Special Issue "Taphonomy and Palaeoecology of Quaternary Vertebrates: Advances in Fossil and Experimental Studies"

A special issue of Quaternary (ISSN 2571-550X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (20 September 2021) | Viewed by 39788

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Juan Rofes
E-Mail Website1 Website2
Guest Editor
1. Archaeological Studies Program, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City 1101, Philippines
2. Archéozoologie, Archéobotanique: Sociétés, Pratiques et Environnements (AASPE, UMR 7209), Sorbonne Universités, Muséum National d\'Histoire Naturelle, CNRS, 57 Rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris, France
Interests: zooarchaeology; small mammals; palaeoenvironmental reconstructions; biogeograhical analysis; systematics and evolution; geometric morphometrics; interactions between environmental change and human activity
Dr. Janine Ochoa
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Anthropology, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City 1101, Philippines
Interests: zooarchaeology; island biogeography; systematics; anthropogenic impacts; extinctions; palaeoenvironmental change; ecological knowledge systems
Dr. Emmanuelle Stoetzel
E-Mail Website1 Website2
Guest Editor
Histoire Naturelle de l’Homme Préhistorique - UMR 7194, CNRS, Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, Sorbonne Universités, UPVD, Paris, France
Interests: systematics; evolution; taphonomy and paleoecology of quaternary microvertebrates (North Africa, Western Europe, Middle-East); neo-taphonomic and osteological referentials

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Taphonomic studies allow for a better understanding of the processes of formation and preservation of fossil assemblages, and the identification of biases that can alter the palaeoenvironmental interpretations deduced from faunal lists. A taphonomic analysis of a fossil assemblage is, therefore, an essential prerequisite for subsequent palaeoecological studies. Palaeoecology, in turn, uses data from fossils to examine how organisms and their environments change throughout time. By studying patterns of evolution and extinction in the context of environmental change, palaeoecologists are able to examine concepts of vulnerability and resilience in species and environments at different geographic and temporal scales. The Quaternary period is well represented in geographically extensive and high-temporal-resolution records, and is of particular interest to human evolution. Vertebrate assemblages, whether accumulated by humans or non-human agents, are frequently well preserved in Quaternary palaeontological and archaeological deposits, especially in caves. In recent years, the number of and methods for taphonomic and palaeoecological analyses on Quaternary vertebrate assemblages have greatly developed, and we would like to highlight here some works illustrating these advances by encouraging contributions from (but not restricted to) palaeontology, zooarchaeology, palaeoanthropology, palaeoclimatology, and paleoenvironmental studies. Implementation of modern taphonomic referentials and experiments are key to the adequate interpretation of fossil assemblages, so papers focusing on these topics are also welcome.

Dr. Juan Rofes
Dr. Janine Ochoa
Dr. Emmanuelle Stoetzel
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • vertebrates
  • quaternary
  • taphonomy
  • modern referentials
  • experimental studies
  • palaeoecology
  • palaeoenvironmental studies.

Published Papers (17 papers)

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Editorial

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Editorial
Taphonomy and Palaeoecology of Quaternary Vertebrates: Advances in Fossil and Experimental Studies
Quaternary 2023, 6(1), 8; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat6010008 - 10 Jan 2023
Viewed by 1125
Abstract
Since the founding work of Efremov in 1940 [...] Full article

Research

Jump to: Editorial

Article
Preservation of Mammalian Teeth and Bones Influences Identification of Terminal Pleistocene to Middle Holocene Hunter-Gatherer Subsistence at Ban Rai Rockshelter, Northwest Thailand
Quaternary 2022, 5(4), 51; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat5040051 - 06 Dec 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 824
Abstract
Ban Rai Rockshelter in northwest Thailand, dating to the Terminal Pleistocene and Middle Holocene, includes evidence for hunter-gatherer exploitation of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and arthropods. Abundant faunal remains, identified throughout site deposits, include macaques (Macaca sp.) and Sambar deer (Rusa [...] Read more.
