On in situ attrition and vertebrate body part profiles

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90 Scopus citations


Ungulate body part representation in archaeological sites potentially reflects human foraging decisions. However, because mammal skeleton macrostructure is heterogeneous, its components may not uniformly resist mechanical causes of attrition. Techniques for analyzing vertebrate body part profiles must either address differential resistance among distinct skeletal density classes or compare skeletal representation within a narrower density range that is widely distributed in the vertebrate skeleton. This presentation concerns the benefits of the second approach as developed previously by the author (Stiner, 1991, Journal of Archaeological Science 18, 455-482; 1994, Honor Among Thieves: A Zooarchaeological Study of Neandertal Ecology. Princeton; Princeton University Press). Recent attempts to dismiss the approach misuse available standards on variation in structural density, a point demonstrated using the control data said to invalidate the profiling technique. In fact the mid-points and ranges of variation in bone structural density among elements grouped into the cranial and four appendicular skeletal regions are very similar as measured by photon densitometry, and especially for the skeletal portions commonly used to estimate MNE in Mediterranean Palaeolithic archaeofaunas. Region-by-region anatomical comparisons require fewer assumptions than do analyses that focus on differential resistance ("survivorship") among the full range of bone density classes and thus are limited by fewer unknowns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)979-991
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2002


  • Density-mediated bone attrition
  • Vertebrate body part profiles
  • Vertebrate taphonomy
  • Zooarchaeology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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