Volumen 3. Number 2-3. Year 2005.

2019-11-06T21:37:05+02:00October 26th, 2019|Volumen 3. Number 2-3. Year 2005.|

VOLUME 3. NUMBER 2-3. 2005 [Special Issue: On Archaeology and Actualism Editors: Briana Pobiner & David Braun

Special Issue. On Archaeology and Actualism Editors: Briana Pobiner & David BraunEditors: Briana Pobiner & David Braun.

Applying Actualism: Considerations for Future Research.

Briana L. Pobiner, David R. Braun.


[+info] VOLUME 3. NUMBERS 2-3. 2005 (1 issue)

This paper serves as an introduction and discussion of a collection of five papers originally presented in a symposium held at the 69th meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in 2004 entitled "Applied actualism: Experimental studies of hominid activity traces". These papers primarily present actualistic studies aimed at addressing questions of hominin carcass processing activities, generally using cutmark data. They serve as a reminder of the utility and importance of actualistic studies to test hypotheses of hominin behavior using zooarchaeological and taphonomic data. We review the manner in which actualism is used in these various studies of human butchery practices to construct models to generate test implications for the archaeological record. Finally, some considerations for future actualistic work are discussed.

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The Impact of Post-Depositional Processes on Bone Surface Modification Frequencies: A Corrective Strategy and its Application to the Loiyangalani Site, Serengeti Plain, Tanzania.

Jessica C. Thompson


[+info] VOLUME 3. NUMBERS 2-3. 2005 (2 issue)

The frequencies of surface modification such as percussion, cut, and tooth marks on experimental faunal assemblages are not always directly comparable to those in fossil assemblages. Extensive post-depositional modification of bone surfaces may render many of these marks unidentifiable, depressing the overall frequencies or affecting some mark classes more than others. An analysis of the fauna from an open-air Middle Stone Age site on the Loiyangalani River in the Serengeti Plain, Tanzania, illustrates this point. A coding system is presented here that allows the elimination of heavily affected fragments from analysis so that the observed mark frequencies can more closely approximate their original ones.

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The Physics of Cutmarks.

Sheridan L. Potter


[+info] VOLUME 3. NUMBERS 2-3. 2005 (3 issue)

Cutmarks are the most direct evidence of faunal butchery by humans. However, the physical properties of the creation of cutmarks are currently poorly understood. Experiments to quantify the minimum amount of force required to cut through muscle tissue and to produce a visible cutmark on the surface of bone were conducted. Those force values were then correlated with the maximum amount of force exerted by a human butchering with a stone tool. By quantifying such data, archaeologists can better understand the conditions conducive to creating cutmarks. Results show: 1) less force is required to cut through soft tissue when using obsidian as opposed to chert flakes; 2) the average depth of a visible cutmark is 65-80 mm; and 3) on average males can exert a greater maximum force using both large and small stone tools than females, but both can exert forces that far exceed the minimum force requirements tested in this experiment. These results present compelling data regarding the physical processes and agents involved in the formation of a cutmark on a bone, and offer incentive for future studies to be conducted.

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Strengthening the Inferential Link Between Cutmark Frequency Data and Oldowan Hominid Behavior: Results From Modern Butchery Experiments.

Briana L. Pobiner, David R. Braun.


[+info] VOLUME 3. NUMBERS 2-3. 2005 (4 issue)

Cutmark frequencies are often cited in discussions of Oldowan hominid behavior, yet their interpretation remains enigmatic. To strengthen inferences derived from cutmark data, we conducted experiments with Turkana butchers. We test two hypotheses: (1) cutmark frequency is related to the amount of meat present, and (2) cutmark frequency is related to the size of the bone/carcass being butchered. Hypothesis 1 is not supported, while hypothesis 2 is supported. We document a positive correlation between bone/carcass size and cutmark frequency. We therefore advocate treating bones/carcasses of different sizes as analytically discrete units.

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A Study of Cut Marks on Small-Sized Carcasses and its Application to the Study of Cut-Marked Bones from Small Mammals at the FLK Zinj Site.

Manuel Domínguez-Rodrigo, Rebeca Barba.


[+info] VOLUME 3. NUMBERS 2-3. 2005 (5 issue)

Studies of cut marks have long been the subject of controversy regarding their ability to infer hominid carcass exploitation behavior, and the interaction between hominids and carnivores. Previous studies have emphasized the usefulness of cut mark frequency and distribution to reconstruct hominid access to carcasses. Still, one pending issue is how cut mark patterns vary between different carcass sizes (small versus large). This work presents new experimental results in which cut marks on small-sized carcasses are analysed and compared to both 1) experimental samples with larger-sized animals, and 2) the FLK 22 (Zinj) Plio-Pleistocene archaeological site.

