Horses and ancient people: zooarchaeological investigation of Muhkai 2a

M.V. Sablin, N.D. Burova and E.A. Petrova

Proceedings of the Zoological Institute RAS, 2018, 322(3): 333–356  ·  https://doi.org/10.31610/trudyzin/2018.322.3.333

Full text  

Abstract

The paper presents zooarchaeological analysis of the remains of Stenon horse Equus (Allohippus) stenonis from the site Muhkai 2a (layer 2), Central Dagestan, Russia. They are of special interest because of their large number and can testify to one of the first visits of an ancient man in the North Caucasus – about 1.95 million years ago. As a result of the comparison of the composition and ratio of the Stenon horse bones, their taphonomic features, showed that the site is the result of natural death of the animals. It is assumed that the bulk of the bones were laid in the deposits of a once shallow, periodically drying out and strongly silted reservoir with weakly flowing or standing water. After complete drying of the reservoir, the paleontological material was sealed in a clay mass, which in turn was buried during further geological processes. Based on this, we suggest a possible scenario for the formation of the bone accumulation. Most likely, it was a watering place for various animals, where some of them perished for natural reasons, for example, they got bogged down, drowned, and someone of them became prey for predators. Later, there was a burial of whole corpses, or parts thereof, transported to the pond. Obviously, the bodies of recently dead animals could not help attracting an ancient man, being an easily accessible source of protein food. The presence of artifacts and cut marks on the femur of Stenon horse indicate the presence of an ancient man in Muhkai 2a (layer 2), but the human activity seems to have played a minimal role in the taphocenosis forming.

Key words

zooarchaeological analysis, Equus (Allohippus) stenonis, Early Paleolithic, North Caucasus

Submitted June 2, 2018  ·  Accepted August 29, 2018  ·  Published September 26, 2018

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