Carnivores and their Prey in the Wezmeh Cave (Kermanshah, Iran): A Late Pleistocene Refuge in the Zagros.

Wezmeh Cave is located on the northeastern edge of the Islamabad plain, a high intermontane valley in the western-central Zagros. In 1999 a disturbed but large faunal assemblage wasrecovered from this site. The abundant and extremely diverse faunal
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  Carnivores and their Prey in theWezmeh Cave (Kermanshah, Iran):A Late Pleistocene Refuge in theZagros M. MASHKOUR, a H. MONCHOT, b *E. TRINKAUS, c J.-L. REYSS, d F. BIGLARI, e S. BAILON, f S. HEYDARI g AND K. ABDI h a UMR 5197/CNRS, Muse ´ um national d’Histoire naturelle, De ´ partement d’Ecologie et Gestion de la Biodiversite ´ , Ba ˆ timent d’Anatomie compare ´ e, 55 rue Buffon, 75005 Paris,France  b UMR 5198/CNRS, Muse ´ um national d’Histoire naturelle, De ´ partement de Pre ´ histoire,Institut de Pale ´ ontologie Humaine, 1 rue Rene ´ Panhard, 75013 Paris, France  c Department of Anthropology, Campus Box 1114, Washington University, St. Louis,MO 63130-4899, USA d Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, UMR CEA-CNRS, Domaine du CNRS, 91198 Gif-sur-Yvette cedex, France  e Center for Paleolithic Research, National Museum of Iran, 30 Tir St., Emam Khomaini Ave.,PO Box 11365/4364, Tehran. Iran  f Laboratoire de ´ partemental de Pre ´ histoire du Lazaret, UMR 9948/CNRS, Parc de la villa la Co ˆ te, 33 bis bd Franck Pilatte, 06300 Nice, France  g Abteilung A¨ ltere Urgeschichte und Quarta ¨ ro ¨ kologie, Institut fu¨r Ur-und Fru¨hgeschichte und Archa ¨ ologie des Mittelalters, Universita ¨ t Tu ¨ bingen, Schloss Hohentu ¨ bingen 72070 Tu ¨ bingen,Germany  h Department of Anthropology, 6047 Silsby Hall, Dartmouth College, Hanover NH 03755, USA ABSTRACT WezmehCaveislocatedonthenortheasternedgeoftheIslamabadplain,ahighintermontanevalley in the western-central Zagros. In 1999 a disturbed but large faunal assemblage wasrecovered from this site. The abundant and extremely diverse faunal spectra present atWezmeh Cave has highlighted the importance of this assemblage. Carnivore remainsconstitute the bulk of the assemblage; red fox ( Vulpes vulpes)  has the highest number ofidentifiedspecimensfollowedbyspottedhyena( Crocutacrocuta  ),brownbear( Ursusarctos  ),wolf( Canislupus)  ,felids (lion,leopard,lynx/caracal andwildcat), mustelids(badger,polecat,marten) and viverrids (mongoose). Artiodactyls (bovid, cervid, suid), equids, rhinoceros( Dicerorhinus  sp.) and small animals (Cape hare, porcupine, tortoise, snake, birds) are alsopresent.AccordingtoU-seriesdating,thesitewasoccupiedfromaround70kaBPthroughtosub-recent periods by carnivores. Amongst this rich assemblage, a human fossil tooth wasalso found and dated by non-invasive spectrometry gamma dating to 20–25 ka BP. Apreliminary zooarchaeological and taphonomic study shows that Wezmeh Cave was usedby multiple carnivore species, a unique phenomenon in the Zagros Mountains in particularand southwest Asia in general. Copyright ß 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Key words: spotted hyena; brown bear; carnivores; human; U-series dating; LatePleistocene; Zagros; Iran International Journal of Osteoarchaeology Int. J. Osteoarchaeol. 19 : 678–694 (2009)Published online 27 August 2008 in Wiley InterScience( DOI: 10.1002/oa.997 * Correspondence to: UMR 5198/CNRS, Muse´ um national d’Histoire naturelle, De´ partement de Pre´ histoire, Institut de Pale´ ontologieHumaine, 1 rue Rene´ Panhard, 75013 Paris, France.e-mail: Copyright # 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Received 25 July 2007 Revised 9 April 2008 Accepted 16 April 2008  Introduction The Wezmeh Cave faunal remains provide anexceptionalassemblageinsouthwestAsia,bothinterms of its size and diversity. However, the cavewaslooted,whichdisturbedthestratigraphyeventhough the faunal remains were not removed ordestroyed,asattestedtobytheirexcellentstateofpreservation. Following the recovery of faunalmaterials in 1999 and again in 2001, a palaeon-tological study of them, as well as the dating ofseveral bones, has emphasised the importance ofthiscaveanditsassemblage.Theseeffortsarealsoaimed at promoting the conservation andpreservation of such sites by the Iranianauthorities, since Wezmeh is among the rarecases where Pleistocene human presence hasbeen proven. The state of Pleistocene faunalresearch in the Zagros TheLatePleistocenefaunaoftheZagrosregionislargely known through assemblages excavated inseveral caves and rockshelters with remains ofMiddle, Upper and Epi-Paleolithic occupations.Mostoftheexcavatedsitesarelocatedinthehighintermontane valleys of Kermanshah and Khor-amabad (Figure 1) and in