a result of a number of other sources. Of the macrovertebrate component of the L/63 fossil assemblage, only 149 specimens exhibited porcupine gnawing (11%), while that number rose to 263 (6.97%) of the total NISP and fragment count (n= 3775). This is well below the threshold proposed in this analysis and in the published literature, indicating that porcupines are unlikely to have been a primary contributor to the L/63 assemblage. The possible role of porcupines in creating and maintaining mosaic environments through their foraging activities is also discussed.

Download [Restricted Access]

The Functioning of a Natural Faunal Trap in a Semi-Arid Environment: Preliminary Investigations of WZM-1, a Limestone Sinkhole Site Near Wadi Zarqa Ma’in, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

James T. Pokines, April Nowell, Michael S. Bisson, Carlos E. Cordova, Christopher J. H. Ames.


[+info] VOLUME 9. NUMBERS 2. 2011 (2 issue)

Preliminary taphonomic investigations were carried out at the site of Wadi Zarqa Ma'in 1 (WZM-1), at 31o37'N, 35o43'E, approximately 730 m above mean sea level and 10 km south-southwest of Madaba, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. This large, open sinkhole is a natural faunal trap and raptor roosting site, accumulating significant faunal remains within deposits likely reaching well into the Pleistocene. The Minimum Number of Individuals (MNI) of identified megafauna and microfauna totals 629, with a minimum of 30 taxa represented. Nine actual or potential vectors of faunal introduction were identified, including prey of roosting raptors, natural mortality of sinkhole inhabitants, accidental falling, and deliberate introduction of dead animals by humans. Roosting raptors include barn owl (Tyto alba), the prey remains of which yielded the majority of the species diversity and total MNI. This site offers a unique opportunity to collect data on the on-going function of a prolific faunal trap in a semi-arid Near East environment, and multiple significant taphonomic considerations can be drawn from it for the analysis of both its own deposits and those of similar karst features.

Download [Restricted Access]

Taphonomy of Bones from Baboons Killed and Eaten by Wild Leopards in Mapungubwe National Park, South Africa.

Travis Rayne Pickering, Jason L. Heaton, Sarah E. Zwodeski, Kathleen Kuman.


[+info] VOLUME 9. NUMBERS 2. 2011 (3 issue)

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.

Download [Restricted Access]

The Taphonomist´s Corner: Bone surface marks: beyond inferences of carcass consumption?

Travis R. Pickering, Jason L. Heaton, Colin Menter.


Download [Restricted Access]