3.3.1. Genus Megaloceros Brookes, 1828; Megaloceros giganteus (Blumenbach, 1799)
Material. One fragment of the right antler, one atlas, and the proximal half of a metacarpal bone.
Measurements (in mm). Atlas: breadth of the facies articularis cranialis = 98.5;
metacarpus: breadth of the proximal end = 62.3, depth of the proximal end = 44.0.
The antler is preserved, with the most basal portion of the beam growing from a bony pedicle, indicating that the antler was still attached to the skull at the time of the animal’s death (Figure 6
). The coronet is heavily abraded and barely visible, while the brow tine is broken off at its base. The surface shows traces of weathering in the form of deep longitudinal fractures and moderate spalling, in addition to severe abrasion. Edges around the superior end of the beam portion are rugged and discoloured, undoubtedly originating recently. Unfortunately, the remaining parts of this antler were not found.
The atlas consists of both ventral and dorsal arches (Figure 6
). The cranial side has its joint facets preserved, while the caudal side is damaged and partially missing. The whole specimen is heavily abraded, exposing the inner cancellous structure of bone. In addition, both transverse processus are largely reduced.
The proximal half of the left metacarpal bone retained its morphological features but has numerous fine-line fractures with moderate surface spalling, especially on its posterior side (Figure 6
). The distal portion is broken off and missing, so it is not possible to assert the relative age of the individual.
All three fragments identified as a giant deer are heavily weathered and abraded; the colour is pale brown on the surface and dark brown in the cortex, indicating stronger mineralisation. Generally, these fragments passed through more pronounced diagenetic processes than the red deer bones (see Section 3.3.2
.), suggesting a greater difference in the time of deposition (i.e., much older material). Although it cannot be confirmed, the size and taphonomy of these specimens imply the possibility that all could come from the same individual.
3.3.2. Genus Cervus Linnaeus, 1758; Cervus elaphus Linnaeus, 1758
Material. One cranial fragment with the left antler, one right maxilla with all cheek teeth (P2–M3), one complete right tibia.
Measurements (in mm). Cranium: basicranial axis = 90.5, greatest breadth of the occipital condyles = 85.4, greatest breadth of the bases of the paraoccipital processes = 136.2, greatest breadth of the foramen magnum = 33.7, proximal circumference of the burr (circumference of the distal end of the pedicel) = 227.3;
maxilla: length of the cheek tooth raw = 122.4, length of the molar raw = 71.6, length of the premolar raw = 49.3;
tibia: greatest length = 420.0, breadth of the proximal end = 87.4, depth of the proximal end = 87.4, smallest breadth of the diaphysis = 34.9, breadth of the distal end = 57.1, depth of the distal end = 44.8.
The fragment of the cranium with an antler (Figure 7
) belonged to an adult buck and consists of the uppermost, caudal, and basal cranial parts, including almost complete frontal, parietal, occipital, and temporal paired bones, as well as pterygoid and sphenoid. The facial bones are all missing. The frontal bones are nearly complete with both orbits, supraorbital foramina, and pedicles. The right-side frontal end towards the nasal bones is broken off. Both parietal bones are complete. Occipital bones are also complete, except for slightly eroded edges of paracondylar processus. Both zygomatic arches are broken and only partially preserved. The uppermost part of the skull has a complete left antler attached to the pedicle, while the right bony pedicle is broken off just below the base of the missing antler. The left antler has a completely preserved beam with the coronet and six tines. The coronet surrounding the pedicle near the base of the antler has knobbly lumps. Irregular grooves running along the length of the beam and tines are very pronounced, while the tips of the tines are quite smooth due to use while the animal was alive. All these features show no temporal decay, indicating a relatively recent age of this specimen. In addition, the cranial bone surface shows very light spalling and the texture of the antler is almost perfectly preserved, both indicating relatively minimum to no post-depositional disturbances of this specimen.
The right maxilla is almost complete. The alveolar process has just a small portion broken off below the infraorbital foramen, exposing the dental alveolus of the second premolar. Both posterior and medial ends are damaged, with the zygomatic and palatal processus partially missing, respectively. The frontal end is perfectly preserved, with an unfused suture towards the missing premaxilla. The dental arch is complete, with all cheek teeth still inside the alveoli, while the upper canine is missing. Preserved teeth are unbroken and fully erupted, with moderately worn occlusal surfaces (Figure 7
, Table 3
). The aforementioned cranium and this maxilla are almost identical in size and surface taphonomy, and most likely belonged to the same skull.
The complete right tibia has both epiphyses fully fused. The bone is dark brown in colour and the surface texture is very smooth. Oblique, very shallow, and wide scrapings on the anterior side of distal portion of the diaphysis are the only bone modifications visible and may have been caused by abrasion due to natural post-depositional processes. Generally, this tibia is very well preserved and is probably subrecent to recent.
All red deer specimens are darker in colour, having yellowish brown to dark brown staining and discolouration, indicating partial mineralisation, probably due to being exposed to waterlogged deposits [13
]. In addition to being complete or mostly preserved, all three specimens show no or only minor surface weathering (e.g., spalling on maxilla), indicating favourable preservation conditions and relative recency in comparison to other associated animal remains.
Generally, the size, age, and taphonomy of all fragments identified as red deer show great similarities and may be used as a strong indicator that their possible origin is from a single individual. Since the antler is full-grown and unshed, this red deer individual died sometime in autumn or winter [14
]. Fused cranial sutures indicate an adult, while the two fused tibia epiphyses and dental wear suggest a relative age of at least 2.5 years [15