Ban Rai Rockshelter in northwest Thailand, dating to the Terminal Pleistocene and Middle Holocene, includes evidence for hunter-gatherer exploitation of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and arthropods. Abundant faunal remains, identified throughout site deposits, include macaques (Macaca sp.) and Sambar deer (Rusa unicolor), but these identifications are influenced by an assemblage largely comprised of preserved tooth elements and fragmented bone. Area 3 at Ban Rai has the largest abundance and diversity of faunal remains recovered and identified in this study. Here, we examine the zooarchaeological assemblage from Ban Rai Rockshelter, to understand long-term hunter-gatherer subsistence change, influenced by site preservation, during and after the Pleistocene–Holocene transition. Our results support the presence of the exploitation of arboreal taxa during the Early and Middle Holocene in northwest Thailand. Full article
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Article
Contextual, Taphonomic, and Paleoecological Insights from Anurans on Tiwanaku Sites in Southern Peru
Quaternary 2022, 5(1), 16; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat5010016 - 07 Mar 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1699
Abstract
We examine the processes that resulted in the deposition of bones of at least three anuran genera on four archaeological sites associated with the Tiwanaku culture occupied between 700–1100 CE in the Moquegua Valley of far southern Peru. We review archaeological data and [...] Read more.
We examine the processes that resulted in the deposition of bones of at least three anuran genera on four archaeological sites associated with the Tiwanaku culture occupied between 700–1100 CE in the Moquegua Valley of far southern Peru. We review archaeological data and ethnographic accounts of Andean peoples using frogs and toads for food and in rain-quest rituals. Anuran bones are common in prehispanic cemeteries, but far less common in habitational and ceremonial sites. The quantity of anuran remains in certain cemeteries is anomalous in comparison to other archaeological sites in the valley and to Tiwanaku sites in other geographic settings. We conclude that anurans are most common where abandoned below-ground rock-covered tombs are likely to have been reused by nesting owls, and propose that most anuran remains in archaeological contexts in Moquegua are the result of predation. We consider environmental, cultural and taphonomic explanations and posit that the abundance of anuran remains relates to the 14th-century Miraflores ENSO event. This event generated increased rainfall in the desert, creating conditions favorable for frogs and toads, and predation by owls. We also advocate for the use of fine-screening to recover small-sized animal remains, such as anurans, that can be used to understand taphonomic processes and paleoenvironmental conditions. Full article
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Article
Macroscopic Chop Mark Identification on Archaeological Bone: An Experimental Study of Chipped Stone, Ground Stone, Copper, and Bronze Axe Heads on Bone
Quaternary 2022, 5(1), 15; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat5010015 - 02 Mar 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2737
Abstract
This paper presents a new macroscopic method for identifying chop marks on archaeological faunal assemblages and highlights the major differences in the morphology of chop marks created by stone and metal axes. The method provides macroscopic criteria that aid in the identification of [...] Read more.
