Assessing the distribution of African Palaeolithic sites: a predictive model of collagen degradation

KM Holmes, KA Robson Brown, WP Oates, MJ Collins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In order to assess the distribution of African Palaeolithic sites and hominin remains, we need an understanding of the factors that may affect the preservation of archaeological material in the fossil record. One of the main factors that is thought to affect seriously the global distribution of fossil remains is taphonomy, but it would seem that taphonomic processes may themselves be overprinted by collagen degradation. The rate of collagen loss is highly temperature dependent, and it has been shown that bone is more likely to be preserved in areas of lower temperature and so lower collagen loss. Hence, it would be expected that fossil fauna remains would be distributed in areas of low collagen loss, i.e. low temperature. Conversely, lithics will not be subject to a temperature bias in their preservation. We have tested this hypothesis through the use of archaeological material. Our results show that the distributions of both lithic and faunal assemblages are non-random across the African continent, with all archaeological sites being found in areas of relatively low collagen degradation. This implies that bone collagen degradation is not the only factor affecting the distribution of African Palaeolithic sites and hominin remains. We suggest that the site distribution is not a reflection of bias in excavation history, but is a real phenomenon reflecting hominin habitat choice.
Translated title of the contributionAssessing the distribution of African Palaeolithic sites: a predictive model of collagen degradation
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157 - 166
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Volume32 (2)
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2005

Bibliographical note

Publisher: Elsevier

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