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Cutmarked bone of drought-tolerant extinct megafauna deposited with traces of fire, human foraging, and introduced animals in SW Madagascar

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Hixon,  Sean
Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for Geoanthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Roberts,  Patrick
Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for Geoanthropology, Max Planck Society;
isoTROPIC Independent Research Group, Max Planck Institute for Geoanthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Hixon, S., Domic, A. I., Douglass, K. G., Roberts, P., Eccles, L., Buckley, M., et al. (2022). Cutmarked bone of drought-tolerant extinct megafauna deposited with traces of fire, human foraging, and introduced animals in SW Madagascar. Scientific Reports, 12(1): 18504. doi:10.1038/s41598-022-22980-w.


Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000B-C68B-9
Abstract
People could have hunted Madagascar’s megafauna to extinction, particularly when introduced taxa and drought exacerbated the effects of predation. However, such explanations are difficult to test due to the scarcity of individual sites with unambiguous traces of humans, introduced taxa, and endemic megaherbivores. We excavated three coastal ponds in arid SW Madagascar and present a unique combination of traces of human activity (modified pygmy hippo bone, processed estuarine shell and fish bone, and charcoal), along with bones of extinct megafauna (giant tortoises, pygmy hippos, and elephant birds), extirpated fauna (e.g., crocodiles), and introduced vertebrates (e.g., zebu cattle). The disappearance of megafauna from the study sites at ~ 1000 years ago followed a relatively arid interval and closely coincides with increasingly frequent traces of human foraging, fire, and pastoralism. Our analyses fail to document drought-associated extirpation or multiple millennia of megafauna hunting and suggest that a late combination of hunting, forest clearance, and pastoralism drove extirpations.