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Butchering and Marrow Fracturing as a Taphonomic Factor in Archaeological Deposits

Nanna Noe-Nygaard
Paleobiology
Vol. 3, No. 2 (Spring, 1977), pp. 218-237
Published by: Paleontological Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2400183
Page Count: 20
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Butchering and Marrow Fracturing as a Taphonomic Factor in Archaeological Deposits
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Abstract

A major aim of the analysis of faunal remains from archaeological sites is the reconstruction of the palaeoecology of early man. Since taphonomic work must precede palaeoecological work, theories concerning the palaeoecology of early man would benefit from firmly based taphonomic studies of the archaeological deposits. One of the numerous taphonomic factors to be considered is the bone fragmentation produced by early man. The degree of bone fragmentation in a deposit uninfluenced by human factors is an expression of the resistance of the various bones to mechanical and chemical decomposition before and during burial. Thus, the degree of fragmentation where human factors are predominant should provide an illustration of man as a taphonomic factor. In both cases the degree of fragmentation may be used as an indicator of the degree of taphonomic overprint. Examination of bone material from four West European Mesolithic sites (all bog deposits), Star Carr 7200 ± 120 B.C., Kongemosen 6600 ± 100 B.C., Praestelyngen 3200 ± 100 B.C., and Muldbjerg I 2900 ± 80 B.C., reveals differences in marrow fracturing techniques. Furthermore, the different techniques result in different numbers of fragments for the same type of bone. Comparison of faunas from different sites based on the number of bone fragments must therefore be preceded by analysis of the marrow fracturing techniques used at the various sites. The number of fragments per estimated minimum number of individuals should indicate the degree of taphonomic loss. The various types of marrow fracturing found seem to belong to cultures at different levels of technical development. Thus, it may be possible within a limited area such as northern Europe to establish a chronology using marrow fracturing type as one of the ecostratigraphic tools.

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