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J Hum Evol. 1997 Nov;33(5):555-97.

Experimental determinations of carcass processing by Plio-Pleistocene hominids and carnivores at FLK 22 (Zinjanthropus). Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania.

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  • Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08903, USA.


Published and unpublished skeletal and surface mark data from the large, well-preserved, bovid dominated FLK 22 (Zinjanthropus) archaeofauna are analyzed using data derived from four different experimental control samples. The control samples are realistic because they are based on natural history and paleoecological data collected from FLK 22, and other Olduvai Gorge assemblages; they are precise because independent experimental studies following the same methods have generated the same results; and they restore generality to the study of site formation because each one models a different hominid and/or carnivore scenario of site formation. Comparability between FLK 22 and the control samples is established by excluding specimens from the former which do not meet identification and reporting standards derived from the latter. As in two previous studies, a comprehensive analysis of tooth marks and tool marks on long bone specimens from FLK 22 indicates that they were processed in three stages. In stage one, carnivores defleshed long bones, as inferred from the high percentage of tooth marks on midshaft fragments. In stage two, hominids processed intact long bones for marrow, as inferred from percussion mark percentages. Cut marks suggest that long bones retained flesh, but the amount, as yet, cannot be determined using cut mark percentages. In stage three, carnivores processed long bone epiphyses for grease, as inferred from the under-representation of long bone epiphyses and the high percentage of tooth marks on near-epiphyses and surviving epiphyses. The lack of comprehensive skeletal and surface mark data on cranial, axial, compact, and other specimens currently limits the application of experimental results. However, the available data suggest that the condition and representation of these items in the FLK 22 assemblage are also consistent with a carnivore to hominid to carnivore sequence of site formation. The variety of elements present, and their extensive processing by hominids, indicates that FLK 22 functioned as a central place/refuge where hominids could transport a variety of carcass parts and process them in an unhurried fashion. The presence of numerous small and medium sized individuals also indicates that hominids could have passively scavenged carcasses from a number of different sources including lions, leopards, sabertooth cats, and mass drownings.

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