Using a specimen-scale approach and butchery traces on the elbow to refine paleoecological interpretations of Early Stone Age carnivory

Author(s): Stephen Merritt

Year: 2015


Assemblage-scale proportions of modified specimens are difficult to link with hominins’ early versus late carcass access because fragmentation and other taphonomic processes affect assemblage composition and taphonomic trace visibility. This work advocates butchered specimen interpretation and describes the skeletal location of butchery traces inflicted during the sequence of carcass consumption behaviors. Tool-assisted carcass consumption is divided into early (defleshing limbs), middle (defleshing ribs, vertebrae and head) and late (metapodial tendon removal, element disarticulation, marrow fragmentation) consumption stages. This interpretive model uses actualistic cut mark location and morphology on large mammal elbow specimens to distinguish archaeological defleshing and disarticulation cut marks, which are incised on the elbow during different consumption stages. These observations are integrated with interpretations of other modified specimens to support inferences about hominin and carnivore carcass resource consumption. Three Okote Member zooarchaeological assemblages from Koobi Fora indicate early access to large and small mammal flesh, late stage marrow consumption, and minimal activity from primary and scavenging Carnivorans. Abundant small animal butchery and middle stage resource exploitation stands out at one locality. This corroborates a generalist carnivorous role for Homo erectus, who likely hunted small animals, enjoyed early access to large animals, and completely consumed certain carcasses.

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Using a specimen-scale approach and butchery traces on the elbow to refine paleoecological interpretations of Early Stone Age carnivory. Stephen Merritt. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397843)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;