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Title: Who peeled the bones? An actualistic and taphonomic study of axial elements from the Toll Cave Level 4, Barcelona, Spain
Authors: Blasco, Ruth
Arilla Osuna, Maite
Domínguez-Rodrigo, Manuel
Andrés Eguiburu, Miriam‏
Ramírez-Pedraza, Iván
Rufà Bonache, Anna
Rivals, Florent
Rosell, Jordi
Keywords: Actualism;Bear;Pleistocene;Taphonomy;Peeling;Axial bones;Ribs;Toll Cave
Issue Date: Dec-2020
Publisher: Elsevier
Citation: Quaternary Science Reviews, 2020, 250, 106661
Abstract: Equifinality constitutes a challenge when interpreting agency in archaeological sites. The fact that a specific type of damage frequently cannot be linked to a single actor, behavior, or ecological context, handicaps correct interpretations of site formation processes. Actualistic studies have been used to address this type of problem by creating models and analogies to infer the processes that occurred in the past and explain the formation processes of fossil faunas found at archaeological sites. Here, we apply this approach using observational data from Arilla et al. (2014) describing the consumption of ungulate carcasses by wild brown bears (Ursus arctos arctos). We focus on a specific type of damage, peeling, which was observed to be one of the most significant modifications of axial skeletal elements of carcasses eaten by bears. This fact was especially relevant because the peeling damage was initially attributed to the feeding activities of primates (humans and chimpanzees—Pan troglodytes) and only anecdotally to other taphonomic agents. The observational data are then applied to Level 4 of Toll Cave (Moià, Barcelona, Spain), dated to >49,000 14C BP, which has been interpreted to be a hibernation lair with significant activity by carnivores and sporadic human presence. Rib and vertebral peeling have also been identified at Level 4 bone assemblage, casting doubt on the agent responsible for this damage (effector) in the cave. The aim of our study is to address the equifinality problems that involve peeling as a taphonomical signature in archaeological sites, taking the Pleistocene site of Toll Cave as a case study.
ISSN: 0277-3791
DOI: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2020.106661
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Type: Article
Appears in Collections:Arqueología

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