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Title: Hiding to eat: the role of carnivores in the early Middle Pleistocene from the TD8 level of Gran Dolina (Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain)
Authors: Blasco, Ruth
Rosell, Jordi
Made, Jan van der
Rodríguez, Jesús
Campeny Vall-llosera, Gerard
Arsuaga, Juan Luis
Bermúdez de Castro, José María
Carbonell, Eudald
Keywords: Middle Pleistocene;Taphonomy;Carnivores;Gran Dolina;TD8
Issue Date: Dec-2011
Publisher: Elsevier
Citation: Journal of Archaeological Science, 2011, 38 (12), 3373-3386
Abstract: Damage generated by large and small carnivores is common in many Middle Pleistocene sites. However, identifying the predator that produces the faunal accumulations is often a difficult task. In order to recognize the main type of carnivore that acts on a faunal assemblage, a combination of several characteristics should be taken into account: taxonomic and skeletal element representation, age profiles, carnivore damage (location, frequencies and dimensions of tooth-marks, bone breakage and digested bones), degree of fragmentation and frequencies of coprolites. But, adding environmental characteristics and the ethology of non-human predators/scavengers is also important. All these aspects are applied to the faunal assemblage from the TD8 level of the Gran Dolina site (Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain). Paleomagnetic data combined with ESR and U-series place the TD8 level at the beginning of the Middle Pleistocene, specifically circa 700 kyr ago. The TD8 level contains a large faunal accumulation primarily composed of ungulate skeletal elements, and to a lesser extent carnivore remains. This assemblage is characterized by an overrepresentation of fallow deer (Dama vallonetensis), a skeletal profile biased towards cranial remains and limb bones, diversity of ages at death, a high proportion of carnivore damage and tooth-marks of large size, and an absence of human activity. According to these data, the accumulation seems to have been produced primarily by large carnivores, possibly hyenas. This observation does not rule out the possible occasional activity by other carnivores. Nevertheless, the characteristics of the TD8 assemblage do not correlate entirely with those traditionally used to define carnivore dens. In TD8, there are (1) no immature carnivore remains (remains of just one young Mosbach wolf); (2) scarce traces related to the end stages of consumption and some anatomical connexions; (3) few coprolites; (4) high proportion of adult ungulates and; (5) high quantities of whole bones and epiphyses. From this perspective, the TD8 faunal assemblage seems to correspond to a succession of carnivore occupations that allows the development of a suite of features to identify the activities of several species of predators that may have used the cave in different ways and durations. This study aims to emphasize the importance of these analyzes in order to know the behaviour of different non-human predators/scavengers in the European Middle Pleistocene sites.
ISSN: 0305-4403
DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2011.07.023
Type: Article
Appears in Collections:Paleobiología

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