This paper presents a new macroscopic method for identifying chop marks on archaeological faunal assemblages and highlights the major differences in the morphology of chop marks created by stone and metal axes. The method provides macroscopic criteria that aid in the identification of both complete and incomplete chop mark types as well as the raw material of the axe. Experiments with modern stone (chipped and ground) and metal (copper and bronze) axes found that the degree of fragmentation within a chop mark is related to both the width and sharpness of the axe and can be classed on a scale from 1–5 using a variety of criteria. The experiments demonstrate that sharp chipped stone axes are fragile (often break upon impact) and do not create clean and well-defined chop marks. Ground stone axes are more durable but tend to create very fragmented chop marks without a clean cut (sheared) surface. Unalloyed copper metal axes can create sheared chopped surfaces; however, the relatively soft metal creates more crushing at the point of entry than bronze axes. In contrast, bronze axes are durable and create chop marks with exceptionally low rates of fragmentation resulting in a clean-cut sheared surface that extends into the bone for more than 3 mm. The method is applied to the faunal assemblage from the Early Bronze Age site of Göltepe, Turkey to determine whether the chop marks on bones were made by stone or metal axes at this early metal processing settlement. The results suggest that many of the chop marks were made by metal implements (e.g., axes). Hence, this method provides another means to monitor the adoption rates of new raw materials at a time when both metal and stone axes coexisted. Full article
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Article
Defining Fragmentation Patterns of Archaeological Bone Remains without Typologies: A Landmark-Based Approach on Rodent Mandibula
Quaternary 2022, 5(1), 14; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat5010014 - 02 Mar 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1857
Abstract
Fragmentation is a recurring feature of archaeological faunal material, and impacts many aspects of zooarchaeological studies from taxonomical identification to biometric studies. It can result from anthropic and natural actions that occurred respectively before and/or after bone deposit. While several bone fragmentation typologies [...] Read more.
Fragmentation is a recurring feature of archaeological faunal material, and impacts many aspects of zooarchaeological studies from taxonomical identification to biometric studies. It can result from anthropic and natural actions that occurred respectively before and/or after bone deposit. While several bone fragmentation typologies have been described, they are currently based on both macroscopic observations and researcher subjectivity and lack the universality necessary for inter-study comparisons. To fulfill this need we present a standardized landmark-based protocol for the description and quantification of mandibular fragmentation patterns, using two insular rodents of different sizes as models. The rice rats (Oryzomyini tribe) and the agouti (Dasyprocta) from the Lesser Antilles were abundant during the pre-Columbian Ceramic Age (500 BCE-1500 CE). Their mandibles’ shapes were quantified using the coordinates of 13 2D-landmarks. We show that landmark-based measurements can be used to:—assess the preservation differences between taxa of the same taxonomic group (e.g., rodents),—estimate the level of preservation of a skeletal part (e.g., mandible),—describe fragmentation patterns without pre-existing typologies and—facilitate the application of geometric morphometric methods to fragmented archaeological material. Our novel approach, leveraging fragmentation analyses and establishing specific fragmentation patterns, frees itself from existing typologies and could be systematically applied to future research. Full article
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Article
Neanderthal Fossils, Mobile Toolkit and a Hyena Den: The Archaeological Assemblage of Lateral Gallery 1 in Cova Del Gegant (NE Iberian Peninsula)
Quaternary 2022, 5(1), 12; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat5010012 - 18 Feb 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2863
Abstract
Lateral Gallery 1 (GL1) in Cova del Gegant is a Middle Palaeolithic assemblage yielding diagnostic Neanderthal remains, together with Mousterian tools and faunal remains. It is a good archive for evaluating the environmental conditions of the coastal areas during MIS 4 and MIS [...] Read more.
Lateral Gallery 1 (GL1) in Cova del Gegant is a Middle Palaeolithic assemblage yielding diagnostic Neanderthal remains, together with Mousterian tools and faunal remains. It is a good archive for evaluating the environmental conditions of the coastal areas during MIS 4 and MIS 3 in the NE of the Iberian Peninsula, and also the Neanderthals’ behaviour and mobility. Here we provide a comprehensive assessment of all of the data available from GL1, such as lithics, human remains, fauna and chronostratigraphic details. The biotic ecofacts studied point to the development of a coastal plain in front of the cave and indicate that local conditions likely favoured a large variety of ecosystems characterised by open environments and woodland-edge taxa, and favoured repeated visits by humans during the Middle Palaeolithic. The evidence suggests that the gallery was mainly used by carnivores, such as hyenas, and also by Neanderthals as a brief stopping place, in view of the presence of transported and abandoned ergonomic lithic artifacts and/or the placement of bodies (or parts of bodies). The regional context suggests high human mobility and emphasises the variability of Neanderthal behaviour. Full article
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Article
Understanding the Impact of Trampling on Rodent Bones
Quaternary 2022, 5(1), 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat5010011 - 10 Feb 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2049
Abstract
Experiments based on the premise of uniformitarism are an effective tool to establish patterns of taphonomic processes acting either before, or after, burial. One process that has been extensively investigated experimentally is the impact of trampling to large mammal bones. Since trampling marks [...] Read more.