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Application of Return Rates to Large Mammal Butchery and Transport among Hunter-gatherers and its Implications for Plio-Pleistocene Hominid Carcass.

Foraging and Site Use.

Charles P. Egeland, Ryan M. Byerly.


[+info] VOLUME 3. NUMBERS 2-3. 2005 (6 issue)

The butchery and bone transport behavior of Plio-Pleistocene hominids has sparked much debate among paleoanthropologists because of the implications these behaviors have for hominid site use and socio-ecology. Contemporary hunter-gatherers provide useful test cases for zooarchaeologists interested in modeling these behaviors prehistorically. Among the set of available utility indices meant to aid in predictions of carcass resource use, return rates may be the most useful, as they estimate the net gain associated with nutrient extraction. This study presents experimentally-derived post encounter return rates associated with the butchery of meat-bearing appendicular skeletal elements from Size Class 2, 3 and 4 ungulates. Combining these new data with published data on marrow extraction allows composite return rates to be calculated. This study applies these data to ethnoarchaeological reports of bone transport among Hadza (Tanzania) and Kua (Botswana) hunter-gatherers. Results indicate that return rate does not systematically correlate with appendicular bone transport among contemporary foragers, suggesting: (1) the difference between zooarchaeologically-meaningful (i.e. individual skeletal elements and element portions) and behaviorally-meaningful (i.e. articulated limb segments) units of analysis exaggerate the differential transport potentials of these skeletal elements and (2) maximizing caloric gain per unit time at the site of carcass acquisition may not be a primary goal. Return rates also do not significantly correlate with skeletal part abundances from a number of important Plio-Pleistocene sites. This in turn suggests that current return rate data are probably not comprehensive enough to adequately account for the many variables influencing transport decisions. Given these findings, we suggest that return rates may be more productively applied to questions of carcass processing instead of carcass transport. Addressing these questions requires an analytical shift from skeletal part abundances to hominid-inflicted bone damage. We therefore integrate experimental return rates with data on surface modifications from some Plio-Pleistocene assemblages and examine the implications for hominid carcass processing and site use.

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Volumen 6. Number 3-4. Year 2008.

2019-11-06T22:44:22+02:00October 26th, 2019|Volumen 6. Number 3-4. Year 2008.|

VOLUME 6. NUMBER 3 & 4. 2008 [THE TAPHONOMY OF BONE-CRUNCHING CARNIVORES. Special issue edited by Charles P. Egeland.]

THE TAPHONOMY OF BONE-CRUNCHING CARNIVORES. Special issue edited by Charles P. Egeland.

Bone-Crunching Carnivores as Taphonomic Agents: An Introduction to a Special Volume of Journal of Taphonomy.

Charles P. Egeland


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Cetaceans from a Possible Striped Hyaena Den Site in Qatar.

Peter Andrews


[+info] VOLUME 6. NUMBERS 3 & 4. 2008 (2 issue)

A small bone assemblage from Qatar is described. The bones were found in a small cave eroded out of marine sediments and the most likely accumulator of the bones was striped hyaena, Hyaena hyaena. Four species of large mammal are represented in the assemblage, striped hyaena, camel, gazelle and the finless porpoise. In addition there were some rodent and bird bones, the origin of which was uncertain. There were 68 identifiable large mammal bones in total, 2 skulls, 6 mandibles, 11 isolated teeth and 23 postcranial elements, together with 26 ear ossicles of the finless porpoise. In addition, 10 indeterminate large mammal bones were collected. The assemblage was identified as a striped hyaena accumulation firstly by the presence of a skull and mandible of this species in the assemblage, and secondly by the nature of the damage and modifications of the bones. The striped hyaena is probably now extinct in Qatar, and one of the bones was dated radiometrically to 580 ± 200 years. This bone showed characteristic signs of desiccation, and it is similar in preservation to the rest of the assemblage. The numbers and sizes of chewing marks are similar to those seen in spotted hyaena assemblages, and particularly when the maximum sizes of marks is taken into account they are distinct from canid chewing marks. The most striking feature of the assemblage is the abundance of finless porpoise skull bones representing at least 13 individuals, and this is taken to indicate that the hyaena was hunting or scavenging along the coast of the Arabian Gulf about 4km from the den site.

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Taphonomic Analysis of a Modern Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta) Den from Nairobi, Kenya.

Amy G. Egeland, Charles P. Egeland, Henry T. Bunn.


