More on Palaeolithic elephant butchering site found in Greece

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A new Lower Palaeolithic elephant butchering site, Marathousa 1, has been discovered in Megalopolis, Greece, by a joint team of researchers from the Ephorate of Palaeoanthropology and Speleology (Greek Ministry of Culture) and the Palaeoanthropology group, University of Tübingen.

More on Palaeolithic elephant butchering site found in Greece
Excavation with some of the elephant bones exposed 
[Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture]

Marathousa 1 is located in an open-cast coal mine, on what was once the shore of a shallow lake. It has yielded stratified stone artifacts in association with a nearly complete skeleton of Elephas antiquus, as well as the exceptionally well-preserved remains of fauna (rodents, birds, amphibians, reptiles, mollusks and insects) and plants (wood, seeds, fruit). The association of lithic artifacts with the elephant remains, as well as the discovery of cutmarks on elephant bones, indicate that Marathousa 1 is an elephant butchering site.

Preliminary results suggest a Middle Pleistocene age (roughly between 300 and 600 thousand years before present). The researchers found stone tools, which the early hunters are likely to have used to cut the meat from the bones. “That makes Megalopolis the only site in the Balkans where we have evidence of an elephant being butchered in the early Palaeolithic,” says Professor Katerina Harvati of the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment (HEP) at the University of Tübingen.

More on Palaeolithic elephant butchering site found in Greece
Cut marks on the bone as seen under a microscope 
[Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture]

Marathousa 1 is one of the oldest archaeological sites in Greece. The region is one of the most likely routes for human migration into Europe and also likely acted as a refugium for fauna, flora and human populations during glacial periods.

“Despite this crucial geographic position, Palaeoanthropological and Palaeolithic research has been under-represented in the region due to a traditional focus on later prehistory and Classical times. As a result, very little information exists on the Lower Palaeolithic of Greece. Marathousa 1 is of paramount importance for the understanding of human dispersal patterns into Europe, as well as the adaptations and behavior of early humans in the region,” says Harvati.

More on Palaeolithic elephant butchering site found in Greece
Stone tools found during excavation 
[Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture]

The Marathousa 1 excavation is conducted by Dr. E. Panagopoulou (Ephorate of Palaeoanthropology and Speleology) in collaboration with Professor K. Harvati (Palaeoanthropology, University of Tübingen) within the framework of the ERC StG project ‘PaGE’ (‘Palaeoanthropology at the Gates of Europe: Human Evolution in the Southern Balkans’) awarded to Professor Harvati. PaGE aims to help close the research gap in southeastern European Palaeoanthropology.

The findings have been published in the journal Antiquity.

Source: Universitaet Tübingen [November 25, 2015]

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