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Wild cats and cut marks: Exploitation of Felis silvestris in the Mesolithic of Galgenbühel/Dos de la Forca (South Tyrol, Italy)

Crezzini, Jacopo, Boschin, Francesco, Boscato, Paolo, Wierer, Ursula
Quaternary international 2014 v.330 pp. 52-60
Cervus elaphus, Felis silvestris, Holocene epoch, carnivores, cats, fauna, fish, fur, molluscs, skinning, turtles, wetlands, wild boars, Alps region, Italy
The present taphonomic study investigates the role of a small carnivore, Felis silvestris, in the subsistence strategies of Early Mesolithic hunter-gatherers who inhabited the Eastern Alps during the Early Holocene. A reasonable amount of wild cat remains, some bearing cut marks, were recovered during the archaeological excavations of the rock shelter site Galgenbühel/Dos de la Forca, located in South Tyrol (Adige Valley, Bolzano, Italy). The site was frequented from approximately 8500 to 7500 BC cal. by Sauveterrian groups whose economy was centered on the exploitation of nearby wetlands and the forested valley bottom and slopes. The fauna comprises abundant fish remains, molluscs, pond turtles as well as mammals, the latter dominated by the beaver, the wild boar and the red deer. In the reconstruction of hunter-gatherer subsistence strategies, it often thought that carnivores were exploited primarily for their fur. The present taphonomic study was carried out to verify if the exploitation of wild cat by Mesolithic groups was related to the procurement of additional resources. The analysis of the archaeological sample regarding skeletal frequencies and cut-mark distribution was integrated by an experimental work conducted on modern cats in order to reconstruct the chaîne opératoire adopted by man for the treatment of the carcasses. The 3D digital microscope analysis provided for each stria morphometrical parameters in order to identify the origin of cut marks. The anthropic traces found in the wild cat assemblage of Galgenbühel/Dos de la Forca are only partly related to skinning. The localisation and the features of some marks attest disarticulation and therefore support the use of F. silvestris as food.