Preservation of seasonally abundant waterfowl? Analysis of faunal remains from middens at the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A site of Shubayqa 6 in northeast Jordan

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There is extensive evidence for extraction of grease and fat from bones of ungulates at Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene sites in the Southern Levant. Excavations at Shubayqa 6 identified an area where extensive processing of carcasses took place during the transition between the Late Natufian to Early Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA). Large quantities of fire-cracked basalt, highly fragmented faunal remains and burnt bones indicate that grease and fat were extracted on a large scale. Spatial analysis demonstrates that bird remains were discarded in the same location where this fat rendering took place. Waterfowl dominate the assemblage and would have been present mainly in the winter. Body-part representation of the bird remains suggests that this abundance of avifauna resulted in people selectively processing the carcasses of the wetland birds they hunted. Gazelles would have been in peak condition at this time of year with higher concentrations of fat stored in their bodies. This seasonal glut of resources contrasts with the summer, especially late summer, when most of the commonly hunted bird species were absent and the gazelle in relatively poor condition. People, aware of seasonal cycles in resource abundance, may have preserved foods when available. Storing fat conserves resources for leaner times. Compared to the Natufian site of Shubayqa 1, fewer young gazelle in the faunal remains at Shubayqa 6 is an indication that hunting either targeted mature animals or was more intense in the winter when fewer young animals are present. Carcasses from juvenile animals are comprised of less fat and the association of the adult gazelle carcasses with the bird remains suggests that the two resources were processed alongside one another. Preservation of foodstuffs for leaner months of the year may have been one potential outcome of this activity.
Original languageEnglish
JournalQuaternary International
Pages (from-to)43-49
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2020

ID: 221845303