Long-term dog consumption during the Holocene at the Sierra de Atapuerca (Spain): case study of the El Portalón de Cueva Mayor site

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Evidence of dog consumption at the El Portalón de Cueva Mayor site (Sierra de Atapuerca, Spain) from the Holocene is revealed for the first time. The taxonomical and taphonomical studies of the animal bones from the El Portalón site have been carried out. The morphological and metrical analyses indicate that 130 dog bone remains have been identified from the El Portalón site, including from the Neolithic (NISP = 23), Chalcolithic (Pre-Bell Beaker Chalcolithic and Bell Beaker Chalcolithic) (26), Early Bronze Age, Middle Bronze Age and Late Bronze Age (81). The anthropic evidence encompasses cut marks, fresh bone fractures, human tooth marks and fire modifications, thus constituting clear evidence of cynophagy, at least in the Chalcolithic and Bronze Age levels in different contexts (habitat and funerary) from the El Portalón site (Atapuerca, Burgos). Furthermore, the fire alterations on two bone remains from the Neolithic suggest likely dog consumption due to the domestic character of the stratigraphical units where these bone remains were found. The taphonomic evidence suggests that domestic dogs were, at least occasionally, part of the diet of the humans who inhabited the El Portalón site, a fact that might be caused either by food shortages and hunger or as dog meat was considered as a delicacy.
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