Learning by Heart: Cultural Patterns in the Faunal Processing Sequence during the Middle Pleistocene

Blasco, Ruth; Rosell, Jordi; Domínguez-Rodrigo, Manuel; Lozano, Sergi; Pastó, Ignasi; Riba, David; Vaquero, Manuel; Peris, Josep Fernández; Arsuaga, Juan Luis; de Castro, José María Bermúdez; Carbonell, Eudald
February 2013
PLoS ONE;Feb2013, Vol. 8 Issue 2, p1
Academic Journal
Social learning, as an information acquisition process, enables intergenerational transmission and the stabilisation of cultural forms, generating and sustaining behavioural traditions within human groups. Archaeologically, such social processes might become observable by identifying repetitions in the record that result from the execution of standardised actions. From a zooarchaeological perspective, the processing and consumption of carcasses may be used to identify these types of phenomena at the sites. To investigate this idea, several faunal assemblages from Bolomor Cave (Valencia, Spain, MIS 9-5e) and Gran Dolina TD10-1 (Burgos, Spain, MIS 9) were analysed. The data show that some butchery activities exhibit variability as a result of multiple conditioning factors and, therefore, the identification of cultural patterns through the resulting cut-marks presents additional difficulties. However, other activities, such as marrow removal by means of intentional breakage, seem to reflect standardised actions unrelated to the physical characteristics of the bones. The statistical tests we applied show no correlation between the less dense areas of the bones and the location of impacts. Comparison of our experimental series with the archaeological samples indicates a counter-intuitive selection of the preferred locus of impact, especially marked in the case of Bolomor IV. This fact supports the view that bone breakage was executed counter-intuitively and repetitively on specific sections because it may have been part of an acquired behavioural repertoire. These reiterations differ between levels and sites, suggesting the possible existence of cultural identities or behavioural predispositions dependant on groups. On this basis, the study of patterns could significantly contribute to the identification of occupational strategies and organisation of the hominids in a territory. In this study, we use faunal data in identifying the mechanics of intergenerational information transmission within Middle Pleistocene human communities and provide new ideas for the investigation of occupational dynamics from a zooarchaeological approach.


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