Hunter-herders in the limestone massif of Estremadura: Middle Neolithic fauna from the Pena d’Água rock-shelter (Torres Novas, Portugal)
The Pena d’Água Rock-shelter (Torres Novas, Portugal) was excavated in 1992–2000, revealing a long stratigraphic and cultural sequence including Middle Neolithic occupations. A preliminary study on its fauna was published by Valente (1998) based on the 1992–1994 material, but the 1997–2000 campaigns remained unstudied. The aim of this study is to present the full fauna analysis of the layer Db, dated from the earlier phases of that period.
Like other assemblages from the same time frame in the area, the fauna collection understudy is small. Its bones showed several surface and chemical alterations due to sediment pressure, exposure to fire and water percolation. Regarding the taxonomical abundances, most remains were classified as rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and sheep and/or goat (Ovis aries/Capra hircus). A few specimens of cervid, fox (Vulpes vulpes) and bird were also identified.
The other fauna assemblages from the region show either the prevalence of the caprine component (as in Pena d’Água) or a higher abundance of cervids. This trend may reflect a specialized animal exploitation and we propose that the Middle Neolithic human communities in the Limestone Massif had a subsistence strategy based on caprine exploration, supplemented by some cervid (red deer) hunting. These hunter-herders groups were probably highly mobile and may have practiced some kind of transhumance (or itinerant pastoralism), for which the details are still unknown.
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