Volumen 2. Issue 1-4. Year 2004.

2020-03-27T20:44:52+02:00octubre 26th, 2019|Volumen 2. Issue 1-4. Year 2004.|

VOLUME 2. NUMBERS 1-4. 2004 [Special volume on Debating Issues of Equifinality in Ungulate Skeletal Part Studies. N. D. Munro & G. Bar-Oz (eds.)]

Debating Issues of Equifinality in Ungulate Skeletal Part Studies.

Natalie D. Munro, G. Bar-Oz.


[+info] VOLUME 2. ISSUE 1-4. 2004 (1 issue)

This paper introduces a collection of 11 papers originally presented in a symposium held at the 2004 meeting of the Society for American Archaeology. The papers debate and propose solutions for multiple aspects of equifinality in ungulate skeletal part studies and focus on four primary themes: (1) theoretical issues of equifinality; (2) methods for generating skeletal part frequencies; (3) the tools for analyzing skeletal part frequencies; and (4) attritional biases caused by natural and cultural taphonomic agents. Although debate continues over the methods used to quantify and analyze ungulate skeletal parts, most participants agree on the need for detailed publication of raw bone portion counts and bone portion coding and quantification methods.

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The Concept of Equifinality in Taphonomy.

R. Lee Lyman.


[+info] VOLUME 2. ISSUE 1-4. 2004 (2 issue)

The term "equifinality" was coined by Ludwig von Bertalanffy as he worked to develop general system theory. In 1949 he defined equifinality as reaching the "same final state from different initial states" in an open system, one capable of "exchanging materials with its environment." Taphonomists have typically defined equifinality as reaching the same final state from different initial conditions and in different ways, without consideration of whether a system was open or closed. Natural historical processes involving organic tissues comprise open systems. Whether two alternate taphonomic hypotheses can be distinguished or not can be construed as a problem of taphonomic equifinality, or it can be construed as a problem of statistical indistinguishability. For both, the epistemological problem reduces to one of classification. The production of much greater knowledge and understanding of the many reasons (cause-effect relations) why skeletal part frequencies vary has resulted from use of the equifinality concept because that concept demands innovative analyses of previously unimagined variables.

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Measuring Skeletal Part Representation in Archaeological Faunas.

Donald K. Grayson, Carol J. Frey.


[+info] VOLUME 2. ISSUE 1-4. 2004 (3 issue)

Most analyses of relative skeletal abundances in archaeological contexts are based on units derived, in one way or another, from the number of identified specimens (NISP): the minimum number of elements (MNE), the "minimal animal unit" (MAU), and the skeletal-element based minimum number of individuals (MNI). MNE values can be interpreted as if they were the results of a sampling exercise, telling us the chances that specimens drawn from a population of NISP values match in some specified way. Since this is the case, MNE values should scale to the NISPs for the body part involved. Since MAUs are generally calculated by standardizing MNE values by the number of times the part occurs in the skeleton, and MNIs by a combination of this and both age- and side-matching, there should be a very predictable relationship between the values of NISP, MNE, MAU, and MNI within any given assemblage. Using a series of assemblages from South Africa, Iran, and France, we show that this is, in fact, the case.

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Distinguishing Selective Transport and In Situ Attrition: A Critical Review of Analytical Approaches.

Naomi Cleghorn, Curtis W. Marean.


[+info] VOLUME 2. ISSUE 1-4. 2004 (4 issue)

Skeletal element frequencies are at once enticing sources of behavioral information and thorny taphonomic dilemmas. Many archaeofaunal assemblages combine some degree of selective transport and in situ attrition, both of which affect the relative representation of elements. In addition, some analytical methods may add their own signature, further complicating the analysis of the element profile (Marean et al., this volume). Three methods have been applied to the problem of distinguishing attrition from selective transport: the Anatomical Region Profile (ARP), the Analysis of Bone Counts by Maximum Likelihood (ABCML), and the high and low survival element set model. We find that the ARP technique fails to perform as suggested. The ABCML is an innovative and promising line of inquiry, but is currently limited by methodological and theoretical shortcomings. The high and low survival set model appears to be an effective approach to analysis, but the actualistic tests of its power are still limited. We conclude that sensitivity to the issue of differential intra-element survival is key to future research into this problem.

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Skeletal Element Equifinality in Zooarchaeology Begins with Method: The Evolution and Status of the «Shaft Critique».

Curtis W. Marean, Manuel Domínguez-Rodrigo, Travis Rayne Pickering.


