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J Hum Evol. 2004 May;46(5):595-604.

Beyond leopards: tooth marks and the contribution of multiple carnivore taxa to the accumulation of the Swartkrans Member 3 fossil assemblage.

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  • 1Department of Anthropology and CRAFT Research Center, Indiana University, 130 Student Building, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA. trpicker@indiana.edu

Abstract

The ca. 1.0 myr old fauna from Swartkrans Member 3 (South Africa) preserves abundant indication of carnivore activity in the form of tooth marks (including pits) on many bone surfaces. This direct paleontological evidence is used to test a recent suggestion that leopards, regardless of prey body size, may have been almost solely responsible for the accumulation of the majority of bones in multiple deposits (including Swartkrans Member 3) from various Sterkfontein Valley cave sites. Our results falsify that hypothesis and corroborate an earlier hypothesis that, while the carcasses of smaller animals may have been deposited in Swartkrans by leopards, other kinds of carnivores (and hominids) were mostly responsible for the deposition of large animal remains. These results demonstrate the importance of choosing appropriate classes of actualistic data for constructing taphonomic inferences of assemblage formation. In addition, they stress that an all-encompassing model of assemblage formation for the hominid-bearing deposits of the Sterkfontein Valley is inadequate and that each must be evaluated individually using not just analogical reasoning but also incorporating empirical data generated in the preserved fossil samples.

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