the western foothills ofthe Zagros in Iraqi Kurdistan (Braidwood, 1960;Braidwood & Howe, 1960; Solecki, 1963; Smith,1986). There are also a few excavated assem-blages in the Fars region (Rosenberg, 1985).Among faunal assemblages from this region thathave been published in detail are the MiddlePaleolithic sites of Warwasi, Kobeh, Bisitun andMar Tarik in the Kermanshah region (Coon,1951; Turnbull, 1975; Marean & Kim, 1998; Jaubert et al., 2006), Humian near Kuhdasht,Tamtama near Lake Urmia, and Shanidar in thewestern foothills of the Zagros (Coon, 1951;Perkins,1964;Bewley,1984).Thisisalsothecasefor Upper Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic assem-blages from Warwasi and Ghar-e Khar in theKermanshah region, Yafteh near Khoramabad,and Palegawra and Zarzi in Iraqi Kurdistan(Garrod, 1930; Turnbull & Reed, 1974; Turnbull,1975; Hesse, 1989; Otte et al ., 2007). Otherexcavated faunal assemblages that are publishedonly in brief notes or as inventories are EshkaftGavi (Fars), Kunji (Khoramabad), and Koulian(Kermanshah) (Hole & Flannery, 1967; Rosen-berg, 1985; Biglari & Taheri, 2000). In most cases,these Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic assemblagesare dominated by caprines, as at Shanidar,Kobeh, Ghar-e Khar and Yafteh. There are afew exceptions, such as Warwasi which yielded alarge number of equids, or Bisitun Cave witha high percentage of equids and red deer. Acommon pattern in these assemblages is thedearth of carnivores. Such herbivore-dominatedassemblages are unlikely to be representative ofLate Pleistocene fauna of the region generally.The discovery of the rich Late Pleistocenefaunal assemblage from Wezmeh Cave in theKermanshah region of western-central Zagroshas for the first time allowed us to examine anassemblage that shows a high diversity of theregion’s fauna, a faunal diversity which is greaterthan would be expected solely from human-processed carcasses. Wezmeh Cave is alsoimportantwithrespecttoLatePleistocenehumanremains. Since the discovery of a MiddlePaleolithic hominid specimen at Bisitun cave inthe late 1940s and a large number of Neanderthalremains at Shanidar in the 1950s and 1960s(Trinkaus, 1983; Trinkaus & Biglari, 2006; Cow-gill et al ., 2007), this is the first new Paleolithichuman fossil site in the Zagros. The site Wezmeh Cave is located at N34 8 03 0 20 00 andE46 8 38 0 42 00 , about 12km southeast of the town ofIslamabad-e Gharb and 3.5km northeast of thevillage of Tajar-e Akbar. The cave is at anelevation of 1430 m asl, approximately 100 mlower than the summit of the Qazivand Moun-tains, about 60 m above the valley floor on a36 8 slope. Wezmeh Cave is almost horizontal,formed between geological layers of karsticlimestone. The mouth of the cave faces northand is 2 m wide and 1.2 m high. The cave is about27 m long and has about 45 m 2 of floor area(Figure 2). For about 12 m in from the entrance,the cave is relatively straight. At about 15 m fromits mouth, the cave makes a sharp turn towards Copyright # 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Osteoarchaeol. 19 : 678–694 (2009)DOI: 10.1002/oa Carnivores and Prey in the Wezmeh Cave, Iran 679  the west and extends for about 5 m, in which theheight of the ceiling gradually increases. Thefloor of this section also has a 13 8 downwardsslope which leads to a large pit (ca. 4 Â 2 m)excavated by clandestine diggers. This section ofthe cave extends for 5 m and then makes a turntowards the southwest and extends for another7 m with a steep downwards slope (Abdi et al., 2002).The cave is not located in an active karst zone,but rather in a relatively arid area. However, onecan see a layer of calcium carbonate deposited asflowstone, particularly towards the rear of thecave. Prior to clandestine excavations in the cave, Figure 1. Main Paleolithic sites with faunal assemblages in Iran (drawing M. Coutureau, after Smith, 1986). 1, Koulian;2,ZilouCave;3,KobehCave;4,Warwasi;5,Bisetunsites,Ghar-eKhar,Hunter’sCave,MarTarik;6,YaftehCave;7,GarArjeneh; 8, Kunji Cave; 9, Wezmeh Cave; 10, Humian; 11, Ghamari Cave; 12, Tamtama Cave; 13, Kiaram Cave;14, Qaleh Bozi Cave; 15, Gavi Cave. Copyright # 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Osteoarchaeol. 