Experiments based on the premise of uniformitarism are an effective tool to establish patterns of taphonomic processes acting either before, or after, burial. One process that has been extensively investigated experimentally is the impact of trampling to large mammal bones. Since trampling marks caused by sedimentary friction strongly mimic cut marks made by humans using stone tools during butchery, distinguishing the origin of such modifications is especially relevant to the study of human evolution. In contrast, damage resulting from trampling on small mammal fossil bones has received less attention, despite the fact that it may solve interesting problems relating to site formation processes. While it has been observed that the impact of compression depends on the type of substrate and dryness of the skeletal elements, the fragility of small mammal bones may imply that they will break as a response to compression. Here, we have undertaken a controlled experiment using material resistance compression equipment to simulate a preliminary experiment, previously devised by one of us, on human trampling of owl pellets. Our results demonstrate that different patterns of breakage can be distinguished under wet and dry conditions in mandibles, skulls and long bones that deform or break in a consistent way. Further, small compact bones almost always remain intact, resisting breakage under compression. The pattern obtained here was applied to a Pleistocene small mammal fossil assemblage from Wonderwerk Cave (South Africa). This collection showed unusually extensive breakage and skeletal element representation that could not be entirely explained by excavation procedures or digestion by the predator. We propose that trampling was a significant factor in small mammal bone destruction at Wonderwerk Cave, partly the product of trampling caused by the raptor that introduced the microfauna into the cave, as well as by hominins and other terrestrial animals that entered the cave and trampled pellets covering the cave floor. Full article
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Article
The Microvertebrates of Shanidar Cave: Preliminary Taphonomic Findings
Quaternary 2022, 5(1), 4; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat5010004 - 10 Jan 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2098
Abstract
Shanidar Cave, Iraqi Kurdistan, is one of the most important Palaeolithic sites in Southwest Asia. This is due to the long sequence of hominin occupation of the cave and the discovery of multiple Neanderthal individuals from the original Solecki excavations (1951–1960) and recent [...] Read more.
Shanidar Cave, Iraqi Kurdistan, is one of the most important Palaeolithic sites in Southwest Asia. This is due to the long sequence of hominin occupation of the cave and the discovery of multiple Neanderthal individuals from the original Solecki excavations (1951–1960) and recent excavations (2014 to present). Preliminary taphonomic analyses of the microvertebrate assemblage were undertaken to understand the factors affecting assemblage formation and accumulation, and this paper presents the first results of these analyses. All contexts display a high proportion of fragmentation, with a slight decrease in breakage towards the base of the sequence. Black staining and root etching were observed in a similar pattern, present in most contexts but with an increase in the lower levels. A significant proportion of the microvertebrate remains examined displayed light traces of digestion, indicating some contribution to the assemblage by predators. The results are consistent with wider palaeoecological records that indicate relatively warm, wet conditions at the base of the sequence and cooler, drier conditions at the top. Full article
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Article
Insect Marks on Bones from La Guillerma Archaeological Locality (Salado River Depression, Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Quaternary 2021, 4(4), 45; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat4040045 - 16 Dec 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1580
Abstract
The La Guillerma archaeological locality is located in the northeast sector of Buenos Aires province (Argentina). Two of its sites (LG1 and LG5), dated between ca. 1400- and 600-years BP, have a great amount of faunal remains including deer, rodents, fish and small [...] Read more.
