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Taphonomic, chronostratigraphic, paleoenvironmental and anthropogenic implications of the Upper Pleistocene faunas from Le Trou Magrite, Belgium

Achilles GAUTIER, Jean-Marie CORDY, Lawrence G. STRAUS & Marcel OTTE

en Anthropozoologica 25-26 - Pages 343-354

Published on 01 June 1998

New excavations in the classic cave site of Magrite, near the confluence of the Lesse with the Meuse on the NE edge of the Ardennes in Namur Province, revealed remnant deposits spanning approximately the first 314 of the Upper Pleistocene and containing Mousterian and Aurignacian artifact assemblages. Oxvgen isotope stages 5, 4 and 3 are represented by sediments of alluvial, colluvial, aeolian and cryogenic origins. With the exception of the basal, waterlain stratum, mammalian faunal remains are found in all levels, but are of diverse taphonomic sources: natural carnivore (e.g., cave bear) death in the cave, large-medium carnivore acquisition of ungulate carcasses, owl procurement and regurgitation of rodents, and human scavenging and hunting of ungulates. Gnaw and butchery marks and burning traces are present on bones throughout the sequence, although the evidences of human action are relatively more common in the Aurignacian levels than in the Mousterian ones. The microfaunal spectrum from a rich owl pellet lense within upper Stratum 5 (notably including Lagurus lagurus, Cricetulus migratorius, Ochotona pusilla and Lemmus lemmus) is closely similar to a spectrum (Biozone V grey) at nearby Sclayn Cave attributed to Melisey Il (=Oxygen Isotope Stage 5b, 95-85 ka bp). While carnivore remains are relatively abundant and diverse in the Mousterian levels and continue to be well represented in the Aurignacian levels (though they tend to be smaller species, such as foxes and badger), ungulate remains become much more abundant in the Aurignacian levels. These are dominated by reindeer, horse and ibex, testifying to active human hunting. Badgers may have caused some reworking of deposits. Isolated mammoth and woolly rhino rernains are found throughout, but may have been washed in or scavenged. The trace presence of boar in the Aurignacian levels testifies to the existence of a wooded microhabitat along the Lesse canyon, despite generally open, rigorous environmental conditions between 40-30 ka bp in Belgium. Tooth eruption and cementum analyses (the latter by A. Stutz, D. Liebermann and A. Spiess) point to Aurignacian hunting of reindeer, ibex and bison during
the cold season, with no certain indicators of summer residence in the cave by humans. Reindeer is represented by all major anatomical units, suggesting that kills took place nearby (in the valley?) and that more or less whole carcasses were brought back to the cave for processing and consumption. Horse is less completely represented and may have been procured  farther from the site. Immunological analyses (by M. Newman) reveal that a few Aurignacian endscrapers bear traces of bovine, lagomorph (hare or pika) and human protein (blood?), the latter possibly from cuts during tool use.

Keywords :

Trou Magrite, Belgium, Upper Pleistocene, Mousterian, Aurignacian, fauna.

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