Beyond fast and slow: The mole rat Spalax ehrenbergi (order Rodentia) as a test case for subsistence intensification of complex Natufian foragers in southwest Asia

Lior Weissbrod, Guy Bar-Oz, Reuven Yeshurun, Mina Weinstein-Evron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The mole rat Spalax ehrenbergi has not been included in the majority of zooarchaeological studies dealing with economic and subsistence questions in southwest Asia. Mole rat remains from the Late Pleistocene Natufian site of el-Wad Terrace, Mount Carmel, Israel, were studied to examine whether mole rats were part of the diet and can serve as an indicator of subsistence intensification among complex hunter-gatherers on the threshold of agriculture. A range of taphonomic and contextual criteria were used to compare mole rat remains to those of other rodents which accumulated naturally and of larger animals which constituted clear cut food debris. The contextual distribution, relative abundance and taphonomy of mole rat remains differ significantly from what would be expected in natural accumulations, and closely relate to food debris. This indicates the role of mole rats in the diet of Natufian hunter-gatherers. The addition of mole rats to the Natufian diet is an important indicator of subsistence intensification. The mole rat is a resilient and relatively easy-to-capture animal, constituting an attractive food resource for populations of complex and sedentarizing foragers of the final Pleistocene.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)4-16
Number of pages13
JournalQuaternary International
Volume264
DOIs
StatePublished - 20 Jun 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth-Surface Processes

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