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Title: Very human bears: a neo-taphonomic research study on wild brown bears (Ursus arctos arctos) in the spanish Pyrenees and its archaeological implications
Authors: Rosell, Jordi
Blasco, Ruth
Arilla Osuna, Maite
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: Muséum national d'histoire naturelle
Citation: 4th International Council for Archaeozoology (ICAZ) Taphonomy Working Group Meeting, 2016, p. 31-32
Abstract: Different agents can lead to similar damage patterns, and different causes can result in the same type of modification. This phenomenon was defined by Lyman (1987) as a problem of equifinality, with which the researcher warned about the risks of making direct systematic correlations. The fact that a specific type of damage cannot be linked to a single actor, behaviour or ecological context is primarily applicable to damage associated with the direct consumption of carcasses. Some carnivores show physical and dental characteristics that could lead to bone modifications potentially similar to those generated by humans. For example, bears have a bunodont dentition and plantigrade locomotion –the latter allows them to frequently release and use their claws as "hands". Here, we present the neo-taphonomical study of 17 ungulate carcasses eaten by wild brown bears (Ursus arctos arctos) in the Spanish Pyrenees. Our observations express this equifinality problem by identifying peeling linked to the evisceration, wrenching of ribcages and direct consumption. This fact is especially significant, given that peeling and the combination of this damage with visible tooth marks were primarily associated with the feeding activities of hominids and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and only anecdotally with other taphonomic agents, such as spotted hyenas. We discerned that peeling (isolated and/or combined with tooth marks) is distributed mainly on bone specimens from small ungulates, especially on 1) lumbar vertebrae, with much damage on transverse processes and much more rarely on spinous processes; 2) thoracic vertebrae, with most of it on spinous processes; and 3) ribs, with most of damage on sterna ends and mid-shafts. This damage is located on scapulae (the coracoid process) only on occasion. With this research, we try to show some equifinality phenomena that could occur in Pleistocene faunal assemblages where the presence of both hominids and bears is documented.
Type: Presentation
Appears in Collections:Congresos, encuentros científicos y estancias de investigación

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