Gazelle bone fat processing in the Levantine Epipalaeolithic

Natalie D. Munro, Guy Bar-Oz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigate mountain gazelle (Gazella gazella) carcass processing to reconstruct resource intensification strategies during the Epipalaeolithic period of northern Israel. We adopt a multivariate taphonomic approach to identify the processes that most influenced bone survivorship in five gazelle assemblages. All of the assemblages are characterized by significant density-mediated biases, yet in situ attrition played a minimal role in assemblage formation. In contrast, the survivorship of hare (Lepus capensis) skeletons is not mediated by bone density indicating that different prey taxa experienced independent taphonomic histories. Both gazelle cortical and cancellous bone is highly fragmented and the degree of fragmentation and survivorship are strongly correlated with fat yields. Results of multiple tests point to intensive marrow and grease extraction as the primary determinant of gazelle bone survivorship. Although gazelle carcasses were intensively utilized throughout the Epipalaeolithic, the intensity of use is stable across the duration of the period.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-239
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2005

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Yin Lam, Lee Lyman, Travis Pickering, John Speth, and Mary Stiner for their careful reading and thoughtful comments on an earlier draft which greatly improved the paper. We also thank Ofer Bar-Yosef, Reid Ferring, Nigel Goring-Morris, and Daniel Kaufman for stimulating discussions on the archaeological evidence for grease production. GBO's research was supported by the Irene Levi Sala CARE Archaeological Foundation and was carried out when GBO was a Clore Doctoral Fellow at the Department of Zoology, Tel-Aviv University. NDM's research was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (Dissertation Improvement Grant SBR-9815083), the Levi Sala CARE Archaeological Foundation, and doctoral fellowships from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), and the Department of Anthropology at the University of Arizona (Haury Dissertation Fellowship).


  • Bone processing
  • Bone survivorship
  • Epipalaeolithic
  • Gazelle
  • Grease
  • Intensification
  • Levant
  • Marrow
  • Taphonomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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