The La Guillerma archaeological locality is located in the northeast sector of Buenos Aires province (Argentina). Two of its sites (LG1 and LG5), dated between ca. 1400- and 600-years BP, have a great amount of faunal remains including deer, rodents, fish and small birds that are subjected to taphonomic agents and processes (e.g., weathering, manganese, roots). Previous studies have shown osteophagic behaviour in different insects (e.g., Coleoptera, Blattodea). In this paper, we evaluate their incidence on La Guillerma faunal assemblage. We performed an analysis on marks that were identified in bone remains of various taxa and applied the criteria for identifying bone alteration by insects (i.e., by measuring each trace and comparing them with the types of insect marks described in the literature). Fifteen specimens (LG1 = 6 and LG5 = 9) exhibited different types of modifications (e.g., pits with striae in base, pits with emanating striae, striations) that are related to the action of insects. Although the proportion of affected bones is low in relation to the total sample, we highlight our study as the first detailed analysis of insect marks on archaeological bones from Argentina. We also emphasize the significance of addressing insect-produced modifications on Argentinean archaeological sites. Full article
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Article
Who Killed the Small Mammals of Ittenheim (Northeastern France)? An Integrative Approach and New Taphonomic Data for Investigating Bone Assemblages Accumulated by Small Carnivores
Quaternary 2021, 4(4), 41; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat4040041 - 22 Nov 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2290
Abstract
Small carnivores are susceptible to regularly accumulating small- to medium-sized mammal remains in both natural and archaeological sites. However, compared to nocturnal birds of prey, these accumulations are still poorly documented and are generally based on a limited number of samples, including those [...] Read more.
Small carnivores are susceptible to regularly accumulating small- to medium-sized mammal remains in both natural and archaeological sites. However, compared to nocturnal birds of prey, these accumulations are still poorly documented and are generally based on a limited number of samples, including those of relatively small size. Here, we present an analysis of European hamster remains from a rescue excavation at Ittenheim (Bas-Rhin, Grand-Est, France), which were recovered from an infilled burrow, three meters below the current surface. The remains are well preserved and exhibit large proportions of tooth marks. Comparisons with a new and existing reference collection combined with an analysis of all recovered faunal remains suggest the accumulation reflects the action of young red foxes. This is supported by the fact that, although these young individuals leave teeth mark, they do not necessarily consume all parts of medium-sized prey species, including the European hamster. Conversely, the remains of smaller rodents, such as microtine, show distinct patterns of digestion and tooth marks. Carnivore bone accumulations from scats are generally poorly preserved; however, our results demonstrate prey size plays a major role, both qualitatively and quantitatively, in skeletal representation, bone preservation, and bone surface modifications. The present paper underlines the need for more diversified taphonomic reference collections based on an integrative approach designed to evaluate multi-taxa accumulations. Full article
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Article
Multi-Taxa Neo-Taphonomic Analysis of Bone Remains from Barn Owl Pellets and Cross-Validation of Observations: A Case Study from Dominica (Lesser Antilles)
Quaternary 2021, 4(4), 38; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat4040038 - 18 Nov 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2001
Abstract
Paleo- and neo-taphonomic analyses of bone assemblages rarely consider all the occurring taxa in a single study and works concerning birds of prey as accumulators of microvertebrate bone remains mostly focus on small mammals such as rodents and soricomorphs. However, raptors often hunt [...] Read more.