[+info] VOLUME 6. NUMBERS 3 & 4. 2008 (3 issue)

This paper provides detailed taphonomic data on a modern spotted hyena (Crocuta croctua) den assemblage collected near Nairobi, Kenya. Weathering data, skeletal part abundances, bone surface modifications, and bone fragmentation data indicate that: (1) spotted hyenas (and other agents) accumulated bones at the locality over many years; (2) density-mediated attrition played an important, though not singular, role in structuring skeletal part patterning; (3) a majority of the carcasses acquired by the hyenas were transported incompletely back to the den; (4) the low level of competition characterizing the den resulted in reduced levels of bone destruction that could potentially be tracked in a similar fossil assemblage. Although these data present interesting possibilities for interpreting fossil bone accumulations, many more dens must be analyzed using similar methods in order to fully realize this potential.

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Taphonomic Analyses of a Hyena Den and a Natural-Death Assemblage Near Lake Eyasi (Tanzania).

Mary E. Prendergast, Manuel Domínguez-Rodrigo.


[+info] VOLUME 6. NUMBERS 3 & 4. 2008 (4 issue)

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.

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Bone-Crunching Felids at the End of the Pleistocene in Fuego-Patagonia, Chile.

Fabiana M. Martin.


[+info] VOLUME 6. NUMBERS 3 & 4. 2008 (5 issue)

The fragmented bone remains of extinct mammals recovered at several late Pleistocene sites in Fuego-Patagonia are analyzed. Indications of human involvement with the bones are not abundant and some of the sites are purely paleontological. However, all of them preserve large carnivore tooth marks. Some of the sites can be explained as accumulations produced by extinct felids.

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Paleoecological Information in Predator Tooth Marks.

Briana L. Pobiner.



[+info] VOLUME 6. NUMBERS 3 & 4. 2008 (6 issue)

This paper reviews the evidence for tooth marks made by sharks, crocodiles, dinosaurs, rodents, and especially mammalian carnivores on modern and fossil bones. The ecological and taphonomic information revealed in tooth marks, including: predator identity, prey preferences, and feeding behavior and ecology are discussed, and a compilation of metric measurements of taxon-specific modern and fossil mammalian carnivore tooth marks from the published literature is also provided. Some recommendations intended to improve the scope and scale of future tooth-damage research are also presented.

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Reanalysis and Reinterpretation of the Kalkbank Faunal Accumulation, Limpopo Province, South Africa.

Jarod M. Hutson, Chester R. Cain.


[+info] VOLUME 6. NUMBERS 3 & 4. 2008 (7 issue)

Previous accounts of the late Pleistocene Kalkbank faunal accumulation cited humans as the primary agent of accumulation. Here we present the first in-depth taphonomic analysis of the fauna. Revised interpretation based on surface modification and bone breakage patterns reflect an overwhelming carnivore presence at the site. The only indications of human involvement with the fauna were a few stone tools and three possible hammerstone percussion marks. Porcupine involvement with the assemblage was considerable, but appears to be secondary to carnivore predation. The site likely represents a serial predation site where carnivores regularly ambushed prey near the margins of an ancient pan. Published accounts of fossil predation hot spots are rare, and much of the available data on these sites originate from modern landscape studies. Evidence from the Kalkbank accumulation suggests that patterns seen at fossil predation hot spots may not conform to patterns observed in modern accumulations.

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The Taphonomist´s Corner: An Unexpected Encounter with a Bone Cruncher.

Amy G. Egeland, Charles P. Egeland.


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Volumen 7. Number 1. Year 2009.

2019-11-06T22:45:10+02:00October 26th, 2019|Volumen 7. Number 1. Year 2009.|

VOLUME 7. NUMBER 1. 2009

Human Chewing Bone Surface Modification and Processing of Small and Medium Prey Amongst the Nukak (Foragers of the Colombian Amazon).

Gustavo Martínez


[+info] VOLUME 7. NUMBERS 1. 2009 (1 issue)

This paper explores aspects related to management and exploitation of faunal resources by the Nukak (Guaviare Department, Colombian Amazon), a hunter-gatherer tropical rain forest group. Although this group hunts a variety of vertebrates, this analysis only focuses on monkey and peccary which are the main species that are exploited. Due to the different sizes of these prey and to non economic factors such as taboos, the Nukak display a wide variety of animal exploitation. Data related to observations on Nukak hunting, butchering, transport, cooking, dismembering process and consumption will be combined with the information coming from the study of bone surface modifications. Thus, human behavior related to the production of bone surface modifications (e.g., cut marks, fractures, burning, chewing, etc.) derived from Nukak prey treatment are discussed. It is also proposed that chewing traits on bone surfaces were produced by humans.

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Taphonomic Aspects of African Porcupines (Hystrix cristata) in the Kenyan Highlands.

