restricted access Chapter 9. Patterns of Natural and Cultural Disarticulation
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137 Central to the thesis that the Lange/Ferguson site is a Clovis mammoth butchery locale is the empirical evidence that indicates that the recovered mammoth bone does, indeed, represent a culturally derived assemblage. Given the controversy of human versus nonhuman patterns of bone modification, it is necessary to discount the possibility that the Lange/Ferguson mammoths represent a natural event of skeletal disarticulation. Studies conducted by Toots (1965) and Hill (1979, 1980) suggest that the basic sequence of nonhuman disarticulation proceeds first with head and forelimbs, followed by hind limbs and, finally, the elements of the axial skeleton. Summarizing these studies, Binford (1981:42) notes that we might expect the following anatomical segments to have slightly independent distributions under natural conditions simply as a function of the sequence of likely disarticulation. 1. Cranium plus atlas vertebra 2. Front leg 3. Rear leg 4. Axial skeleton (cervical, thoracic, lumbar vertebrae, sacrum, pelvis, ribs) It is further assumed that a common factor that interacts with, and becomes part of, the natural disarticulation process is the activity of carnivores. Binford (1981:42–43) suggests: For instance if one can picture competition among carnivores around a dead animal, then it might well be reasonable to anticipate that skull, mandible, and front leg parts would be most likely dragged away from the kill first during the early period of competition for parts of the kill among numbers of carnivores. In addition, we may anticipate that parts will “ride” with others as a function of their probable sequence of disarticulation. For instance, when the forelimb separates, it is most likely that all articulated segments of the front leg will be dragged off, not just some desirable or high-yield element of the front leg. As an example, Binford recalls his observations of a number of wolf kills, suggesting that wolves dismember their prey by eating through the proximal humerus, causing the scapula to become disarticulated and be dragged off. Such disarticulation would, in most cases, reveal tooth and gnawing activities. Brain (1981), in his study of goat bone accumulation patterns among the Hottentot, also observed that carnivores (domestic dogs) were an integral mechanism in selective survival of skeletal units. Brain (1981) additionally reported on controlled carnivore feeding experiments carried out in 1968, with cheetahs being fed carcasses of both bovids (springbok and karakul sheep) and primates (baboon) of approximately equal live weights. The resulting carcass modifications are quite striking in their dichotomies, and cogent to the issue of natural disarticulation. The cheetah disarticulation was similar for both the springbok and karakul sheep and is reported as follows: “Three cheetahs started to feed on the ventral surface of the body: one worked from there onto the inner parts of the hind legs, one chewed away the sternal rib attachments, and the third entered the thorax . . . damage was restricted to the ends of the ribs and the vertebral processes” (emphasis added). The cheetah disarticulation of the male baboon was a significant deviation from the previous pattern: All three cheetahs started to feed on the ventral surface of the abdomen; the viscera were removed and part of the intestine eaten. The rib cage was Patterns of Natural and Cultural Disarticulation chapter nine L. Adrien Hannus 138 Chapter Nine quickly chewed away and the vertebral column simply crunched up and swallowed—quite unlike the antelope situation [emphasis added]. As the vertebral column was destroyed, the pelvis and both hindlimbs were removed by one cheetah and carried a short distance away. The sacrum was eaten so that the femurs, still articulated to the innominates, were separated. (Brain 1981:25–26) Clearly important is the demonstrated difference in structure and robusticity between skeletal elements of bovids as compared to primates. Thus, as Brain (1981:26) notes, “it is in no way surprising that antelopes should be represented in a fossil assemblage by more abundant and more complete skeletal parts than are primates of similar size. The key lies in different degrees of resistance to equivalent carnivore action” (emphasis added). Closely aligned with the issue of robusticity in the survivorship of osseous material is the earlier question of patterning (natural versus human) in the disarticulation of skeletal elements. Hill (1979) approached the study of natural disarticulation processes by calculating the frequency of different intact joints of the skeleton in an assemblage of dead animals. The resulting model of “natural” disarticulation based on frequency calculations was then compared against data from the Olsen-Chubbuck site (Wheat 1972) to illuminate the differences between “natural...