Cave bears and paleolithic artifacts in Yarimburgaz Cave, Turkey: Dissecting a palimpsest

Mary C. Stiner, Güven Arsebük, F. Clark Howell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


This article addresses the taphonomic issues surrounding artifact-bear associations in Yarimburgaz Cave, northwestern Turkey. Our purpose is to evaluate the circumstances of bone assemblage formation in the Middle Pleistocene deposits of the cave, identifying the agencies responsible for the accumulations and the causes of bone damage before and following deposition. Pleistocene species representation, bone damage, body part representation, and mortality data indicate that cave bear remains in Yarimburgaz are unrelated to hominid use of the same site. None of the observations on the cave bear remains contradicts the expectations developed from modern wildlife accounts of modern bear behavior; these accumulations resulted from mortality normally associated with hibernation over many generations of den use. Nonursid carnivores also played roles in bone collection and/or modification. We conclude that at least three distinct biological processes contributed to the formation of the Middle Pleistocene faunas: hibernating bears, bone-collecting carnivores such as wolves, and hominids in descending order of importance. The Yarimburgaz faunas represent palimpsests or overlays of many short-term depositional events, the close spatial associations of which are explained by slow or uneven sedimentation rates inside the cave. Although occupations by hominids appear to have been ephemeral in nature, hominids ultimately discarded nearly 1700 stone artifacts in Yarimburgaz Cave. The hominids did not discard many ungulate bones in the same circumstances. These observations suggest that hominid foraging efforts focused on resources other than large game while at the cave.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-327
Number of pages49
JournalGeoarchaeology - An International Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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