Job Munuhe Kibii


[+info] VOLUME 7. NUMBERS 1. 2009 (2 issue)

Three porcupine (Hystrix cristata) burrows were investigated in the tea growing region of central Kenya. Owing to the fact that the region is largely devoid of bones, the porcupines are forced to collect and gnaw discarded plastics. My results contradict the hypothesis that H. africaeaustralis and H. cristata collect and gnaw bone to obtain nutrients. This hypothesis implies that porcupines evolved continuously growing incisors in response to a diet supplemented by hard resources. My findings instead support the hypothesis that porcupines collect and gnaw hard organic and inorganic items as a behavioral adaptation to hone and trim their continuously growing incisors.

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Volumetric BMD Values of Archaeological Human Bone Remains with pQCT and DEXA.

Jorge Alejandro Suby, Ricardo Aníbal Guichon, Gustavo Cointry, José Luis Ferretti.


[+info] VOLUME 7. NUMBERS 1. 2009 (3 issue)

Bone mineral density (BMD) is a mediating factor of some attritional taphonomic processes. In the last few decades BMD has been successfully employed to assess differential preservation in faunal archaeological samples. In contrast, the BMD of human remains was scarcely studied with taphonomic purposes. Moreover, there is some controversy concerning the reliability of the methods proposed to evaluate this bone property. In this study, we determined the human postcranial volumetric BMD (vBMD) of an archaeological assemblage from Tierra del Fuego (Argentina), with peripheral quantitative computed tomography (pQCT) and area BMD with X-ray densitometry (DEXA). Although the pQCT-assessed vBMD values were more accurate and offer important biomechanical references, the information given by the shape-adjusted vBMD values calculated from DEXA aBMD data is also reliable and provides enough resolution for detection of BMD-related taphonomic processes.

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Taphonomic Applications of Georadar.

Ilya V. Buynevick.


[+info] VOLUME 7. NUMBERS 1. 2009 (4 issue)

Taphonomic research, particularly in vertebrate paleontology and archaeology, relies on the analysis of geological context of fossils or artifacts. Ground-penetrating radar is an effective high-resolution subsurface imaging technique that can be used not only for locating buried objects (decimeter-scale or larger), but also for visualizing their in situ geological context. The records often reveal sediment deformation structures around a buried target and allow imaging below the water table, often inaccessible by other methods. This paper presents examples of recent settings (ephemeral inlet channel and active dune) to illustrate the use of georadar in resolving both continuous (geological) and pointsource (three-dimensional objects) features. When complemented with excavations or exposures, subsurface images become an important part of taphonomic investigation by paleontologists and archaeologists.

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The Taphonomist´s Corner: No cut marks, no tooth marks. The anatomical connections at the Gran Dolina site.

Jordi Rossel, Ruth Blasco.


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Volumen 8. Number 1. Year 2010.

2019-11-06T22:49:07+02:00October 26th, 2019|Volumen 8. Number 1. Year 2010.|

VOLUME 8. NUMBER 1. 2010

What Taphonomy Is, What it Isn’t, and Why Taphonomists Should Care about the Difference.

R. Lee Lyman


[+info] VOLUME 8. NUMBERS 1. 2010 (1 issue)

The term "taphonomy" was originally defined by paleontologist I. A. Efremov in 1940 as "the study of the transition (in all its details) of animal remains from the biosphere into the lithosphere." The term evolved to include plant remains because Efremov also indicated that taphonomy concerned the "transition from the biosphere to the lithosphere." The concept and the term were both adopted by zooarchaeologists who were interested in whether modified bones represented prehistoric tools or were concerned about the fidelity of the paleoecological signal of a collection of faunal remains. Until the middle 1970s, the term still meant what Efremov originally intended. When some archaeologists adopted the term to signify the formation and disturbance of the archaeological record and natural modification of artifacts, they caused the term to take on meanings different than those originally specified by Efremov. Taphonomy concerns once living material whereas archaeological formation processes concerns both once living and never living material; taphonomy concerns the transition from living to non-living and geological, so includes both natural and cultural formation processes as either biasing or information laden and of research interest whereas archaeological formation concerns the transition from a living system to a non-living geological one but natural processes are biasing whereas cultural formation processes are of research interest. Taphonomists should quietly inform archaeologists who misuse the term that in so doing they exacerbate confusion and misunderstanding.

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Hyenas Around The City (Kashan, Iran).

Hervé Monchot, Marjan Mashkour.


