The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)


The Depositional Patterning of Avian Scavenged Remains

LAUREN R. PHARR.

Department of Geography and Anthropology, Louisiana State University

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Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus) and Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) are large diurnal birds that primarily feed on carrion such as road kill, but recent evidence has revealed that vultures will also feed on human remains. As scavengers of carrion and humans, vultures can play a critical role in the deposition of skeletal remains from both past and modern settings. Despite the importance of avian scavengers in an anthropological context, the depositional patterning of skeletal elements scatted by vultures and other birds remains under investigated. Knowledge on the depositional patterning of avian scavenged remains can benefit anthropologists during both archaeological and forensic investigations by aiding and promoting an awareness of where to search for remains that may have otherwise been overlooked. The goal of this study is to provide new knowledge on the depositional patterning of avian scavenged remains through the use of Global Positioning Systems (GPS), Geographical Information Systems (GIS), and Nearest Neighbor Analysis (NNA). This study used 16 deceased piglets in the fresh stage of decay to investigate vulture scavenging patterns in six different Central Texas locations. Spatial point data on pig skeletal elements scavenged by birds were analyzed using NNA to test the hypothesis that birds will scatter and deposit remains in a pattern that is random rather than in a pattern that is either clustered or more dispersed than by chance alone. Results reveal that avian scavengers, especially vultures, display a non-random scavenging behavior that is reflected in the final deposition of the skeletal remains.

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