Taphonomy of old archaeofaunal collections: New site-formation and subsistence data for the Late Paleolithic Nile Valley

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Archaeofaunal remains play an important role in the studies of Late Pleistocene human adaptations in Africa. Salvage excavations and surveys along the Nile Valley, in the Kom Ombo Plain (Upper Egypt) and opposite Wadi Halfa (northern Sudan), respectively conducted in the 1960s by Yale and the University of Colorado produced several Late Paleolithic (ca. 22.5–14.5 years BP) faunal assemblages which have never been published. Here I present a comprehensive taphonomic and zooarchaeological analysis of the faunal assemblages, with the aim of, first, understanding their integrity through identifying the depositional, post-depositional and collection biases and, second, characterizing the latest Pleistocene animal economy in the Nile Valley. The faunal assemblages come from both surveys and controlled excavations and in most cases the collections appeared to have been fully retained. The excavated remains were deposited in thin horizons representing small camps, associated with diverse lithic assemblages and sometimes hearth features. In one case the fauna originates from a large cemetery (the 6B36 site, opposite Wadi Halfa). Taphonomic criteria indicate that the faunas are anthropogenic and attest to consumption of predominantly medium and large ungulates as well as hippopotamus. The preservation of the material is variable and was chiefly affected by dispersal processes and the pace of burial. The assemblages’ characteristics and their context suggest non-intensified animal exploitation and consequently low site-occupation intensity in the Nile Valley during the latest Pleistocene.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-54
Number of pages20
JournalQuaternary International
StatePublished - 25 Mar 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA


  • Kom Ombo
  • Late Paleolithic
  • Nile Valley
  • Taphonomy
  • Wadi Halfa
  • Zooarchaeology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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