[+info] VOLUME 8. NUMBERS 1. 2010 (2 issue)

This paper presents a taphonomic study of faunal remains of domestic and wild mammals found in a striped hyaena (Hyaena hyaena) den at Kaftar Khoun in the Karkars Piedmont near the city gate of Kashan (Iran). The Kaftar Khoun faunal assemblage is characterized by a low degree of bone breakage with many of the long bones complete, an intermediate frequency of tooth marking and a moderate amount of weathering damage to the bones. The species list, and mortality profiles of the main taxa, suggests that the hyenas collected remains of domestic stock that died naturally or were hunted/scavenged (e.g. mules, donkeys), while the canids represent prey killed during conflicts over carcasses or were scavenged from road kills. The Kaftar Khoun den offers insights into the behaviour of striped hyenas in peri-urban environments. It shows that their behavioral adaptations are directly connected to modifications in their environment such that it may be considered as a commensal animal associated with human activities.

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The Faunal Analysis of Magubike and Mlambalasi, Two MSA-LSA Archaeological Sites from Iringa District, Tanzania.

Benjamin R. Collins, Pamela R. Willoughby.


[+info] VOLUME 8. NUMBERS 1. 2010 (3 issue)

Magubike (HxJf-01) and Mlambalasi (Hw-Jf-02) are two recently excavated archaeological sites from the Iringa District of southern Tanzania. Both sites contain lithic and faunal materials dating to the Iron Age, Later Stone Age and Middle Stone Age. Magubike and Mlambalasi are extremely unique sites, as they contain the only excavated sequence of Later Stone Age and Middle Stone Age faunal remains outside of northern Tanzania. The current study encompasses a preliminary taphonomic and zooarchaeological analysis of the faunal remains recovered during initial excavations at both sites in July and August of 2006. This research focuses on building a sound taphonomic framework of the formational histories for both sites, thereby allowing inferences to be drawn regarding the subsistence behaviours of the past occupants. The preservational condition of the faunal remains from the LSA and MSA levels currently precludes any insight into the subsistence behaviours from these periods. Subsistence behaviours were determined for the Iron Age assemblages and indicate that Magubike and Mlambalasi were repeatedly used campsites and that both exhibit possible differences in the treatment of small and large animals.

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An Experiment on the Vertical Migration of Archaeological Materials in Clay Deposits.

Santiago Domínguez-Solera.


[+info] VOLUME 8. NUMBERS 1. 2010 (4 issue)

Understanding how materials move under the ground after sedimentation has taken place is still a problem for taphonomists due to the constraints imposed by certain diagenetic processes to create analogical frameworks through experimentation where variables are hard to control. The present study addresses one of these processes and provides important information regarding how bones move horizontally and vertically in clay sedimentary deposits. An experiment was conducted for one year and the clays were exposed to periodic cycles of wetting and drying. The results indicate that plastic sediments are prone to modify the original position of bones. Bones move vertically but mostly without tilting. Vertical tilting is mostly associated with trampling or other (e.g., bioturbation) processes.

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The Taphonomist´s Corner: The scavenger or the scavenged?

Antonio Rodriguez Hidalgo.


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Volumen 8. Number 2-3. Year 2010.

2019-11-06T22:52:33+02:00October 26th, 2019|Volumen 8. Number 2-3. Year 2010.|

VOLUME 8. NUMBER 2-3. 2010 [Paleoanthropological Taphonomy in Southern Africa Travis Rayne Pickering & Amy Egeland (eds.)]

Introduction to the special issue: Paleoanthropological Taphonomy in Southern Africa.

Travis Rayne Pickering, Amy Egeland.


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Taphonomy of the Gondolin GD 2 in situ Deposits and its Bearing on Interpretations of South African Plio-Pleistocene Karstic Fossil Assemblages.

Justin W. Adams


[+info] VOLUME 8. NUMBERS 2&3. 2010 (2 issue)

The GD 2 fossil assemblage was excavated from a densely fossiliferous, calcified in situ hanging remnant adhering to the northwestern corner of the Gondolin cave system in 1979. At present, this sample is the only sizeable (n=95,549) Plio-Pleistocene (~1.8 million years ago) South African karstic-derived faunal assemblage sampled solely from calcified in situ sediments with minimal recovery phase temporal or spatial aggregation. Prior description of the assemblage only briefly addressed the taphonomy of the deposits; this paper presents the first comprehensive taphonomic analysis of the total macromammalian assemblage. The demographic composition and element preservation of the small mammal remains are consistent with autochthonous accumulation through use of the deposition area as habitat. The distribution of large mammal individuals across taxonomic and body size categories, representation of elements, and preserved element modifications are most consistent with allochthonous accumulation by a leopard-like carnivore with only a minor porcupine contribution. Carcasses appear to have been accumulated both relatively whole and directly into the depositional area, likely through use of the GD 2 region as a feeding retreat. Only minimal hydrological or other postdepositional resorting took place prior to excavation, although significant comminution of the assemblage likely occurred during the recovery phase processing of the calcified matrix. Integration of the results with recent interpretations of the Gondolin karstic system and primate-bearing Plio-Pleistocene South African assemblages highlight the fundamentally idiosyncratic nature of individual taphonomic measures and processes that mediated the composition of the macromammalian fossil records in karstic deposits, even those with similar primary accumulative agents or from spatially proximate portions of the same cave system.

