Disentangling Early Stone Age palimpsests: determining the functional independence of hominid- and carnivore-derived portions of archaeofaunas

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Charles P. Egeland, Associate Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/

Abstract: Determining the extent to which hominid- and carnivore-derived components of fossil bone palimpsests formed independently of each other can provide valuable information to paleoanthropologists interested in reconstructing the foraging adaptations of hominids. Because stone tool cutmarks, hammerstone percussion marks, and carnivore tooth marks are usually only imparted on bone during nutrient extraction from a carcass, these bone surface modifications are particularly amenable to the types of analyses that might meet this goal. This study compares the percentage of limb bone specimens that preserve evidence of both hominid- and carnivore-imparted bone damage from actualistic control samples and several Plio-Pleistocene archaeofaunas, including new data from Swartkrans Member 3 (South Africa). We argue that this procedure, which elucidates the degree of hominid-carnivore independence in assemblage formation, will allow researchers to extract for focused analyses high integrity components (hominid and carnivore) from presumably low integrity sites. Comparisons suggest that the hominid- and carnivore-derived components from sites in Olduvai Gorge Bed II (Tanzania), the ST Site Complex at Peninj (Tanzania), and Swartkrans Member 3 formed largely independent of each other, while data from the FLK 22 Zinjanthropus (FLK Zinj) site (Olduvai Gorge Bed I) indicate significant interdependence in assemblage formation. This contrast suggests that some Early Stone Age assemblages (e.g., the Olduvai Gorge Bed II sites, the Peninj ST Site Complex, and Swartkrans Member 3) are probably more useful than others (e.g., FLK Zinj) for assessing the maximal carcass-acquiring abilities of early hominids; in such assemblages as those in the former set, sole hominid-contribution is more confidently discerned and isolated for analysis than in assemblages such as FLK Zinj.

Additional Information

Journal of Human Evolution 47, 343-357.
Language: English
Date: 2004
Early hominids, Carnivores, Bone surface modifications, Assemblage resolution, Assemblage integrity, Olduvai Gorge, Peninj, Swartkrans Member 3

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