A study was conducted to examine the timing and nature of decay and disarticulation in small vertebrates, using an experimental regime that allowed comparison among different environments, and different size classes of amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Decay and disarticulation of freshly killed small vertebrates was documented in freshwater and seawater aquaria as well as outdoor terrestrial settings protected from scavengers by partially buried cages. Experimental animals included salamanders (two sizes), lizards, finches, doves, mice, rats, squirrels, and rabbits. The study area was hot and dry (southern California), with scattered winter rains. Some specimens of each species in the terrestrial environment were transferred after about one month to one of two other environments - freshwater, or an outdoor terrestrial cage simulating increased rainfall. In water the carcasses' flesh decayed by bacterial action in one to six months, but insect larvae removed the flesh from terrestrial carcasses within two weeks, leaving dry, desiccated carcasses that changed little over a four to 11 month period. The process of decay and disarticulation was greatly affected by differences in properties of the skin between species and the reaction of each type of skin to drying or water saturation. Disarticulation time was shortest in water, followed by the high rainfall treatment, then dry terrestrial environment. The sequence of disarticulation varied considerably, especially in the terrestrial treatment, but heads and limbs tended to separate from the body first, and then individual bones separated from the limbs. Also, the pattern of tooth loss or cracking differed among environments. These data provide an actualistic analogue to assist in the interpretation of some parameters of fossil assemblages, including maximum time between death and burial of partially or fully articulated small vertebrate fossils (about 3 months in water, but over a year in dry terrestrial conditions), or the likely paleoenvironment in which an assemblage accumulated.
The decomposition of two ostrich (Struthio camelus) chicks (body masses 2.1 kg and 11.5 kg) was observed in a terrestrial and an aquatic setting, respectively, in a hot and arid climate with temperatures ranging from 25-40°C. Special attention was given to the observation of the release of gastroliths from the body cavity. The results show that the gastroliths can be set free from carcasses with a body weight <12 kg after relatively short periods (3-6 days), and that a separation in an aquatic environment is likely because of prolonged floating of the carcass.
Experiments with lamb carcasses were used to investigate whether any identifiable "damage signatures" are imparted by wooden spears on bones and whether these differ between a javelin and a thrusting spear. The data from the experiments demonstrated no distinction in damage caused by the two types of spears. Both spears caused high frequencies of saw-toothed fractures on ribs and vertebrae and the javelin inflicted a spiral fracture on a humerus. However, the most conclusive evidence of projectile usage was in the form of puncture wounds on scapulae. Some of the experimental damage recorded is similar to that caused by other taphonomic processes. These experiments illustrate the effectiveness and durability of wooden spears as potential hunting implements and provide insight regarding the tools, technology and subsistence strategies of Middle and Late Pleistocene hominids.
We argue that the evolutionary significance of prehistoric hominid carnivory will be better appreciated if taphonomic tests for evaluating the initial encroachment on the larger carnivoran paleoguild by Oldowan hominids are developed and applied to zooarchaeological assemblages. We propose that the development of taphonomic tests should be guided by three premises: 1) taphonomic measures used to test scenarios of hominid carnivory should be free of interpretive equifinalities; where equifinalities are currently suspected, these must be identified and broken; 2) carnivorans are not a single, homogeneous, taphonomic agent; actualistic research is needed to differentiate the preservable feeding traces of individual carnivore taxa; 3) multiple carnivore species should be assumed to have been involved in creation and modification of bone assemblages; the recognition of the timing and nature of the access of each carnivore to prey carcasses should be sought.
We offer some fundamental steps in developing a methodology to satisfy this research agenda, integrating information from naturalistic observations of carnivoran feeding on mammalian prey carcasses, actualistic studies that simulate the timing of hominid access to these prey carcasses, and functional aspects of presumed carnivoran paleoguilds defined by carcass size-specific edible tissue specialization and bone modification capabilities. We focus on skeletal element and element portion profiles in conjunction with the incidence, anatomical distribution and morphology of tooth marking as the relevant taphonomic measures. The ultimate goal is to diagnose and zooarchaeologically identify unambiguous traces of individual carnivoran taxa and ecological scenarios involving feeding sequences by multiple carnivore taxa, including hominids.
Cetaceans from a Possible Striped Hyaena Den Site in Qatar.
Keywords: BONE ASSEMBLAGE, BONE BREAKAGE, PORPOISE PREDATION, SCAVENGING, PUNCTURE MARKS
[+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.
