Beyond the Problem of Bone Surface Preservation in Taphonomic Studies of Early and Middle Pleistocene Open-Air Sites.

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A commonly identified problem in open-air sites is the poor preservation of bone surfaces because of the multiple agents and processes that act on them. In these assemblages, surface modifications of anthropic origin can be scarce or null, and its activity is mainly inferred through the stone tools and evidence of anthropogenic breakage. Carnivore activity is also frequent. La Mina and El Forn (Barranc de la Boella), Isernia La Pineta, and Torralba are open-air assemblages from the Early and Middle Pleistocene that have contributed to our knowledge of the activities that Lower Paleolithic hominins developed in open spaces. These sites show poorly preserved bone surfaces, evidence of carnivore activity, and few indications of human use on the faunal remains, although stone tools recovered are unequivocal sign of a hominin presence at those sites. Here, we present a synthesis of the taphonomic conducted at these sites with the aim of describing how this kind of work can be conducted at Paleolithic open-air sites using several different proxies, considering the limitations commonly identified in assemblages with poorly preserved bone surfaces. The absence or scarcity of cut marks could be related to the poor preservation of the faunal remains. However, it is impossible to affirm that any such marks were originally present, as hominins may have performed activities not linked to animal carcasses. Anatomical profiles have been presented as a useful tool for reconstructing the paleoecological environments and for allowing inferences to be made about the levels of competition among large predators. The assemblages reflect similarities in the deposition type of the remains and the use of these open spaces by hominins at different times during the Lower Paleolithic.
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