New data from Ambrona: Closing the hunting versus scavenging debate

Paola Villa, Enrique Soto, Manuel Santonja, Alfredo Pérez-González, Rafael Mora, Joaquim Parcerisas, Carmen Sesé

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77 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents a taphonomic analysis of the faunal assemblages from the 1993-1999 excavations at Ambrona (Spain), directed by Santonja and Pérez-González. The purpose of the new excavations was to achieve a better understanding of the stratigraphic sequence, general geology, sedimentary context and processes of accumulation of materials. Our objectives are to evaluate the opposing interpretations of the hominid subsistence activities at the site proposed by Freeman and Binford. The faunal and lithic remains are found in different sedimentary contexts: an alluvial fan, lacustrine muds, fluviatile clay-sands and channel deposits. Faunal remains in the lacustrine muds are often, but not always, in primary context. Remains of elephant and deer carcasses may be found in partial articulation or proximity and represent natural occurrences without any clear evidence of hominid intervention. In other contexts the faunal remains are occurrences of single anatomical elements either displaced by water or left isolated in situ. There are no carnivore marks; bones and stone artifacts show varying degrees of mechanical abrasion due to water transport. Limited evidence of human action on bones is provided by a few SEM verified cutmarks and some anthropic fractures. They document butchery of various animals, including elephants. We cannot prove hunting but we can definitely reject Binford's idea of marginal scavenging of medium-size ungulates from carnivore kills. Ambrona is a complex mix of natural and human components, the remnant of a natural landscape regularly visited by hominids, who transported some artifacts from nonlocal raw material sources and had an organized approach to meat acquisition. However, strong evidence of elephant hunting is provided only by sites younger than Ambrona. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. and INQUA. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-250
JournalQuaternary International
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2005


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