Before Farming

Integrating inter- & intra-site analyses of Epipalaeolithic faunal assemblages from Israel

Before Farming (2009), 2009, (1), 1–18.

Abstract

Inter- and intra-site variability in faunal assemblages from Epipalaeolithic sites in the southern Levant are investigated to identify broad patterns of human hunting efficiency and specific human activities at individual sites. The examination of eleven assemblages from the Mediterranean phytogeographic zone of Israel indicates a decline in human hunting efficiency across the Epipalaeolithic period. This decline is part of an intensified hunting strategy driven by human-induced resource depression of high-ranked large game taxa (ungulates). More detailed analyses at the site level indicate distinct variation in the use of fauna within individual archaeological sites. At Hilazon Tachtit taxonomic representation differs substantially among features in the cave. The differential deposition of fauna reflects specific burial customs including the selection of particular body parts and taxa as grave inclusions and consumption events. At Hayonim Cave uneven body part representation reflects variation in the function of different avian taxa as food and raw materials as well as the curation of specific bones for ornamental functions. Together, the intra- and inter-site analyses show that although humans selected particular taxa for specific purposes, prey choice was constrained by resource availability and the impacts of Epipalaeolithic hunters on their animal resources. In combination the two scales of analysis shed light on multiple dimensions of human behaviour providing a more robust picture than either analysis could alone.

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Munro, Natalie