AfricaNSFThe Research University (TRU)

DDIG: Analysis of Faunal Remains from the Middle Pleistocene Site of Orgnac 3, France: Stanford University

Richard Klein

[email protected]

Under the supervision of Dr. Richard Klein, Jason Lewis will analyze faunal remains from archaeological excavations of the French cave site of Orgnac 3. This site, dating from between ~350,000to ~290 000 years ago, has yielded very large stone artifact and animal bone assemblages and seven fossil human teeth. For part of its depositional history, Orgnac 3 was a cave, and for another, it was a sink-hole. The site preserves large samples from short time periods within the long Middle Pleistocene interval. It contains charcoal/sooty lenses with burnt bones that have been interpreted as hearths and accumulations of artifacts and bones surrounded by natural rocks that may represent the bases of dwelling structures. For these reasons the Orgnac 3 materials lend themselves to answering many questions about human paleoecology during the middle and late Middle Pleistocene.<br/><br/>Much work in paleoanthropology has focused on one particular aspect of human paleoecology, that of subsistence strategy. When people started acquiring meat and other animal tissues, whether through scavenging or hunting, and how human subsistence strategies have changed over time, remain hotly debated topics. How different human populations might have foraged differently, and the evolutionary import of those differences, are important questions to ask of the archaeological and paleontological records. This is especially true when considering the Middle and Late Pleistocene, when different human species lived on different continents, but by the end of the Pleistocene, only one species remained: Homo sapiens. To reach the ultimate goal of understanding changes in subsistence strategy throughout human history, one must begin with a robust, scientific reconstruction of how a sample faunal assemblage passed through several stages in which hominid activity or natural processes could have altered its composition. This project adopts such a holistic approach to document the carcass acquisition and processing behaviors of the human inhabitants of Orgnac 3 and to examine how these behaviors have changed throughout the evolution of the human species. Once the carcass acquisition and processing behaviors of the Orgnac 3 people have been characterized, these can be compared to other Middle Pleistocene sites in Europe and Africa in order to elucidate how these behaviors have changed through time and across space.<br/><br/>Beyond research questions of interest to prehistoric archaeologists, this project will have a broader impact by providing assistance in graduate student training and strengthening collaborative relationships between institutions in US and France, specifically those between Stanford University and the Centre Européen de Recherches Préhistoriques in Tautavel and Institut de Paléontologie Humaine in Paris. This work will increase awareness of one of the oldest and largest fossil human sites in France. Furthermore, the primary data generated here will be made available to the Centre Européen de Recherches Préhistoiriques, for them to use in their own research, curation planning, and pedagogical development (in their educational materials and in the adjoining Centre Européen de Préhistoire ).

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