The Zooarchaeology and Taphonomy of Small Mammal Remains at Liang Bua, Flores, Indonesia Open Access

Veatch, Elizabeth (Summer 2021)

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The role of small mammals as a dietary resource for non-modern humans remains unclear. Depending on the method of capture, small mammals are generally considered uneconomical for hominins to pursue given their small body sizes and the estimated amount of effort required to obtain them. Conversely, small mammals are perceived as a profitable and accessible dietary resource for modern humans due to the development of more-complex technology (traps, snares, nets, etc.). This dissertation focuses on the small mammal assemblage from Liang Bua, an archaeological cave site on the Indonesian island of Flores, to gauge how an anatomically archaic hominin species (Homo floresiensis) and modern humans (Homo sapiens) obtained and consumed rodents of various body sizes (~50 - 3500 g). 


Using taphonomy, ethnoarchaeology, and stable isotope analyses to test how small mammal subsistence strategies varied between these two hominin species and also between two modern human subsistence lifestyles (foraging and agriculture), this dissertation aims to: (1) determine the relative proportion of small mammal remains at Liang Bua accumulated by hominin versus non-hominin agents; (2) evaluate how local hunting and consumption of small mammals manifest as bone surface modifications to aid in taphonomic identifications from archaeological remains; and (3) identify the habitat preferences of these small mammals to gauge the ecological habitats from which the various accumulating agents (e.g., hominins, raptors, etc.) were selecting their prey.  

This dissertation is composed of seven chapters, including an introduction to the context and questions addressed in this dissertation (chapter 1); background to paleoanthropological research at Liang Bua (chapter 2); theoretical review and considerations for interpreting small mammal zooarchaeological assemblages (chapter 3); ethnoarchaeological and experimental studies involving human and avian subjects that help identify taphonomic limitations for small mammal analyses (chapter 4); carbon and oxygen stable isotopic analyses on small mammal subfossil samples from Liang Bua to gauge paleoecological settings and changes through time (chapter 5); a taphonomic and zooarchaeological study using the abundant murine fossil assemblage at Liang Bua to gauge how and the degree to which \textit{H. floresiensis} and \textit{H. sapiens} consumed murines during different temporal and ecological contexts (chapter 6); and the conclusions, which highlight the results of the dissertation and their importance for understanding the contribution of small mammals to hominin diets at Liang Bua (chapter 7).

Table of Contents

Dissertation Introduction 1

Hobbit Holes: A Review of Homo floresiensis and Liang Bua Research 14

Using Niche Construction Theory to Generate Testable Foraging Hypotheses at Liang Bua 31

The Effects of Small Mammal Prey Body Size on the Taphonomy and Zooarchaeology for Human and Avian Agents 58

Reconstructing the Paleoecology of Liang Bua using d13C and d18O Stable Isotopes from Murine Rodents 108

Zooarchaeology and Taphonomy of Small Mammal Remains at Liang Bua, Flores 133

Dissertation Conclusions 207

Appendix A 216

Appendix B 221

Appendix C 224

Appendix D 229

Appendix E 231

Bibliography 265

About this Dissertation

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