Metrical analysis of bovine bone remains from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age at the El Portalón site (Atapuerca, Burgos) in the Iberian context

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The discrimination of wild and domestic forms of animals is crucial to understanding the subsistence strategy of a site's inhabitants. In this study, a metrical analysis was carried out for the taxonomical identification of Bos taurus and Bos primigenius. Abundant bovine bone remains have been recovered from the El Portalón site's Neolithic, Chalcolithic, and Bronze Age levels. A metrical analysis and sex determination have been completed for these bone remains. The results of the metrical study suggest a significant decrease in bovine size during the transition from the Chalcolithic to the Bronze Age. The similar sex ratio (bulls/cows) among the levels and the similar mortality profile rule out management differences as a possible cause for this size change. The global trend towards aridification from the Middle Holocene onwards or the general climate event (4.2 Ka: transition Chalcolithic to Bronze Age) where social, demographic, and subsistence strategic changes occurred are considered probable causes of this decrease in cattle size.