Taphonomy and zooarchaeology of a high-altitude Upper Pleistocene faunal sequence from Hovk-1 Cave, Armenia

Guy Bar-Oz, Lior Weissbrod, Boris Gasparian, Samvel Nahapetyan, Keith Wilkinson, Ron Pinhasi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Caucasus is a key region for the study of hominid evolution and Neanderthal ecology. Taphonomic and zooarchaeological studies of sites from this region are few and only focused on sites at low-to-mid altitude zones with evidence of relatively intensive hominid occupation. This study focused on the taphonomic and zooarchaeological characteristics of a high-altitude site from the Upper Pleistocene - Hovk-1 Cave - looking at diachronic change in both natural and cultural processes which shaped the faunal assemblage. Results best fit a model in which the bones of most large mammals, mainly ungulates (wild goat, Capra aegagrus and red deer, Cervus elaphus) and cave bears (Ursus spelaeus) accumulated naturally through pitfalls, with minimal input from human or carnivore activity. This accumulation is characterized by a high frequency of complete ungulate and carnivore bones, a bear assemblage which is dominated by young-adults and a wild goat assemblage that includes juvenile and young-adult individuals. Our taphonomic reconstruction serves as a point of reference for comparative studies of palaeoenvironments and human subsistence patterns of Middle and Upper Palaeolithic sites in the Caucasus and broadens our perspective on hominid occupation and ecological adaptation in other high-altitude world regions.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2452-2463
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2012


  • Cave bear
  • Lesser Caucasus
  • Middle Palaeolithic
  • Taphonomy
  • Upper Pleistocene
  • Zooarchaeology

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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