REASSESSING THE FAUNAL ASSEMBLAGES OF THE LATE PLEISTOCENE STRATIFIED KARST FILLING FROM AVETRANA (APULIA, SOUTHERN ITALY): THE BED 8, PALAEOENVIRONMENT AND BIOCHRONOLOGY
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The late Quaternary vertebrate deposit of the stratified karst filling from Avetrana (Apulia, Italy) was the subject of an intensive excavation campaign in 2003, followed by numerous subsequent investigations and collections of fossil remains. In this work, the biochronological implications and the palaeoenvironmental reconstruction of the area in the Late Pleistocene are updated and improved based on the more recent observations (2012-2013). In particular, the faunal assemblage found in the uppermost stratum (bed 8) of the fossiliferous deposit is analysed where the proportion of wolf remains increases sharply against the underlying layers. A synthesis and a recapitulation of the vertebrate assemblages recovered in the entire stratified karst filling are also given. New observations on the preservation of the bone remains and population analyses of representative mammal species (Canis lupus, Bos primigenius, Cervus elaphus, Dama dama and Sus scrofa) show that bed 8 displays features indicating its origination in sedimentary, climatic and environmental conditions quite different from those of underlying beds. Up to bed 7, the stratified karst filling and its faunal assemblages were generated by a succession of catastrophic mass mortality events in a very short time alternated with moments of quiet deposition, during the early Late Pleistocene (MIS 5e). Instead, bed 8 deposited over a longer time span, probably to be placed between the beginning of last glacial period and early MIS 3, when a puddle of water or a pond was likely at the top of the residual cavity filling. Lithic artefacts recovered in bed 8 and in bed 6 only testifies the attendance of Neanderthal humans in the surrounding of Avetrana.
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