Paleo- and neo-taphonomic analyses of bone assemblages rarely consider all the occurring taxa in a single study and works concerning birds of prey as accumulators of microvertebrate bone remains mostly focus on small mammals such as rodents and soricomorphs. However, raptors often hunt and consume a large range of taxa, including vertebrates such as small mammals, fishes, amphibians, squamates and birds. Bone remains of all these taxonomic groups are numerous in many paleontological and archaeological records, especially in cave deposits. To better characterize the predators at the origin of fossil and sub-fossil microvertebrate accumulations and the taphonomic history of the deposit, it is thus mandatory to conduct global and multi-taxa taphonomic approaches. The aim of this study is to provide an example of such a global approach through the investigation of a modern bone assemblage from a sample of pellets produced by the Lesser Antillean Barn Owl (Tyto insularis) in the island of Dominica. We propose a new methodology that allows us to compare different taxa (rodents, bats, squamates and birds) and to experiment with a cross-validation process using two observers for each taxonomic group to test the reliability of the taphonomic observations. Full article
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Article
San Josecito Cave and Its Paleoecological Contributions for Quaternary Studies in Mexico
Quaternary 2021, 4(4), 34; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat4040034 - 26 Oct 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2426
Abstract
San Josecito Cave (2250 m elevation) is located nearby Aramberri, Nuevo León, northeastern Mexico, with excavations occurring in 1935–1941 and 1990. It is a paleontological cave and the significance of its faunal data rests in the understanding of the Quaternary ecosystems of the [...] Read more.
San Josecito Cave (2250 m elevation) is located nearby Aramberri, Nuevo León, northeastern Mexico, with excavations occurring in 1935–1941 and 1990. It is a paleontological cave and the significance of its faunal data rests in the understanding of the Quaternary ecosystems of the Mexican Plateau and the Southern Plains. This significance is underpinned by a consideration of associated stratigraphic and geochronological data. The fauna is composed of mollusks, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. More than 30 extinct vertebrate species have been identified, constituting one of the most important Quaternary localities in the Americas. Radiocarbon dates and faunal correlations indicate the excavated deposits represent an interval of time between 45,000 and 11,000 14C years BP. The current synthesis demonstrates that the previous view of the assemblage as a single local fauna is erroneous and that, instead, several successive local faunas are present within a stratigraphic framework. This finding underscores the need for detailed studies of single localities in building paleoenvironmental models. As a corollary, results point to the necessity of including all vertebrate classes represented from a locality in building those models. In addition, the field and analytical methodologies demonstrate the importance of very detailed paleontological excavations, with precise spatial and temporal controls, to assess the taphonomic history of a locality, construct a stratigraphic and geochronological framework, and infer the paleoecological conditions during the time span considered based on the number of local faunas represented. The recognition of San Josecito Cave as an important Late Pleistocene vertebrate paleontological locality is enhanced with the consideration of its faunal data for paleoenvironment reconstruction and possible contribution to Quaternary paleoclimatic modeling. Full article
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Article
The Potential of Micromammals for the Stratigraphy and the Timing of Human Occupations at La Roche-à-Pierrot (Saint-Césaire, France)
Quaternary 2021, 4(4), 33; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat4040033 - 21 Oct 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1993
Abstract
As micromammals are highly sensitive to changes in their habitat, variations in species representation are often used to reconstruct local environmental conditions. However, taphonomic aspects of micromammals are often overlooked, despite the fact that they can provide important information for our understanding of [...] Read more.
As micromammals are highly sensitive to changes in their habitat, variations in species representation are often used to reconstruct local environmental conditions. However, taphonomic aspects of micromammals are often overlooked, despite the fact that they can provide important information for our understanding of archaeological sites. La Roche-à-Pierrot, Saint-Césaire, is a major archaeological site for our understanding of the Middle-to-Upper Palaeolithic transition in Western Europe. Clearly documenting site formation processes, the post-depositional reworking of deposits and the sequence of human occupations is fundamental for providing a secure archaeostratigraphic context of the site. The exceptionally large accumulation of micromammals from recently excavated stratigraphic units at the site makes it possible to track variations in the density of micromammals across the stratigraphic sequence. The taphonomic analysis of micromammals demonstrates these variations are not related to a change in the main accumulation agent or post-depositional phenomena. A negative correlation between small mammal remains and archaeological material suggests that peaks in micromammal densities can potentially be correlated with periods when the site was abandoned or when human occupation was less intense, and therefore provide new data for interpreting the Saint-Césaire stratigraphic sequence. Full article
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Article
The Stegodon Bonebed of the Middle Pleistocene Archaeological Site Mata Menge (Flores, Indonesia): Taphonomic Agents in Site Formation
Quaternary 2021, 4(4), 31; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat4040031 - 29 Sep 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2437
Abstract
The Middle Pleistocene fluvial channel site of the Upper Fossil-bearing Interval at Mata Menge in the So’a Basin, Flores, Indonesia, has yielded the earliest fossil evidence for Homo floresiensis in association with stone artefacts and fossils of highly endemic insular fauna, including Stegodon [...] Read more.