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Using Strontium Isotopes to Study Site Accumulation Processes.

Sandi R. Copeland, Matt Sponheimer, Julia A. Lee-Thorp, Darryl J. de Ruiter, Petrus J. le Roux, Vaughan Grimes, Daryl Codron, Lee R. Berger, Michael P. Richards.


[+info] VOLUME 8. NUMBERS 2&3. 2010 (3 issue)

Strontium isotopes (87Sr/86Sr) in tooth enamel reflect the geological substrate on which an animal lived during tooth development. Therefore, strontium isotopes of teeth in fossil cave accumulations are potentially useful in determining whether an animal was native to the vicinity of the site or was brought in by other agents such as predators from farther afield. In this study, we tested the ability of strontium isotopes to help determine the origins of fossil rodents in Gladysvale Cave, South Africa. First, biologically available 87Sr/86Sr ratios were established using modern plants recovered from three geologically distinct areas, the Malmani dolomite, the Hekpoort andesite/basalt, and the Timeball Hill shale, all of which were found to be significantly different. Strontium isotope values were then measured on tooth enamel of rodents from a modern barn owl (Tyto alba) roost in Gladysvale Cave. The results clearly distinguished modern owl roost rodents that came from local dolomite (67%) versus those from other geological zones. We then measured strontium isotope values of enamel from 14 fossil rodent teeth from Gladysvale Cave. The average and range of values for the fossil rodents is similar to that of the modern owl roost rodents. Fifty-seven percent of the fossil rodents probably derived from the local dolomite, while others were brought in from at least 0.8 km away. A pilot study of 87Sr/86Sr ratios of fossil rodent teeth from Swartkrans Member 1 and Sterkfontein Member 4 indicates that 81% and 55% of those rodents, respectively, are from the local dolomite substrate. Overall, this study shows that strontium isotopes can be a useful tool in taphonomic analyses by identifying non-local individuals, and has great potential for elucidating more of the taphonomic history of fossil accumulations in the dolomitic cave sites of South Africa.

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Investigating the Role of Eagles as Accumulating Agents in the Dolomitic Cave Infills of South Africa.

Darryl J. de Ruiter, Sandi R. Copeland, Julia Lee-Thorp, Matt Sponheimer.


[+info] VOLUME 8. NUMBERS 2&3. 2010 (4 issue)

The potential importance of large raptors as accumulators of early hominins was highlighted by the suggestion that the Taung Child was killed and deposited by an eagle (Berger & Clarke [1995] Journal of Human Evolution, 29: 275-299), and it has been hypothesized that eagles might have had a significant impact on the evolution of predator avoidance behaviors in early hominins (Berger & McGraw [2007] South African Journal of Science, 103: 496-498). In this study, we compare skeletal part representation of procaviid and cercopithecid fossils from the dolomitic cave infills of South Africa to a series of modern eagle-derived bone accumulations. We supplement skeletal part analysis with data on strontium isotope ratios (87Sr/86Sr) in the Bloubank Valley that allow us to source fossils to particular geological substrates. Of the fourteen discrete faunal assemblages examined, nine were inconsistent with eagles as accumulators of procaviids or cercopithecids, while five revealed possible, though not definitive, evidence of eagle involvement. A lack of support for eagles as collectors of the smaller mammals that make up their typical prey weakens the hypothesis that eagles represented a significant threat to the larger, presumably more difficult to capture, juvenile hominins. The majority of the animals sampled for 87Sr/86Sr ratios at Swartkrans were consistent with being derived from local dolomites, including four Papio specimens, while we documented a non-local origin for a single procaviid and a single bovid from the Hanging Remnant of Member 1. In contrast, all of the procaviid specimens and a single bovid specimen from Sterkfontein Member 4 exhibited nonlocal strontium signals. Turning to the Taung Child, at present a clear link between it and the original Taung faunal assemblage examined by Raymond Dart cannot be established. In addition, preparation damage cannot be ruled out as the source of several marks on the Taung skull that have been putatively assigned to eagle talon damage. As a result, the hypothesized influence of large raptors such as eagles on the evolution of predator avoidance strategies in early hominins remains intriguing but unsubstantiated.