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.
Taphonomic Analyses of a Hyena Den and a Natural-Death Assemblage Near Lake Eyasi (Tanzania).
Mary E. Prendergast, Manuel Domínguez-Rodrigo.
Keywords: TAPHONOMY, HYENA DEN, NATURAL DEATH, BONE SURFACE MODIFICATIONS, SKELETAL PART PROFILES, EAST AFRICA, CARNIVORES.
[+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.
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.
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.
Reanalysis and Reinterpretation of the Kalkbank Faunal Accumulation, Limpopo Province, South Africa.
Jarod M. Hutson, Chester R. Cain.
Keywords: KALKBANK, TAPHONOMY, CARNIVORES, PREDATION HOT SPOT
[+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.
The Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo): a Fish Bone Accumulator on Pleistocene Cave Sites?
Keywords: FISH BONES, EAGLE OWL, BUBO BUBO, LATE PLEISTOCENE, ACCUMULATION AGENTS
[+info] VOLUME 8. ISSUE 4. 2010 (1 issue)
The Eurasian eagle owl (Bubo bubo) is frequently recognised as an accumulator of skeletal remains on archaeological sites. To date, research on this species as an accumulator has focused on mammalian and avian prey, especially in cases where material could be potentially mistaken for human refuse. Here, the potential for the eagle owl to deposit fish remains on archaeological sites, specifically caves sites in Europe dating to the Late Pleistocene, is considered. Fish remains from Late Pleistocene cave sites are often assumed to represent food waste accumulated by humans, however, taphonomic signatures for fish remains deposited by piscivorous and fish eating faunas have not yet been identified. Using archaeological and ecological research, the potential for the eagle owl to produce fish bone accumulations on Pleistocene cave sites is recognised. Foundations for a taphonomic signature for fish remains produced by the eagle owl are suggested based on recorded fish prey species, associated prey species and likely spatial distribution. Areas for further research are identified.
Keywords: SALMON, ELEMENT SURVIVABILITY, BONE DENSITY, TAPHONOMY, EXPERIMENTAL RESEARCH
[+info] VOLUME 8. ISSUE 4. 2010 (2 issue)
Fish represent an important resource to people living near water sources. However, the visibility of fish remains within the archaeological record is generally considered to be reduced compared with other taxa, in part because of their greater susceptibility to natural processes of taphonomic attrition. This experimental pilot study focused on testing the durability of fish elements by comparing the survivability of denser post-cranial elements with less dense cranial elements in a range of pH solutions. Data obtained from these observations were subjected to a statistical analysis that revealed several trends. No significant difference was observed between the survivability of cranial and post-cranial elements, however, a significant difference was noted for the impact of pH on element survivability. In general, both more acidic and basic environments were observed as detrimental factors for fish element survivability.
Some traditional zooarchaeological analyses assume that faunal assemblages associated with stone tools are basically the result of human behaviour. Under this view, in previous research of the Palaeolithic site of Amalda Cave, the site was defined as a fully anthropogenic assemblage. In this paper, new taphonomic analyses show a different interpretation, since in some cases, the associations of bones and stone tools are created and modified by more than one agent in a succession of events. In Amalda Cave, the high frequencies of tooth marks on some animal bones, in contrast to the marginal percentages of cut and percussion marks, as well as the fragmentation profiles, suggest that carnivores played a major role in the accumulation of small-sized animals. On the other hand, medium-sized and large-sized animals show high percentages of cut marks and other evidences of human behaviour in detriment of carnivore modification. The present review leads to the conclusion that carnivores were the main agent for the accumulation of small-sized animals, while hominids enjoyed a primary access to larger carcasses. This study underscores the crucial role of taphonomy to understand the zooarchaeological record of the Iberian Peninsula.
Taphonomy, as a branch of learning and a research area, has undergone a tremendous growth in the past few decades. It has extended its application from palaeontology to other disciplines, it has broadened its referential scope and has incorporated humans as taphonomic agents. This has affected the way taphonomy is perceived by its practitioners and requires a modification of its definition, following a process that is common in most evolving natural science disciplines.
This papers deals with the analysis of Eurasian badger (Meles meles) remains in an archaeological context. Eurasian badgers dig large burrows as living structures and so the identification of their remains in archaeological context appears doubtful. More than 400 remains of these small carnivores were recovered from Unikoté Cave. This site is assumed to be a hyena den with the occurrence of human remains and lithic artefacts. In this paper, we aimed to: 1) explain how and why so many remains of these carnivores are recognised at Unikoté Cave; 2) evaluate the role of Eurasian badgers in site formation processes and 3) to test the archaeological relevance of a bioturbated site.