The Middle Pleistocene fluvial channel site of the Upper Fossil-bearing Interval at Mata Menge in the So’a Basin, Flores, Indonesia, has yielded the earliest fossil evidence for Homo floresiensis in association with stone artefacts and fossils of highly endemic insular fauna, including Stegodon, giant rats, crocodiles, Komodo dragons, and various birds. A preliminary taphonomic review of the fossil material here aimed to provide additional context for the hominin remains in this bonebed. Analysis was performed on two subsets of material from the same fluvial sandstone layer. Subset 1 comprised all material from two adjacent one-metre square quadrants (n = 91), and Subset 2 all Stegodon long limb bones excavated from the same layer (n = 17). Key analytical parameters included species and skeletal element identification; fossil size measurements and fragmentation; weathering stages; bone fracture characteristics; and other biological and geological bone surface modifications. Analysis of Subset 1 material identified a highly fragmented assemblage with a significant bias towards Stegodon. A large portion of these bones were likely fractured by trampling prior to entering the fluvial channel and were transported away from the death-site, undergoing surface modification causing rounding. Subset 2 material was less likely to have been transported far based on its limited susceptibility to fluvial transport. There was no significant difference in weathering for the long limb bones and fragments, with the highest portion exhibiting Stage 2 weathering, indicating that prior to final burial, all material was exposed to prolonged periods of surface exposure. Approximately 10% of all material have characteristics of fracturing on fresh bone, contributing to the taphonomic context for this bonebed; however insufficient evidence was found for anthropogenic modification. Full article
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Article
Unravelling the Taphonomic Stories of Bird Bones from the Middle Pleistocene Layer VIII of Grotte Vaufrey, France
Quaternary 2021, 4(4), 30; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat4040030 - 28 Sep 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2892
Abstract
In recent years, several studies have significantly changed our knowledge concerning the use of birds by Neanderthals. However, what remains to be clarified is the geographical and chronological variability of this human behaviour. The present case study provides new information on this topic/debate. [...] Read more.
In recent years, several studies have significantly changed our knowledge concerning the use of birds by Neanderthals. However, what remains to be clarified is the geographical and chronological variability of this human behaviour. The present case study provides new information on this topic/debate. The Grotte Vaufrey was discovered during the 1930s and was excavated during different periods. Work carried out by J.-P. Rigaud during the 1980s motivated many multidisciplinary studies in the cave, but accurate studies were not focused on avian remains. In this work, we provide new data on the bird remains from layer VIII (MIS 7), which is the richest among all the sequences and which has an important Mousterian component. Corvids are predominant in the assemblage and are associated with medium-sized birds and small Passeriformes, among others. Most of the remains present modern fractures, which hinder taphonomic interpretation. However, some alterations associated with raptor or mammalian carnivore activities, together with the anatomical representation and age profile, suggest a non-human accumulation of the majority of the bird remains, especially in the case of corvids that naturally died in the cave. However, at least some bones show evidence of anthropic activity, suggesting the occasional use of large- and medium-sized birds by human populations. Full article
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Article
Middle Pleistocene Variations in the Diet of Equus in the South of France and Its Morphometric Adaptations to Local Environments
Quaternary 2021, 4(3), 23; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat4030023 - 26 Jul 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2461
Abstract
Equus is a very sensitive genus which has expanded over a large area and lived in Europe despite the climatic instability of the Pleistocene. Its persistence and abundance are helpful in understanding and describing environmental and climatic regional parameters. In this study, we [...] Read more.
