Zooarchaeological and taphonomic analyses of Pleistocene vertebrate fauna from the Middle and Later Stone Age occupations at Contrebandiers Cave, Atlantic coast, Morocco
This dissertation research describes the hunting behavior of early modern humans through the analysis of vertebrate faunal remains from Contrebandiers Cave, Morocco. Contrebandiers Cave is located in the town of Témara and is roughly 250 meters from the current shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean. The cave was excavated in the 1950s and 1970s by l’Abbé Roche, and again starting in 2007 by Dibble and El Hajraoui with total station plotting of finds. Contrebandiers Cave contains Middle Stone Age (MSA) deposits dated to Marine Isotope Stages (MIS) 5e, 5d and 5c, ~120,000 to ~96,000 years ago. The Later Stone Age (LSA) deposits are dated to MIS 2, ~20,000 years ago. The entirety of the ~12,000 vertebrate faunal remains from Dibble and El Hajraoui’s excavation were analyzed for taxonomic and taphonomic identification.
A total of 67 vertebrate taxa were identified and include ungulates, carnivores, lagomorphs, birds, tortoises, snakes and fish. The faunal remains from Contrebandiers Cave preserve surface modification that indicates both humans and carnivores acted as agents of prey accumulation. Skeletal element representation and surface modification of ungulate remains suggest that humans had primary access to small, medium and large-bodied prey. In the MSA levels, carnivore skeletal remains preserve surface modification that is interpreted as being indicative of behavior associated with skinning for fur removal.
The vertebrate faunal remains from MIS 5e and 5d indicate that humans were hunting grazers and mixed feeders from open habitats and suids from mixed habitats. The faunal remains from MIS 5c indicate that humans focused less on suids and more on mixed feeders from open habitats. The vertebrate faunal remains from MIS 2 reveal humans hunting grazers from dry, open habitats. This research provides a description of human hunting behavior in North Africa, and contributes to our understanding of early modern human behavior prior to dispersal out of Africa.