A Taphonomic Study of Wild Wolf (Canis lupus) Modification of Horse Bones in Northwestern Spain.
José Yravedra, Laura Lagos, Felipe Bárcena.
Keywords: TAPHONOMY, WOLF, WILD HORSE, HUNTING, SCAVENGING, TOOTH MARKS
[+info] VOLUME 9. ISSUE 1. 2011 (3 issue)
Taphonomic studies of carnivores have become an integral part of taphonomic research in the past two decades. These studies are developing a referential framework for the identification of carnivore signature variety in the fossil record. Hyaenas and felids are predominant in these studies, whereas other carnivores such as wolves have not received as much attention yet. This paper analyses wild horse carcasses processed by wild wolves and discusses the implications for the study of site formation in the Euroasian Pleistocene. Carcasses have undergone different kinds of consumption by wild wolves and show important differences in the degree of bone modification according to wolf hunting and scavenging strategies. The different degree of bone destruction when consumed in one or many events is also discussed.
Neotaphonomic Analysis of the Feeding Behaviors and Modification Marks Produced by North American Carnivores.
Chrissina C. Burke.
Keywords: NEOTAPHONOMY, NORTH AMERICAN CARNIVORES, TOOTH-MARKS, CARNIVORE UTILIZATION, ACTUALISTIC ARCHAEOLOGY, TAPHONOMY, CARNIVORE MODIFICATION
[+info] VOLUME 11. ISSUE 1. 2013 (1 issue)
Tooth marks and bone-breakage caused by carnivores have been important topics of research in African neotaphonomy, but North American research has typically been limited to the effects of wolves. This paper presents the results of actualistic feeding experiments with North American wolves, coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats, grizzly bears, and black bears which were fed articulated limb elements of cattle and sheep. This research illustrates that important differences in feeding behaviors exist between carnivore families. Wolves and coyotes gnaw at soft tissue on bones with their posterior dentition and utilize their paws frequently to hold down limbs for leverage when pulling tissue away. Mountain lions and bobcats do not utilize their paws for leverage to remove flesh and instead gnaw on the entire limb with all their teeth in unison. Black bears employ their paws to hold, grasp, and manipulate the limb to gnaw away at soft tissue with their incisors, and grizzly bears leave impressive furrowing marks on the proximal and distal ends of limb elements. A clear understanding of how each taxon of carnivore uses its dentition and jaws to create bone modification is necessary for distinguishing taxon-specific taphonomic patterns in North American archaeological assemblages.
This paper reviews the use of faunal remains as fabric indicators in fossil-bearing cave deposits. Faunal remains, once deposited underground, conform to colluvial slope particle dynamics and develop recognisable fabric patterns. Assessment of fabric patterns has been shown to be a powerful tool for deciphering depositional processes. The hominid-bearing cave deposits of the Cradle of Humankind, South Africa have yielded some of the most important hominid fossils yet discovered, but are renowned for their stratigraphic complexity. In these contexts, faunal remains have primarily been used in more conventional taxonomic and taphonomic analyses. In addition to their potential for ex situ analysis, faunal remains can represent a valuable component for in situ analysis where natural clasts are unsuitable as fabric indicators. This paper presents the first application of biofabric analysis to the plio-pleistocene palaeocave deposits of the Cradle of Humankind, South Africa. Data from two depositionally distinct deposits found in one of the deeper, more stratigraphically complex areas of the Sterkfontein Caves are presented. Detailed analysis of the biofabric, applied during stratigraphically sensitive excavations, is shown to help determine depositional processes, identify probable source deposits and slope formation dynamics, and assess underlying receptacle morphology. This in situ analysis is a simple yet useful tool for increasing stratigraphic resolution in these complex and challenging depositional environments.
During a three week long experiment, a male bovine head was scavenged by an adult Griffon vulture. Twenty five linear scavenging marks were identified on the defleshed cranium and mandible, ranging in length from 2 to 31 mm with an average of 9.02 mm. Based on the experimental observations, the following criteria may be used for diagnosis of vulture scavenging marks: a _/ cross-sectional shape, tapered width, a tendency toward clustering into parallel sets of 2-4 lines, and the presence of V- or L-shaped double lines. Although reliable identification of a single line as a vulture scavenging mark is impossible, a number of features meeting these criteria may allow for a more confident diagnosis. Scavenging lines appear significantly longer on more exposed areas of the cranium, such as the frontal bone in this experiment, and shorter on less accessible areas, such as the mandible.