Equus is a very sensitive genus which has expanded over a large area and lived in Europe despite the climatic instability of the Pleistocene. Its persistence and abundance are helpful in understanding and describing environmental and climatic regional parameters. In this study, we present the result of dental mesowear and microwear analysis and post-cranial skeleton biometry on Equus populations located in two regions in the South of France from ten sites, corresponding to twelve assemblages dated from MIS 12 to MIS 5. The areas refer to two major climatic zones: the oceanic or subcontinental climate for the South West of France, and the Mediterranean for the South East. The first objective of this study is to integrate and compare biometric data, dental wear, and other already-published environmental proxies. The goal is to discuss the validity of horse body shape adaptations on a small geographical scale. The second objective is to describe the impact of environmental features on the horse population through time in the two regions. We observe that the Equus diet was quite diverse, according to microwear analysis which shows adaptations according to seasonal variations. However, they remained mostly grazers over a long period of time. Estimated body mass of Equus in the localities studied here varies from a mean of 468 up to a mean of 570 kg, but these variations failed to be correlated with the diet, the climatic period, or the geographical position of the horse population, probably because of the sample size or the restricted time-span or geographical scale. However, the conformation of the metapodials and the width of the third phalanges may have been linked with environmental and behavioural parameters. The width of the third phalange may be correlated with the recurrence of the snow cover, while the robustness of the metapodial co-occurs with a humid climate. Also, diet may influence the conformation of the bones, since the tall and slender horses seem to be preferentially grazers all year long and seasonally browser horses are tall and robust. Seasonally mixed-feeder horses, all coming from the Mediterranean area, were found to be smaller, perhaps in relation to a less productive environment. The correspondence of the dietary and morphometrical data could suggest high pressure on the horse population, which caused rapid body adaptation. Thus, the combination of these different proxies allows us to suggest more accurate large mammal paleoenvironmental reconstructions. Full article
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Article
Human Activities, Biostratigraphy and Past Environment Revealed by Small-Mammal Associations at the Chalcolithic Levels of El Portalón de Cueva Mayor (Atapuerca, Spain)
Quaternary 2021, 4(2), 16; https://doi.org/10.3390/quat4020016 - 14 May 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2802
Abstract
The Chalcolithic levels of El Portalón de Cueva Mayor (Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain) offer a good opportunity to test whether the small-mammal contents of different archaeo-stratigraphical units may be useful to characterize them as independent entities. With that purpose, we studied representative samples of [...] Read more.
The Chalcolithic levels of El Portalón de Cueva Mayor (Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain) offer a good opportunity to test whether the small-mammal contents of different archaeo-stratigraphical units may be useful to characterize them as independent entities. With that purpose, we studied representative samples of small-mammal remains from the two main contexts identified: the Early Chalcolithic (EC) funerary context and the Late Chalcolithic (LC) habitat/stabling context, with the latter comprising three different archaeological units according to their origin, namely prepared floors, activity floors and stabling surfaces or fumiers. Following the distribution of taxa in their respective contexts, we performed several statistical tests to check for significant discrepancies between archaeological units. The exclusive presence of certain taxa, together with the statistical difference in relative taxonomic ratios, points to the integrity and unpolluted condition of the EC context. The interspersed arrangement of the different LC context’s units made them prone to inter-pollution as they are not statistically different. The unexpected presence of Pliomys lenki and Chionomys nivalis in the prepared floors evidences their Upper Pleistocene allochthonous origin. The EC levels of El Portalón contribute the first Holocene records of nine taxa in the Sierra de Atapuerca. An environment dominated by woodland, shrubland and wet meadows, with moderate presence of grassland, inland wetlands and rocky areas, is inferred from the small-mammal association of the EC levels. Full article
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