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Small mammals: Post-discard patterning of !Kung San faunal remains

Journal of Anthropological Archaeology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0278-4165(91)90018-s
  • Archaeology


Abstract This, the second of two articles which examine !Kung San utilization of small mammals, focuses on the “cultural” and subsequent “natural” processes which serve to pattern faunal remains. It demonstrates that these two sets of forces are tightly linked and that it may be impossible for the archaeologist to strip the latter cleanly away to reveal underlying cultural information. Two faunal samples permit examination of the effects of butchering, consumption, duration of site occupation, and length of abandonment on differential element survival. Over the short term in this northern Kalahari Desert sample, selective removal by carnivores constitutes the main cause of differential destruction. Appeal to carnivores is determined by both the nature of an element itself and its cultural treatment. Different methods of breaking, cooking, and consumption may have major effects. Surprisingly, extended site occupation confers protection against carnivores to some classes of bones but not to others. Patterns of differential bone destruction vary between !Kung sites occupied for shorter and longer periods of time. Analysis of sites abandoned up to 32 years indicates that differential survival is affected by both an element's shape and its density. Over time, pieces move downward only and are not churned. They do not sort vertically by size.

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