Was FLK North levels 1-2 a classic "living floor" of Oldowan hominins or a taphonomically complex palimpsest dominated by large carnivore feeding behavior?

H. T. Bunn, A. Z.P. Mabulla, M. Domínguez-Rodrigo, G. M. Ashley, R. Barba, F. Diez-Martín, K. Remer, J. Yravedra, E. Baquedano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations

Abstract

From excavation at FLK North levels 1-2 in 1960-1962, Mary Leakey reported approximately 1200 Oldowan artifacts and 3300 large mammal fossils as a hominin "living floor". Preliminary taphonomic analysis by Bunn seemed supportive, based on the presence of some cut-marked bones, the concentration of several dozen bovid individuals, and the relative abundance of limbs and mandibles over other axial elements. Recent taphonomic analysis of Leakey's entire fossil assemblage by Domínguez-Rodrigo and Barba, however, documents a minor hominin role at the site, contrasted to the dominant role of carnivores. Felids brought prey animals; hyenas scavenged from abandoned felid meals. At different times, hominins butchered several bovids and discarded artifacts at this dynamic location. Since 2006, renewed excavations at FLK North and other sites by the Olduvai Paleoanthropology and Paleoecology Project (TOPPP) have expanded artifact and fossil samples and implemented new analytical approaches to clarify taphonomic histories of the Olduvai paleolandscape. At FLK North, > 1000 new large mammal fossils from levels 1 to 2 show minimal butchery evidence amid abundant evidence of carnivore gnawing/fracture, rodent gnawing, and sediment abrasion. To help guide future excavation and analyses, we have developed several alternative working hypotheses of site formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-362
Number of pages8
JournalQuaternary Research
Volume74
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

Keywords

  • Abrasion marks
  • Cut marks
  • Felids
  • Gnaw marks
  • Living floor
  • Palimpsest
  • Taphonomy

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