Mousterian large-mammal remains from Kobeh Cave

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Researchers have argued that Neanderthals and/or early modern humans scavenged the majority of the larger mammals represented in Middle Paleolithic/Middle Stone Age faunal assemblages at Combe Grenal, Grotte Vaufrey, Grotta Guattari, Grotta dei Moscerini, and Klasies River Mouth. If this is true, then these hominids practiced a pattern of faunal exploitation undocumented among modern hunter-gatherers. The evidence for this scavenging rests upon the presence of a head-dominated or headand-foot-dominated skeletal-element pattern. These are skeletal parts with little flesh. However, the sites where this pattern is found are either biased assemblages, shaft fragments having been discarded by the excavators, or unbiased ones in which shaft fragments were not included in the zooarchaeologist's analysis. An analysis of the Mousterian fauna from Kobeh Cave, Iran, in which the mid-shaft fragments of long bones typically considered nonidentifiable were refitted, identified, and entered into the estimates of element abundance produced a skeletal-element profile dominated by limb bones of the highest meat utility. If we remove these mid-shaft fragments we create a profile of the headand-foot variety. This suggests that the ubiquitous head-and-footdominated or head-dominated pattern is a methodological artifact resulting from ignoring shaft fragments and that there is no evidence that Neanderthals or early modern humans procured large mammals primarily from scavenging. Analysis of surface modification (cut marks, hammerstone percussion marks, and carnivore tooth marks) further substantiates a pattern of hunting by the Middle Paleolithic hominids that inhabited Kobeh Cave.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)S97-S98
Number of pages2
JournalCurrent Anthropology
Issue numberSUPPL.1
StatePublished - 1998


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