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Accumulation agents of bird bones at Sima del Elefante, Spain (1 Viewer)


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Marqueta, M., R. Huguet, and C. Núñez-Lahuerta (2022)
Accumulation agents and bird assemblages: the case of the TE9d level at Sima del Elefante (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain)
International Journal of Osteoarchaeology (advance online publication)
doi: 10.1002/oa.3185

Bird assemblages can be found in archaeological sites throughout the Pleistocene. Taphonomy studies are key to understanding how such assemblages were formed. These assemblages can be generated by various agents, including human groups, animals and natural death. In this paper, we analysed the avifaunal assemblage from level TE9d at the Sima del Elefante site, where corvid (Corvidae) remains are the most abundant taxa, as reported in previous studies from that deposit. The remains of smaller birds (Charadriiformes, Rallidae) and large raptors (Aquila cf. heliaca/adalberti, Haliaeetus albicilla) have also been documented. Our taphonomic analysis shows that birds of prey were the main accumulators of bird remains at the site. The presence of modifications such as beak/talon marks and different degrees of digestion reinforce the idea that both diurnal and nocturnal raptors were involved. Nevertheless, we cannot rule out the accumulation by natural death of those species that could have nested in the rocky walls of the cave. The absence of evidence of anthropogenic activity on the bird remains from level TE9d therefore indicates that hominins were not involved in this accumulation. These results can be considered a new contribution to the discussion on the origin of avifaunal accumulations in Pleistocene archaeological contexts.

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