19 : 678–694 (2009)DOI: 10.1002/oa 680 M. Mashkour  et al.  the rear section was filled with sediments, inplaces up to 4 or 5 metres deep. These deposits,which represent thousands of years of sedimen-tation, can be attributed to a combination of thefollowing processes: (1) sediments carried bywater through cracks and cavities in the cave’swalls and ceiling (on the plateau above the cavethere is an open area amenable to erosion duringthe rainy season); (2) weathering and pedogen-esis during climatic oscillations; (3) decompo-sition of floral and faunal material; and (4) wind-blown silt and sand.In terms of texture, colour and morphologicalcharacteristics, the debris left by clandestinediggers is similar to sediments encountered in testexcavations (see below). A depositional layer Figure 2. Wezmeh Cave. Map of the cave with the srcinal location of the bone assemblage (after Abdi et al., 2002). Copyright # 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Osteoarchaeol. 19 : 678–694 (2009)DOI: 10.1002/oa Carnivores and Prey in the Wezmeh Cave, Iran 681  similar to the main sediments at Wezmeh Cavecan be seen in the general Kermanshah-Mahi-dasht area, including Fan 5 in Mahidasht,tentatively dated to the later Pleistocene between35–14kaBP,whichshowsacalcifieddeposit,thatis, a mixture of sediments with calcium carbonate(Brookes, 1989). Geomorphological studies ofthe Kenesht and Sorkheh Lizheh fans in theKermanshah area, tentatively dated to 24–13 kaBP, also indicate similarities with deposits fromWezmeh Cave. Therefore, it seems reasonable toassume that the Wezmeh Cave deposits roughlycorrespondtothecalcifiedsedimentsofFan5andUnits B-E and 3 at the Kenesht and SorkhehLizheh fans on the Mahidast (Heydari, 2000). Excavations The initial survey of Wezmeh Cave (Abdi et al .,2002) indicated that the deposits had beenpartially emptied and scattered on the talus slopeby looters, leaving a mix of Chalcolithicarchaeological remains and Pleistocene faunaon the surface. The test pits in the cave indicatedthat there had been a thin, ashy layer ofChalcolithic remains overlying a sterile level,which overlay the deeper Pleistocene depositswith the faunal remains. All of the archaeologicalremains (ceramics and a small number of lithics)and a portion of the osteological remains werereferable to the Chalcolithic. A large portion ofthe osteological remains appeared to be Pleisto-cene in age, given a distinctly different preser-vation and patina. The bones were thereforesorted on the basis of these preservationalcharacteristics into Pleistocene and Holocenesamples; any errors using these criteria are likelyto have only minor effects on the distributionspresented. It is these Pleistocene remains onwhich this analysis is based.Once observations of the faunal material fromthe initial 1999 survey underlined the cave’ssignificance, some of the authors returned to thesite on 12–15 August 2001 to salvage as muchmaterial as possible. We began our work bycarefully probing the debris left by clandestinediggers and collecting larger bones and archae-ological material. We also screened areas on theslope, especially those with small bone concen-trations. Probing and screening the debris in thisfashion produced over 20kg of bones.We continued our probe of the debris all theway up to the relatively flat area in front of thecave mouth, where we opened an exploratory3 Â 3m trench. Inside the cave, we put in six testpits at 2 m intervals. All of them show a similarstratigraphy, consisting of an overlying layer ofdebris left by clandestine diggers and anunderlying sandy deposit with varying amountsof material. The depth to which each test pitreached bedrock depended on the slope andangle of the cave walls. These excavationsproduced more bones and a handful of smallarcheological finds, mostly ceramics (Abdi et al., 2002). The faunal assemblage The palaeontological study is mainly based onthe well-preserved, identifiable and most repre-sentative vertebrate material. The study tookplace partly in Iran at the National Museum ofIran, but mainly at the Muse´ um nationald’Histoire naturelle in Paris, where this materialis presently stored but will be returned to Iran.The faunal species were divided into predatorsand prey and are described by ‘numbers ofidentified (to taxon) specimens’ (NISP counts)and estimated ‘minimum number of individuals’(MNI). The latter was calculated as the minimumnumber of individual animals necessary toaccount for all the kinds of skeletal elementsfound in the skeleton of a taxon, taking age andsize into account. The predators: the carnivores Allofthecarnivorefamiliespreviouslymentionedas present during the Late Pleistocene in theMiddle East (Kurte´ n, 1965; Harrison, 1968;Dayan, 1994) are present in the Wezmehassemblage (Table 1; Figure 3): Hyenidae(spotted hyena), Ursidae (brown bear), Canidae(wolf and red fox), Felidae (lion, leopard, lynx/ caracal and wild cat), Mustelidae (badger, stonemarten and polecat) and Viverridae (mongoose). Copyright # 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Osteoarchaeol. 19 : 678–694 (2009)DOI: 10.1002/oa 682 M. Mashkour  et al.

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