TAPHOS’08: an Introduction to a Special Volume of Journal of Taphonomy.
Charcoal Taphonomy: The Study of the Cell Structure and Surface Deformations of Pinus sylvestris type for the Understanding of Formation Processes of Archaeological Charcoal Assemblages.
Ethel Allué, Itxaso Euba, Alex Solé.
Keywords: CHARCOAL TAPHONOMY, PINUS SYLVESTRIS, NE IBERIAN PENINSULA, WOOD DECAY, COMBUSTION, POST-DEPOSITIONAL PROCESSES, FIREWOOD MANAGEMENT
In this work we present the anthracological and taphonomical study of charcoal assemblages. The charcoal assemblages come from archaeological sites at the NE Iberian Peninsula and include Palaeolithic and historical sites. All these assemblages share the same records, being Pinus sylvestris type the most significant taxa, which has permitted to classify some of the alterations produced on the cell structure. The analysis of P. sylvestris type wood cell structure from a taphonomic point of view has permitted to classify the modifications and their origin. The processes under which charcoal assemblages are affected are wood decay, combustion and post-depositional processes. The analysis of these charcoals has contributed to the understanding of the formation processes of the assemblages. In this sense, the archaeological context and the study of the alteration origin has permitted to observe wood qualities used for firewood and constructive structures. Moreover it permits to understand combustion processes related to fire structures (simple fire structures, kilns, furnaces) and constructive structures.
Age of Death and Seasonality Based on Ungulate Tooth Remains from the Upper Pleistocene Site of Valdegoba (Burgos, Spain).
Diego Arceredillo Alonso, Carlos Díez Fernández-Lomana.
Keywords: AGE OF DEATH, DENTAL ERUPTION, WEAR, SEASONALITY, UNGULATES, VALDEGOBA CAVE
The small Valdegoba cave has yielded many fossils remains since the first excavations in 1987. Homo neanderthalensis is the most characteristic species in this large assemblage of carnivore, herbivore, microfauna and avifauna fossils. Ungulates are the predominant group, with greater abundance of dental remains than postcraneal bones. A study comparing dental eruption patterns with stages of dental wear in each species shows that age of death can also be determined. The analysis shows that both immatures and young adults are predominant. Cervus elaphus shows a clearly seasonal mortality pattern. On the other hand, Rupicapra rupicapra and Capra pyrenaica shows an annual distribution. This could indicate that C. elaphus accumulation could be anthropic, whereas a variety of agents could be involved in the case of chamois and goat.
Skin and Bones: Taphonomy of a Medieval Tannery in Hungary.
Keywords: ARCHAEOZOOLOGY, BODY PART DISTRIBUTION, BONE WEIGHT, SKINNING, TANNING, “SCHLEPP EFFECT”, LATE MIDDLE AGES, HUNGARY
Taphonomy in medieval archaeology is far more than the post mortem history of animal remains. In addition to material evidence, parallel data are also available in the form of documentary as well as iconographic sources. However, similarly to animal bones, such data are also prone to selective taphonomic processes. This paper is a taphonomic analysis of animal remains from an excavation with both written records and lacunae in the written records in order to reconstruct the existence of a special craft, tanning. Excavations near Baj in Central Hungary revealed the remains of a small, 15th-16th century manorial settlement at the site of Öreg-Kovács-hegy. The 3,174 (146.8 kg) identifiable animal bones were dominated by cattle remains (NISP=1,969; 105.4 kg), while red deer was also well-represented (NISP=257; 16.2 kg). Even horse bones were relatively numerous (NISP=77; 10.6 kg). The anatomical composition, pattern of butchery, and spatial distribution of bones indicated that many of them were not ordinary food remains but probably tannery refuse. Although this activity was not mentioned in written records, archaeozoological observations complement the discovery of circular features at the site, interpreted as lime pits. Tanning was chosen as a paradigmatic activity that leaves both specific archaeological and archaeozoological markers. In addition to establishing diagnostic osteological criteria indicative of tanning, the selective survival and reliability of the different types of evidence (written, iconographic, architectural) are also indirectly compared.
