Mammoth cave: Pitfall deposit, carnivore accumulation or cultural site?

19th December 2012

Kieran Forde

This thesis details the faunal assemblage from Mammoth Cave, an important megafauna site in southwestern Australia, where it has been proposed that humans accumulated and modified bones. This thesis aims to discover the formation processes that led to the accumulation of the bones. This was undertaken through a taphonomic analysis of a sample of bones from the site, in order to answer the question of whether they accumulated via the activities of carnivores or people, or by pitfall, or a combination. There has been a claim for bone artefacts at the site, but analysis of the sample shows no evidence for human activity. Research into the taxonomy and taphonomy of Mammoth Cave also aided in furthering knowledge of the formation of the site, and in turn, probable climatic and environmental conditions. Taphonomy is appropriate to this study because the Mammoth Cave record cannot be deciphered without a thorough understanding of the processes controlling the entry and survival of fossil remains in these deposits. Comparison of previously identified specimens from Mammoth Cave with species abundances from the nearby sites of Devils Lair and Tight Entrance Cave confirmed that the probable accumulation scenario was via pitfall entrapment, with no human contribution. However, there does appear to be one probable bone artefact and two, possibly three, examples of human remains (unconfirmed) amongst the material. These findings, whilst interesting, do not change  the  outcome  of this research. Based on the evidence, Mammoth Cave’s faunal assemblage entered intact through the solution pipe, with bone modifications occurring within the cave environment. The possible artefact and human remains most likely entered the cave via the same means.

Kieran Forde
Mammoth cave: Pitfall deposit, carnivore accumulation or cultural site?
2012
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Thesis Abstracts
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