[+info] VOLUME 2. ISSUE 1-4. 2004 (5 issue)

The most common pattern of skeletal part representation described for zooarchaeological assemblages is a head-dominated or head and foot-dominated sample (Type II assemblages). Although an important early study by C.K. Brain (1969) suggested strongly that such a pattern might be mediated by skeleton-wide variation in bone density, this conclusion was under-appreciated for nearly twenty years. Instead, a majority of researchers working on Type II assemblages that are widely separated by geography and archaeological time argued in each case that the pattern was a by-product of foraging strategies used by hominins. In response, a small group of researchers expanded on Brain's pioneering work, concluding that the Type II pattern is actually instead a methodological artifact caused by (1) a combination of taphonomic factors that selectively destroy bone portions based on relative density and (2) analytical procedures that subsequently selectively bias against those same bone portions. Here we discuss in detail specific methodological and data recording recommendations that should eliminate the identified analytical problems and assist zooarchaeologists in assessing the degree of bias in the published work of other researchers.

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The Fallibility of Bone Density Values and Their Use in Archaeological Analyses.

Y. M. Lam, O. M. Pearson.


[+info] VOLUME 2. ISSUE 1-4. 2004 (6 issue)

As a proxy measure of resistance to destructive processes, bone density has played a central role in the discussion of equifinality and faunal representation. Bone density data sets have been derived for a diverse range of species, providing zooarchaeologists with a framework for assessing the occurrence of density-mediated destructive processes. These data sets vary tremendously in accuracy. In addition, the representation of the density of a bone portion as a single number -while convenient for quantitative analyses- obscures by oversimplification the many factors that affect the derivation of density values, a complicated process subject to multiple potential sources of variation and error. Density data sets and methods of quantitative analysis must be chosen with care, and the reasons for these choices made explicit. At the same time, it must be recognized that, despite the amount of attention that it has received, density is only one of many variables that affect the ability of a bone to restrict destruction.

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A Comparison of Photon Densitometry and Computed Tomography Parameters of Bone Density in Ungulate Body Part Profiles.

Mary C. Stiner.


[+info] VOLUME 2. ISSUE 1-4. 2004 (7 issue)

Biases in ungulate body part representation in archaeofaunas potentially reflect human foraging decisions. However, the signatures of density-mediated attrition of body parts and human selectivity in response to nutritional content can overlap to a significant extent. Zooarchaeologists' techniques for analyzing skeletal representation for density-dependent biases must either address differential resistance among distinct skeletal macro-tissue classes, or compare skeletal representation within a narrower density range that is widely distributed in the skeleton. This presentation examines the potential comparability of bone density parameters obtained by photon densitometry (PD) and computed tomography (CT) within limb elements and across regions of the whole skeleton. "Unadjusted" parameters obtained by PD and CT techniques are in reasonably good agreement, and these parameters yield similar results when applied to patterns of skeletal representation in Mediterranean faunas generated by Paleolithic humans and Pleistocene spotted hyenas. More significant than the technique for measuring density in modern mammal skeletons is whether the density parameter values have been adjusted, arguably to compensate for problems of shape and the presence of large internal voids in limb bone tubes. The results of systematic comparison of density parameter variation among published sources, and their application to prehistoric cases accumulated by diverse agents, contradict the great preservation differential between spongy and compact bone specimens suggested by certain captive hyena experiments and the Mousterian fauna from Kobeh Cave (Iran). Only the adjustments made to the CT parameters for limb shafts (BMD2) accommodate the latter cases.

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Equifinality, Assemblage Integrity and Behavioral Inferences at Verberie.

James G. Enloe.


[+info] VOLUME 2. ISSUE 1-4. 2004 (8 issue)

Body part representation is often used to identify site function, particularly transport to or transport from kill sites. Taphonomic research has indicated that a number of pre- and post-depositional agencies can result in similar part representation, largely a function of bone density, which can be measured in a variety of ways. A number of procedures for measuring bone density are discussed and applied to a late Upper Paleolithic faunal assemblage from Verberie, France. Comparisons of those densities with percent survivorship of reindeer bones from the archaeological site indicate that density-mediated attrition, most commonly associated with equifinality, is not primarily responsible for the skeletal element representation. A reverse bulk utility curve suggests that high and medium nutritional value skeletal elements were removed from this hunting site for subsequent processing and consumption elsewhere.

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Applied Models and Indices vs. High-Resolution, Observed Data: Detailed Fracture and Fragmentation Analyses for the Investigation of Skeletal Part Abundance Patterns.

Alan K. Outram.


