Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Shannon Swan Humanities and Social Science

Zooarchaeological Analysis of Upper Paleolithic Faunal Remains from Myshtulagty Lagat (Weasel Cave) Located in the Northern Caucasus Mountains, Russia

The Caucasus Mountains acted as a gateway for early hominids, who migrated into and through these regions, perhaps multiple times. Myshtulagty Lagat (Weasel Cave) is the first intact stratified cave studied in the Caucasus dating from 500,000 years BP to the Holocene. The cave lacks a well-stratified early upper Paleolithic sequence (c. 40.000-30.000 years ago, associated usually with our own species, Homo sapiens sapiens). Tracking Neanderthal climatic adaptations through faunal analysis allows for reconstruction of behavioral and dietary changes providing data imperative to interpreting site use and formation processes. Connections between these relative behavioral adaptations through time will help us to ultimately discover any regional causality of Neanderthal extinction and repopulation of the Eurasian gateway by anatomically modern humans. Ill develop models of regional hominid behavioral processes by addressing the following questions and studying the faunal assemblage from Weasel Cave: What part of the faunal assemblage results from hominid activity? What were the hunting strategies in regards to prey age and size class and did these strategies change over time? What types of faunal evidentiary indicators are present to distinguish resource and paleoclimatic stressors? This primary research links me to two other prominent academic research teams already studying the Caucuses Mountains, with whom I can work with in the future to bring to light this Paleolithic mystery. Analysis of my data will be used for my senior thesis as well as a co-authored peer-reviewed scientific journal article.

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Major: Anthropology
Mentor: Meg Conkey, Anthropology
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