A spotted hyaena den in the Middle Palaeolithic of Grotta Paglicci (Gargano promontory, Apulia, Southern Italy)

Abstract

The Palaeolithic sequence of Grotta Paglicci (Gargano promontory, Apulia, Southern Italy) is one of the most important in the Mediterranean area: It comprises the whole Upper Palaeolithic cultural sequence known for the region, as well as Early Middle Palaeolithic and Lower Palaeolithic levels. These earlier phases are best represented in a collapsed room located outside the present-day cave (the so called “external rock shelter”). In this area, a new excavation, started in 2004, brought to light Middle Palaeolithic animal remains associated with evidence of spotted hyaena (SU 64 and 53). The spatial distribution analysis of remains from SU 53 revealed the presence of a bone accumulation area and a wider dispersal of hyaena coprolites. Three main ungulate species (aurochs, fallow deer and red deer) as well as carnivores (spotted hyaena, wolf, fox, wild cat and lynx) and lagomorphs have been identified. The majority of aurochs remains are located in the main accumulation; among these specimens, a complete metatarsal connected with three tarsal bones has been found; a talus and a complete tibia, probably belonging to the same limb, have also been identified. The multidisciplinary study carried out in this paper highlights a specific bone accumulation and scattering pattern in a spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta) den. In addition, taphonomy of lagomorph remains indicates the presence of other depositional agents.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici della Puglia for supporting research at Grotta Paglicci. We are also grateful to the reviewers for editing and improving the original manuscript and to Lee G. Broderick and Richard Madgwick, the organisers of Session 4 of the 12th International Conference of Archaeozoology (San Rafael, Mendoza, Argentina, September 22nd to 27th, 2014), where this research was originally presented.

Author contributions

J.C., F.B. and P.B. designed research; J.C., F.B. and P.B. performed taphonomy and zooarchaeological research; A.R., S.R. and V.S. analysed excavation data; V.S. performed spatial distribution analysis; J.C., F.B., P.B., A.R. and V.S. wrote the paper.

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Crezzini, J., Boscato, P., Ricci, S. et al. A spotted hyaena den in the Middle Palaeolithic of Grotta Paglicci (Gargano promontory, Apulia, Southern Italy). Archaeol Anthropol Sci 8, 227–240 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-015-0273-0

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Keywords

  • Hyaena den
  • Taphonomy
  • GIS
  • Spatial analysis
  • Grotta Paglicci
  • Middle Palaeolithic