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A Multivariate Approach for Discriminating Bone Accumulations Created by Spotted Hyenas and Leopards: Harnessing Actualistic Data from East and Southern Africa.

Manuel Domínguez-Rodrigo, Travis Rayne Pickering.


[+info] VOLUME 8. NUMBERS 2&3. 2010 (5 issue)

Hyenas and large felids were important contributors of bones to the Pliocene and Pleistocene paleontological record of South Africa and elsewhere. Thus, discerning the taphonomic signatures of each is of great importance to paleoanthropologists who view those carnivores as predators and/or competitors of early hominins. Several neotaphonomic studies have emphasized characteristics that distinguish faunas created by hyenas and large cats. Recognizing that many of these studies contend or imply independence in variables that are actually interdependent, we conducted multivariate analyses on published data (including prey skeletal part profiles, tooth mark frequencies, anatomical patterning of tooth marks on bones, number of tooth marks per specimen [as a measure of gnawing], ungulate long limb bone [i.e., humeri, radioulnae, femora, tibiae and metapodials]) completeness and bone breakage) to demonstrate that bone accumulating behavior is quite variable for both hyenas and felids. Our results reveal that previously employed analogs are incomplete and transitory, and stress the need for more actualistic work on the topic. That work should lead to more fully realized referential analogs, replacing earlier, inferentially weak ones and providing powerful tools for archaeologists and paleontologists to use in interpreting the formation of fossil faunas. We end our recommendations with tentative endorsement of prey mortality analysis-mediated by application of actualistically derived and taphonomically sensitized prey age frequency data - as an additional method for distinguishing hyena- and leopard-accumulated faunas.

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Taphonomic Fieldwork in Southern Africa and its Application in Studies of the Earliest Peopling of North America.

Gary Haynes, Kathryn E. Krasinski.


[+info] VOLUME 8. NUMBERS 2&3. 2010 (6 issue)

Cutmarked and broken mammoth bones figure prominently in assertions that Homo sapiens dispersed into North America before the appearance of Clovis archeological culture, which is dated about 13 ka. Beside pre-dating Clovis, the bonesites differ from Clovis in that most lack lithic tools. Taphonomic studies, experimental replications, and arguments of plausibility have not perfectly supported or wholly disproved the assertions that the bonesites were created by human actions. Taphonomic and actualistic research in southern Africa reveals a wide range of noncultural and human-generated patterns in breaks, flakes, and cutmarks on modern elephant bones. These studies suggest that many (if not all) of the early modified mammoth remains do not indicate a pre-Clovis human presence.

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Taphonomic Processes of Bone Distribution and Deposition in the Tufa Caves of Taung, South Africa.

Jeffrey K. McKee.


[+info] VOLUME 8. NUMBERS 2&3. 2010 (7 issue)

The tufa caves at Taung create a somewhat unique depositional environment for the bones that are brought in by various taphonomic agents. The Taung hominin skull, type specimen of Australopithecus africanus, and associated fossil fauna must be interpreted within the particular context of such tufa caves. Taphonomic experiments with three animals were conducted to elucidate the nature of bone distribution and deposition in a cave that is similar in nature to those in which Pliocene fossils were deposited. It was found that dry portions of the cave tend to preserve a higher proportion of the skeletal remains, and that the distribution of bones is relatively restricted. Skeletal representation of this nature parallels that found in the densely fossiliferous Hrdlika Deposits at Taung. This contrasts with the wet portion of the cave in which water activity tends to spread bones over a wider area and results in lesser skeletal representation. It may be postulated that fossils of the Taung Dart Deposits, perhaps including the Taung hominin, could have been deposited as water-borne carcasses. This taphonomic process would account for the singularity of the Australopithecus fossil and the sparseness of fossils in the Dart Deposits. Another important conclusion is that, as both dry and wet depositional processes can occur simultaneously in a single cave, sediments are not necessarily reflective of changes in conditions outside of the cave. Therefore, paleoecological interpretations of the Taung fossil sites must take into account the taphonomic agents and immediate conditions of deposition.

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What Taphonomically Oriented Research at Swartkrans Cave Reveals about Early Hominid Behavior.

Travis Rayne Pickering, C. K. Brain.