Toothmarks on Micromammal Remains from Level TE9 of Sima del Elefante (Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain).
Mª de Lluc Bennàsar, Isabel Cáceres, Gloria Cuenca-Bescós, Juan Rofes.
Keywords: SIMA DEL ELEFANTE, ATAPUERCA, TOOTHMARKS, TALPA CF. T. EUROPAEA, MUSTELA PALERMINEA, MUSTELA NIVALIS, BEREMENDIA FISSIDENS
Small toothmarks on Talpa cf. T. europaea humerus have been identified during the taphonomical study of the micromammal remains found in Sima del Elefante site (Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos). Toothmarks have been compared to Mustela nivalis modern molars and to Mustela palerminea and Beremendia fissidens fossil remains in order to identify the predator producing the marks. The results indicate that marks were produced by a smaller predator than Mustela, and resemble more to those produced by B. fissidens. This insectivorous species is smaller than Talpa and has a poison injector apparatus that allows it to hunt preys which double its own size. Ethological characteristics of predators and B. fissidens physical features seem to point to this insectivore as the agent responsible for the Talpa humerus toothmarks at Sima del Elefante TE9 level.
The Paradox of Barren Ancient Rocky Shores in the Western Mediterranean.
Juan C. Braga, Antonio Checa, Julio Aguirre.
Keywords: CORALLINALES (RHODOPHYTA), ROCKY SHORES, ALGAL COVERING, NEOGENE, RECENT
Encrusting coralline red algae cover significant proportions of the surface of rocky walls, blocks, and boulders in the mid- and infralittoral zones in present-day temperate seas. Despite the common occurrence of their living counterparts, examples of fossil coralline plants attached to rock surfaces in ancient temperate shores are very scarce and can be considered cases of exceptional preservation. In the Mediterranean region, however, the most frequent encrusting species have existed at least since the Miocene; they comprise heavily calcified plants which, a priori, should have a high preservation potential. In fact, fossil representatives of these species are relatively common as components of rhodoliths (algal nodules) and bioclastic deposits. In addition, palaeocliffs and ancient rocky shores are widespread in Neogene and Quaternary basins around the Mediterranean Sea. The key feature explaining the low preservation potential of encrusting corallines as in-situ growths, based on observation of algae on submarine rock surfaces in the Cabo de Gata area in SE Spain, seems to be the adhesion mechanism. The organic adhesion substance decays after death, and the plant is then removed by grazers or simply falls to the bottom. No abiotic or biologically induced cementation prevents detachment of a dead plant and there is no accretion of the coralline cover on the rock surface. The plant debris is incorporated into the sediment around the rocky substrate and the algal fragments undergo later taphonomic processes asloose bioclasts.
Disarticulation and Dispersal Processes of Cervid Carcass at the Bosque de Riofrío (Segovia, Spain).
Isabel Cáceres, Montserrat Esteban-Nadal, Mª de Lluc Bennàsar, Yolanda Fernández-Jalvo.
Keywords: DISARTICULATION, DISPERSAL, VULPES VULPES, CERVUS ELAPHUS, TOOTHMARKS, BOSQUE DE RIOFRÍO, SPAIN
The Bosque de Riofrio, a natural forest and reserve in Spain (Segovia), has a wide population of red deer and fallow deer. The park, open to the public during the day light, has an extensive area restricted to the staff that take care of these wild animals in wild conditions. Carcasses derived from natural deaths are recorded by the park rangers, as population control, but left exposed to natural conditions and preserved by them from human entries. Since 2000 we are carrying out a project on dispersal and disarticulation of carcasses. Red fox and vultures also inhabit the reserve and scavenge these carcasses. We are here referring in this paper to a particular specimen (RF8), an adult male red deer, exposed along a period of 2 and half years, and monitored by us. During the first stages, the foxes acceded to RF8 producing toothmarks and contributing to the disarticulation and dispersal of carcass. In the last stages, the toothmarks identifies were produced by herbivores.
“I Hunt Chickens, Men Hunt Me.” The Biostratinomy of a Shot Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes L.) – A Case Study.