Humans compete with carnivores for animal resources. As a result of this competition and because carcasses can be used sequentially by different classes of predators, it is often difficult to identify the agent of accumulation in archaeological settings. If efficiency in feeding behaviour has been selected for, it may be possible to use such behavioural predispositions to predict the manner in which a faunal assemblage will be modified. To assess this problem, we performed a series of feeding experiments with captive arctic wolves and spotted hyenas. Our results suggest that these species produce predictable patterns of gnawing damage on skeletal elements when key variables are manipulated, including prey body size and the presence of intact marrow cavities. Patterns of gnawing damage also appear to be associated with bone density, developmental age, and the amount of adhering flesh. The effect of these factors also appears to vary between carnivore species. Further understanding of carnivore ecology and behaviour will be useful to archaeozoologists and palaeontologists who are faced with complex site formation processes involving multiple agents.
Taphonomic analysis of small ungulates modified by fox (Vulpes vulpes) in Southwestern Europe.
José Yravedra Sainz de los Terreros*, Miriam Andrés, Philippe Fosse, Jean Pierre Besson.
Keywords: FOX, CARNIVORES, TOOTH MARKS, TAPHONOMY, SMALL UNGULATES
[+info] VOLUME 12. ISSUE 1. 2014 (2 issue)
The interaction between humans and carnivores regarding bone modification is a frequent taphonomic phenomenon generating palimpsest where the activity of both agents is present. However, recent research has mainly been concerned with the identification of their individual action. In the case of carnivores, hyenas and felids were the most studied species, while other animals were virtually postponed in the agenda. Considering the abundance of fossil evidence of foxes in the European Pleistocene, this paper presents new data for the taphonomic characterization of fox behaviour. Thus, our interest is to improve the referential framework available for this carnivore's action aiming at its identification in the Pleistocene fossil record. Hence, we describe the analysis of two modern assemblages modified by foxes: the first one corresponds to a natural-death assemblage near Ayllón (Segovia, Spain) and the second to a den site in Ourtiaga (Pyrenées, France). In order to characterise fox action, we analyse its behaviour by means of the analysis of tooth marks and fracture patterns. Regarding the former, mark frequency, types, dimensions and distribution are considered. Finally, with the intention of discriminating fox behaviour from human action, we simulated tooth mark frequencies and distribution on a carcass which was previously fractured by humans.
Taphonomy of a fish accumulation by the European Otter (Lutra lutra) in central France.
Emilie Guillaud, Philippe Béarez, Christiane Denys, Stéphane Raimond.
Keywords: OTTER, PREDATOR, DIGESTION, SPRAINTS, FISH BONES, TAPHONOMY
[+info] VOLUME 12. ISSUE 1. 2014 (3 issue)
Fish remains are abundant and easily recognizable in many archaeological sites. But, the origin of such assemblages is generally poorly known. However, the ability to create small fish bone accumulations is restricted to a small number of predators (including raptors, carnivores, and humans). In order to recognize the agents responsible for these concentrations in archaeological sites, we have investigated the taphonomy of the fish remains from otter spraints to determine the potential role of otters in the formation of fossil assemblages. Currently, few data are available to characterize the accumulation of otter remains in natural or archaeological sites. We analyzed a collection of 29 otter spraints from Bugeat (Corrèze) in central France. We identified the remains of nine fish species including, brown trout ((Salmo trutta, Salmonidae), perch (Perca fluviatilis, Percidae), pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus, Centrarchidae), and several Cyprinidae, rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus), minnow (Phoxinus phoxinus), bullhead (Cottus gobio) and the indeterminate pair chub/dace (Squalius cephalus/Leuciscus leuciscus). The species and the body parts present, along with the reconstruction of the fish weight and observations of any modifications, such as deformation, rounding and polishing, give us insight into otter prey categories and their transformation after digestion. Among the ca. 200 bones constituting the whole fish skeleton, only between 6 and 39 bones survived according the different species. Cyprinids display a high moderate digestion grade and seems to be the taxon most affected by digestion (64.67%). Based on surface modifications, such as breakage and digestion traces, as well as bone element representation, we produced a set of criteria as a new tool to be applied to the fossil record.
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