[+info] VOLUME 8. NUMBERS 2&3. 2010 (8 issue)

The paleoanthropological significance of Swartkrans Cave (South Africa) is as much for the inferences of early Pleistocene hominid behavior it provides as for its large samples of Australopithecus robustus and Homo erectus fossils. Most of those behavioral inferences emanate from the taphonomic studies one of us (CKB) conducted in concert with his 1965-1986 excavations at Swartkrans. After a fieldwork hiatus of 19 years, we are building on that seminal work, with the establishment of the Swartkrans Paleoanthropological Research Project (SPRP), a new round of excavations and laboratory studies at the site. The SPRP has a wide range of goals, including: obtainment of (uranium) U-series dates for speleothems distributed throughout the Swartkrans Formation; more accurate characterization of the technology and function of the site's stone and bone tools; further detailed analyses of the behaviorally informative zooarchaeological assemblages from the cave; continued investigation of burned bones, which might indicate hominid-controlled fire in the early Pleistocene. We review the entirety of this collective work, emphasizing its broader paleoanthropological significance.

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Where the Wild Things Were: Spatial and Temporal Distribution of Carnivores in the Cradle of Humankind (Gauteng, South Africa) in Relation to the Accumulation of Mammalian and Hominin Assemblages.

Sally C. Reynolds


[+info] VOLUME 8. NUMBERS 2&3. 2010 (9 issue)

This paper examines the temporal and spatial distribution patterns of carnivore species in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site, South Africa. These taxa are inferred to have played an active role in the accumulation of the mammalian faunas, including hominins. There are distinct temporal changes in the predominating large carnivores at sites across the Sterkfontein Valley and beyond, although certain assemblages from the Cradle sites show evidence of time-averaging. By the mid-to late Pleistocene, the structure of the carnivore community was altered by the extinction of the three machairodont genera (Dinofelis, Homotherium and Megantereon), the giant hyaena, Pachycrocuta and the hunting hyaena genus Chasmaporthetes. The younger assemblages from Sterkfontein and Swartkrans show increasing proportions of smaller canids and felids. Extant carnivore species show a distinctive prey accumulation bias, depending on the body size and sociality of the species concerned. Social species such as the lion (Panthera leo), spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta) and black-backed jackals (Canis mesomelas) are common in the Cradle deposits, both in time and space, and so were probably resident species in this region. Although present at certain sites, the relative scarcity of cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) and giant short-faced hyaena (Pachycrocuta brevirostris) indicate that these taxa are unlikely to have been permanently resident within the catchment areas of the sites. Certain taxa such as the leopard (Panthera pardus), are present at low levels at the majority of sites, and remain active in the Cradle of Humankind to the present day. These distribution patterns yield insights into the likely contributors to the fossil assemblages of this important region.

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Exotic Minerals or Ostrich Gastroliths? An Alternative Explanation for Some Early Evidence of Hominin Non-Utilitarian Behavior at Wonderwerk Cave, South Africa.

Christian Tryon


[+info] VOLUME 8. NUMBERS 2&3. 2010 (10 issue)

Identifying the onset of symbolic or non-utilitarian behavior remains one of the most important issues in the modern human origins debate, and as such, early evidence requires careful scrutiny. 'Exotic minerals' dating to >350 ka are one of several possible indications of hominin non-utilitarian behavior from Wonderwerk Cave, South Africa. Ecological data suggest an alternate hypothesis that these 'exotic minerals' are ostrich gastroliths accidentally introduced into the cave rather than the result of hominin collection and transport.

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A Taphonomic Study of Ochre Demonstrates Post-depositional Color Transformations.

Lyn Wadley


[+info] VOLUME 8. NUMBERS 2&3. 2010 (11 issue)

The predominance of red ochre over other colors in Middle Stone Age deposits has led archaeologists to suggest that this color was chosen for symbolic reasons. While this may have been the case, replication studies imply that the dominance of red ochre in archaeological deposits can result from either anthropogenic or post-depositional activities. Yellow, brown and orange hydrated iron oxides can be transformed from yellow or brown to red, or shades of red, through heat in simple camp fires. Ochre processing areas and variously colored ochre nodules found at Sibudu Cave, South Africa, confirm the presence of both hydrated and dehydroxylated forms of iron oxide. Replications demonstrate that yellow ochre can transform to red or shades of red when it is buried in sand under a fire. Temperatures of 300 to 400 degrees C can routinely be obtained 5 cm below a small camp fire and temperatures of close to 300 degrees C can even be achieved 10 cm below the centre of a fire. Such conditions are ideal for dehydroxylating iron oxides and transforming their colors. In the past, the transformation may sometimes have been deliberate, but on other occasions ochre nodules or ochre residues present on artefacts may have been heated serendipitously through unintentional proximity to heat; thus fires lit above ancestral camp sites can cause post-depositional change to the colloids or minerals thousands of years after they were used at a site.

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The Taphonomist´s Corner: Paleoanthropoogical taphonomy in Southern Africa.

Travis Rayne Pickering.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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


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