[+info] VOLUME 2. ISSUE 1-4. 2004 (9 issue)

The history and development of skeletal part abundance studies is briefly discussed. Two principal strands of this sub-discipline are the application of indices of food utility and bone mineral density to the interpretation of skeletal part abundance patterns. Both food utility and bone mineral density indices are derived from modern observations, underwritten by uniformitarian assumptions, and are used to model behavioural and taphonomic patterns in the selection and survival of bone elements. The application of such models is critiqued. It is argued that, whilst such models remain extremely valuable, they will always suffer from equifinality with regard to end interpretations. The solution to this problem does not lie in improving these models, or the data they derive from, though this may be desirable, but in the more time-consuming option of improving the resolution of archaeologically observed data. Several ways of doing this are briefly discussed. One of these options, fracture and fragmentation analysis, is outlined in detail. Sample applications of such an approach are presented and discussed. These include the use of fracture and fragmentation analysis to identify specific practices that can severely skew skeletal part abundances, such as bone grease rendering, and the identification of levels of pre-depositional and post-depositional fracturing within the taphonomic history of bone assemblages.

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The Derivation and Application of White-Tailed Deer Utility Indices and Return Rates.

T. Cregg Madrigal.


[+info] VOLUME 2. ISSUE 1-4. 2004 (10 issue)

Utility indices have long been used to interpret ungulate body part representation at archaeological sites. The use of return rates, which are a more appropriate measure for studies of foraging efficiency, have been used less frequently. Until recently, zooarchaeologists interested in the prehistoric use of white-tailed deer were forced to use utility indices developed from other species. In this paper, the derivation and application of utility indices and return rates for white-tailed deer are discussed and two recently derived white-tailed deer utility indices are compared.

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Beyond Cautionary Tales: A Multivariate Taphonomic Approach for Resolving Equifinality in Zooarchaeological Studies.

Guy Bar-Oz, Natalie D. Munro.


[+info] VOLUME 2. ISSUE 1-4. 2004 (11 issue)

We describe a multivariate approach that reconstructs the taphonomic histories of zooarchaeological assemblages. The approach applies a sequence of zooarchaeological analyses to bone assemblages to determine the most significant agents of assemblage formation. By examining the differential survivorship of bones from subgroups within an assemblage, problems of equifinality in skeletal part studies can be overcome. The multivariate approach follows three primary analytical stages including: a) a descriptive stage that summarizes the representation of key taphonomic variables of each assemblage; b) an analytical stage that investigates the completeness and fragmentation of skeletal parts; and c) a comparative stage that evaluates taphonomic variation amongst subgroups within a zooarchaeological assemblage. In a case study of six Epipaleolithic assemblages from the southern Levant, the multivariate approach reveals that intensive bone processing by humans for marrow and possibly grease was the primary determinant of gazelle bone survivorship, while small game taxa experienced independent taphonomic histories.

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Body Part Representation and Seasonality: Sheep/Goat, Bird and Fish Remains From Early Neolithic Ecsegfalva 23, SE Hungary.

Anne Pike-Tay , László Bartosiewicz, Erika Gál, Alasdair Whittle.


[+info] VOLUME 2. ISSUE 1-4. 2004 (12 issue)

Assessments of site seasonality have increasingly relied upon three methods: 1) the presence or absence of seasonally available fauna, the oldest, most widely-used approach; 2) the population structure method, which relies upon the seasonal variation in the age and sex composition of the animals exploited; and 3) techniques such as skeletochronology or dental growth-increment studies. With all three methods, issues of equifinality result from the variability in body part representation. Cultural actions such as differential transport, modes of butchery, storage and culinary practices, in addition, natural taphonomic agents, also result in uneven body part representation, which can lead to false seasonal patterns. The consonance between different seasonality data for caprines and fish suggest that spring to fall occupations must have played a serious role in shaping the Neolithic animal bone deposits from Ecsegfalva 23, Hungary. Tooth sectioning data on caprines add late winter to this time interval. Finally, the broad seasonal spectrum of avian remains is potentially indicative of a year-round occupation.

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Volumen 6. Issue 3-4. Year 2008.

2020-03-28T19:19:43+02:00octubre 26th, 2019|Volumen 6. Issue 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. ISSUE 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. ISSUE 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. ISSUE 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. ISSUE 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. ISSUE 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. ISSUE 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 8. Issue 2-3. Year 2010.

2020-03-28T19:21:15+02:00octubre 26th, 2019|Volumen 8. Issue 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. ISSUE 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. ISSUE 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. ISSUE 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. ISSUE 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. ISSUE 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. ISSUE 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. ISSUE 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. ISSUE 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. ISSUE 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. ISSUE 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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