Keywords: VERTEBRATE TAPHONOMY, RED FOX, TEMPERATE CLIMATE, FOREST ENVIRONMENT
In this paper the author presents the decay process of a shot red fox that decomposed in a temperate forest environment during 2004. Close-up pictures taken regularly are compared with meteorological data concerning temperature and precipitation during the period of investigation. Since neither human- or other vertebrate disturbance, nor water transport or considerable wind affected the body, its complete decay in naturally sheltered conditions (light undergrowth in a wooded area) took about seven month. Due to the unusually warm and humid weeks at the end of the winter and early spring in 2004, however, autolysis, microbial decay and invertebrate scavenging resulted in the complete decomposition of soft tissues in three months. Since red fox is a facultative commensal animal with burrowing habits, its remains are difficult to interpret in archaeological deposits. Such actualistic observations and experiments may help understanding the origin and role of fox remains found at and around ancient human settlements.
Mineralogical, Elemental and Chemical Composition of Dinosaur Bones from Teruel (Spain).
Luis Luque, Luis Alcalá, Luis Mampel, Mª Dolores Pesquero, Rafael Royo-Torres, Alberto Cobos, Eduardo Espílez, Ana González, Daniel Ayala.
Keywords: BONE, DIAGENESIS, AUTHIGENIC MINERAL, DINOSAUR, ARAGÓN
A detailed study has been carried out on 25 samples of dinosaur bone fragments which come from 8 sites belonging to six stratigraphic units that span from the Tithonian (Upper Jurassic) to Albian (Lower Cretaceous) in the province of Teruel, Spain. The aim of the study is to further understand the mineralogical, elemental and chemical composition of the bones which come from different depositional environments and try to determine the processes which created this composition starting from the initial biogenic phosphate. A diversity of chemical compositions within the same sedimentary environment, within the same site and even within the same fossil is documented. This supports the idea that fossilization and postmortem diagenesis is not a homogeneous process. The compositions of bones varied widely in their proportions of francolite, dahllite and hydroxyapatite phosphates. The most common cement is calcite but the presence of unidentified iron oxides is also very frequent. Haematite or barite cements are found more rarely. The association between the authigenic minerals kaolinite and palygorskite provides information about the geochemical processes occurring in the microenvironment of fossilization, and the presence of iron oxides, pyrite or barite is informative of microbial activity. Furthermore, different sources for fossils from a same site can potentially be differentiated. In sum, a direct relationship between the mineralogy of the bone and cement composition and the sedimentary environment cannot be inferred.
Butchery, Cooking and Human Consumption Marks on Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) Bones: An Experimental Study.
Lluís Lloveras, Marta Moreno-García, Jordi Nadal.
Keywords: TAPHONOMY, ACTUALISTIC STUDY, RABBIT REMAINS, BUTCHERY, CUT MARKS, HUMAN CONSUMPTION, BURNT BONES
An experimental study was conducted to assess the taphonomic signature derived from anthropic activities on rabbit bones. Nine wild European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) individuals were butchered using lithic tools, four were cooked and three of them were consumed by people. Cut marks resulting from skinning, disarticulation and defleshing as well as cooking damage and tooth marks caused by consumption were analysed and evaluated. Results show that butchery marks can be relatively abundant. Their location, intensity and orientation may differ according to the activity that caused them: skinning, disarticulation or defleshing of the carcass. Cooking damage is evidenced by specific burnt areas on the extremities of the bones. Tooth marks are scarce and often difficult to detect. They occur especially on long bones, with tooth pits being the most abundant type of damage. Finally, we attempt to address the way in which these marks can be archaeologically identified.
Taphonomic Study of the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic Large Mammal Assemblage from Tournal Cave (Bize-Minervois, France).
