Micromammal taphonomy of el-Wad Terrace, Mount Carmel, Israel: Distinguishing cultural from natural depositional agents in the Late Natufian

Lior Weissbrod, Tamar Dayan, Daniel Kaufman, Mina Weinstein-Evron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

A taphonomic analysis of micromammal remains from the Late Natufian deposits of el-Wad Terrace, Mount Carmel, Israel, was conducted in order to test the long-standing premise of owl deposition as the primary accumulating agent. The inferred taphonomic sequence was modeled within an actualistic (recent) comparative framework incorporating a locally derived barn owl pellet collection and an off-site control assemblage of micromammal remains from the cliff overhanging the terrace. The sequence was reconstructed based on multiple types of recorded taphonomic data, comprising skeletal modifications (breakage, digestion, weathering, gnawing, and charring) and age structure. Evidence for post-depositional processes including fluvial transport, trampling, and weathering was isolated and consequently the typical owl imprints were traced through the two actualistic and the archaeological assemblages. Based on the extent of breakage and patterning in skeletal element frequencies it was also possible to scale the preservation potential of primary data in el-Wad Terrace as a discrete site type, intermediate between true cave and open-air depositional environments. Verifying the role of owls as principal agents of accumulation of the el-Wad Terrace micromammal remains enabled the detection of two minor superimposed cultural patterns: consumption of mole rats (Spalax sp.) by the Natufians and commensalism of mice (Mus spp.).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Volume32
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2005

Keywords

  • Actualistic research
  • Commensalism
  • Israel
  • Micromammals
  • Natufian
  • Owl deposition
  • Small game
  • Taphonomy

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