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Simulated Archaeological Site Research at the Wolf Conservation Center: The Bones that Got Away

Chew on this!

Archaeologists dig up other peoples’ trash to try to say something interesting about them. But often other creatures came between the people who discarded the trash in the past, and the archaeologists who dig the trash up today. These creatures were often carnivores, who found tasty tidbits in the food debris that people left behind.


At the Wolf Conservation Center, Prof. Tom Plummer from Queens College, City University of New York and students laid out deer bones to simulate the residues from an archaeological site. Meat was cut off the limb bones, vertebral segments, ribs, and girdle bones, and additionally the limb bones were broken open to remove fat-rich marrow. This mimicked the butchery practices of humans and human ancestors known from archaeological sites around the world. The fragments from these processed bones were laid out in a grid in the enclosures of the ambassador wolves, who were then given leave to eat what they wanted for several days. Once the wolves lost interest in the bones, they were collected by Plummer and his team. By comparing the bones that were laid out with the ones that were recovered after wolf snacking, Plummer will be able to assess how wolf activity altered the simulated archaeological site bone assemblage. This in turn will help Plummer infer how carnivore activity may have altered bone assemblages from prehistoric sites.

 Stay tuned!