Keywords: MIDDLE PALAEOLITHIC, LATE PALAEOLITHIC, TAPHONOMY, TOURNAL CAVE,UNGULATES, CARNIVORES, SHORT/LONG-TERM OCCUPATIONS
The Tournal Cave (southern France) presents an important Late Pleistocene stratigraphic record of human occupations dated to the Late-Middle (Mousterian culture) and Upper Palaeolithic (Aurignacian and Magdalenian cultures). This study intends to give a taphonomic overview of the large ungulate bone assemblages. Around 12,500 large mammal remains have been studied. Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) and horse (Equus caballus) were the primary prey taxa. In general terms, the faunal assemblage reveals a low degree of "weathering" and a wide variation of carnivore and hominid modifications in the different layers. Mousterian and Aurignacian units suggest multiple short-term human occupations that occurred at various seasons throughout the year alternating with carnivores. According to prey body part representation and mark frequencies, carnivores sometimes gained primary access to bones while denning, and secondarily accessed discarded bones after hominids left the site. Analysis of the Magdalenian unit indicates a broad range of activities including butchering that took place at the site. Nearly complete carcasses were transported from the kill site and processed for meat and marrow. Seasonality studies suggest that occupations took place in winter to early spring.
Taphonomy of the Accumulations Produced by Caracara plancus (Falconidae). Analysis of Prey Remains and Pellets.
Claudia I. Montalvo, Pedro O. Tallade.
Keywords: TAPHONOMY, PELLETS, PREY REMAIN SELECTION, CARACARA PLANCUS, ARGENTINA HOT SPOT
Caracara plancus (Falconidae) is a diurnal raptor bird, described as an opportunist that feeds on carrion and a variety of live preys, including rodents. Based on the skeletal remains of rodents recovered from pellets produced by this bird, an analysis of the modifications occurred on those bones was carried out, concluding that they were important. Along with pellets, scattered rodents prey remains not digested, collected in the same sampling area, under the roosting, were analyzed. The comparison of the data from pellets and that from uneaten prey remains indicates that southern caracara would perform a certain selection over different body parts of predated rodents, discarding mainly the cranial regions. The ingested osseous remains, showing evidence of breakage and digestion, could accumulate together with the skeletal elements that, which constitute the remains of prey, with particular signs of breakage but without signs of digestion. These findings are particularly relevant in order to avoid missininterpretations of this kind of accumulations, which are not mixtures produced by several predators but only one predator with a particular pattern of ingestion. Consequently, when zooarchaeological or paleontological records from the Pampean region are analyzed, it is very important to consider the fact that these birds of prey could have contributed to the accumulation of micromammal bones, with skeletal elements coming both from pellets and prey remains.
Plant Taphonomy from the Mississippian Flysch Facies of the El Priorat Massif (Catalonia, Spain).
Sheila Villalba-Breva, Carles Martín-Closas.
Keywords: SPHENOPSIDA, ARCHAEOCALAMITACEAE, LOWER CARBONIFEROUS, FLYSCH, PRIORAT, EUROPE, TAPHONOMY
Calamitaleans belonging to Archaeocalamites cf. radiatus and Mesocalamites cf. ramifer were found in flysch deposits of the Middle-Upper Visean of La Vilella Baixa (Priorat Massif, Catalonia, Spain). This is the first time a Mississippian flora from the Catalan Coastal Chain and NE Spain is described. The calamitalean assemblage contains only stems (either adpressions or pith casts) without other calamitalean organs. Putative pteridosperm remains associated with them include Carpolithus-type seeds. Unidentified woody axes might belong to pteridosperms or ferns. The assemblage was deposited by turbiditic flows on slope-apron facies of the Carboniferous basin. Taphonomic features suggest that the plant remains underwent severe transport selection before final deposition. Three taphofacies recognized indicate that under different hydrodynamic conditions of deposition, the assemblage only varies in small taphonomic features, with no significant change in composition. This suggests that the supply of plant remains to the slope-apron area consisted mainly of calamitalean stems, rare pteridosperm seeds and unidentified woody branches, though the original composition of the plant community was probably much more diverse. Comparison with another Mississippian flora from the Hercynian Flysch of Southern Europe (Cabrières, France) suggests that both assemblages may have been taxonomically similar in origin but differed after taphonomic selection.
The Taphonomist´s Corner: BIOLOGICAL CONCENTRATIONS OF AMUSIUM CRISTATUM.