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Revisiting the hunting-versus-scavenging debate at FLK Zinj: A GIS spatial analysis of bone surface modifications produced by hominins and carnivores in the FLK 22 assemblage, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania

Parkinson, Jennifer A.
Palaeogeography, palaeoclimatology, palaeoecology 2018 v.511 pp. 29-51
Bovidae, bones, carnivores, fauna, geographic information systems, ingestion, meat, Tanzania
This study presents a taphonomic examination of the ca. 1.84 million year old (Ma) bovid fauna from FLK Level 22 (FLK Zinj), Bed I, Olduvai Gorge using a new GIS spatial analysis approach. The FLK Zinj site contains some of the best preserved evidence for meat eating by hominins and has been used extensively in reconstructions of early hominin behavior. However, despite numerous interpretations of site function, there is currently no consensus regarding how hominins acquired carcasses at FLK Zinj. Some interpretations argue that Early Stone Age hominins had early access to fleshed carcasses through hunting or active scavenging, while others argue hominins had late access to largely defleshed carcasses through passive scavenging. In this study, GIS was used to record bone preservation in the FLK Zinj assemblage as well as in several modern, experimentally-modified bone assemblages, which are used for comparison. The placement of hominin- and carnivore-produced modifications was documented on bones from these assemblages, and the GIS Spatial Analyst was used to identify patterning in tooth mark clusters as well as patterning in cut mark locations. This analysis suggests hominins had early access to fleshed carcasses at FLK Zinj, particularly of smaller prey, which they may have acquired through hunting. Damage patterns on larger carcasses are more difficult to interpret, but are consistent with early access through hunting or aggressive scavenging. A reanalysis of carnivore tooth mark frequencies on the FLK Zinj bovid fauna also supports an early access scenario.