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A contextual approach to the study of faunal assemblages from Lower and Middle Palaeolithic sites in the UK

Smith, G.M.; (2010) A contextual approach to the study of faunal assemblages from Lower and Middle Palaeolithic sites in the UK. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis represents a site-specific, holistic analysis of faunal assemblage formation at four key Palaeolithic sites (Boxgrove, Swanscombe, Hoxne and Lynford). Principally this research tests the a priori assumption that lithic tools and modified large to medium-sized fauna recovered from Pleistocene deposits represent a cultural accumulation and direct evidence of past hominin meat-procurement behaviour. Frequently, the association of lithics and modified fauna at a site has been used to support either active large-mammal hunting by hominins or a scavenging strategy. Hominin bone surface modification (cut marks, deliberate fracturing) highlight an input at the site but cannot be used in isolation from all other taphonomic modifiers as evidence for cultural accumulation. To understand the role of hominins in faunal assemblage accumulation all other taphonomic factors at a site must first be considered. A site-specific framework was established by using data on the depositional environment and palaeoecology. This provided a context for the primary zooarchaeological data (faunal material: all elements and bone surface modification) and helped explain the impact and importance of faunal accumulators and modifiers identified during analysis. This data was synthesized with information on predator and prey behavioural ecology to assess potential conflict and competition within the site palaeoenvironment. Results indicate that association of lithics and modified fauna are not sufficient evidence of a cultural accumulation; two sites (Swanscombe, Hoxne) demonstrate evidence of fluvial accumulation and disturbance. Whereas at Boxgrove, hominins had primary access to all fauna, fully exploiting carcasses. At Lynford, the mammoth remains were not modified by hominins, whilst other species only indicated exploitation for marrow, which conflicts with existing interpretations. I argue that hunting and scavenging are a continuum of behaviour, not necessarily represented at each site.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:A contextual approach to the study of faunal assemblages from Lower and Middle Palaeolithic sites in the UK
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > Institute of Archaeology

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