Who brought in the rabbits? Taphonomical analysis of Mousterian and Solutrean leporid accumulations from Gruta do Caldeirão (Tomar, Portugal)


Link to Full Text

Download Full Text

Publication Date

January 2011


In the Iberian Peninsula, leporids, and specifically rabbits, play a key role in the understanding of hunter-gatherer economies. They appear to have been especially important in the Tardiglacial, when large numbers of small prey animals and of the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in particular, are a ubiquitous feature of faunal assemblages from archaeological sites. Since a large number of non-human predators can also contribute to the formation of such assemblages, the ability to discriminate between bones accumulated by humans and by other kinds of predators is a key prerequisite to their interpretation. On the basis of systematic actualistic studies carried out on modern leporid remains produced by mammalian terrestrial carnivores, nocturnal and diurnal raptors, and humans, we identified diagnostic taphonomic indicators of the different predators. In this paper, the patterns observed on the modern material are applied to the taphonomical analysis of two archaeological samples of rabbit and hare remains from Mousterian and Solutrean layers of Gruta do Caldeirão, a cave site located in Central Portugal. Our results suggest that Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) were mainly responsible for the Mousterian accumulations, whilst the Solutrean ones were most likely the result of human activity. These data support the notion that, in Iberia, significant reliance on rabbits does not become a feature of subsistence strategies until later Upper Palaeolithic times.


Leporid Remains, European Rabbit, Taphonomy, Actualistic Studies, Small Prey, Mousterian, Solutrean, Gruta Do Caldeirão

Document Type



Journal of Archaeological Science, Vol. 38, no. 9 (2011).