Upper Paleolithic foraging decisions and early economic intensification at Vale Boi, southwestern Portugal
AdvisorStiner, Mary C.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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EmbargoEmbargo: Release after 12/6/2012
AbstractThe Upper Paleolithic site of Vale Boi in coastal, southwestern Portugal currently represents the earliest known case of grease-rendering in Eurasia, with initial occupation occurring during the early Gravettian at ~ 27,000 BP. Long-term exploitation of marine resources is indicated by marine shellfish remains, mainly in the form of limpets (Patella), recovered from all three cultural periods (Gravettian, Solutrean and Magdalenian). High-level exploitation of rabbits (Oryctolagus) began with initial use of the site and continued throughout the occupations, with a possible increase in intensity at the onset of the Solutrean. Grease-rendering of red deer (Cervus elaphus), horse (Equus caballus), European ass (Equus hydruntinus) and aurochs (Bos primigenius) bones was identified through multi-dimensional taphonomic and zooarchaeological analyses. Ungulate remains demonstrated extensive fragmentation and abundant evidence of impact features such as cone fractures, crushing, denting and cracking. The intensity of fragmentation and impact damage to red deer remains is significantly correlated with quantities of marrow and bone grease within these portions. Lack of density-mediated attrition of either the leporid remains or the cranial bone of red deer and horse, demonstrates that the loss of low-density, grease-rich post-cranial skeletal portions is due to human subsistence activities. Balanced body-part representation of ungulates indicates that density-mediated attrition of post-cranial elements is not related to differential transport of carcass portions. Comparison of element portion frequencies to food utility indices further demonstrates that humans were systematically harvesting marrow and bone grease throughout the Gravettian, Solutrean and Magdalenian culture periods. The co-occurrence of fire-cracked rock, stone anvils and hammerstones corroborates this suggestion. Although grease rendering at Vale Boi pre-dates other known sites in Eurasia by several thousand years, faunal assemblages in southeastern Spain indicate that resource diversification and intensification appeared there coevally with Vale Boi. The persistence and continued intensification of subsistence practices throughout the Upper Paleolithic suggests a sustained depression of large game in relation to human populations. This was likely due to patchy, spatially-restricted resources, resulting in territorial circumscription. Only through technological innovation and novel approaches to resource harvesting, were foragers able to maintain and ultimately expand their populations in southern Iberia.
Degree ProgramGraduate College