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Seasonal variations directly impacted the social and economic activities of past human populations. Cementochronology is one of the methods available to address seasonality questions. It relies on the cyclic deposition rate of dental cementum observed microscopically on petrographic thin‐sections of animal teeth from archaeological contexts. However, no protocol exists to select a Region of Interest (ROI) or to identify the last cementum increment. This chapter proposes consensual biological and optical criteria for the selection of optimal ROIs and their analysis. Interobserver tests were performed to assess the criteria, as well as age and season of death, on thirty thin‐sections of modern documented reindeer teeth. Results demonstrate the accuracy, and replicability of this protocol, and emphasize the influence of training and experience for the proper implementation of cementochronology.
Deciphering the seasonality of predation is a key question in prehistory to understand spatiotemporal human strategies to overcome fluctuating ecological and environmental pressure. In NW Europe, despite periodic rough environmental conditions, the Belgian Ardennes were regularly occupied by humans in the Late Pleistocene, using numerous natural shelters of the karstic valleys and the ungulate biomass reservoir. However, humans competed with several large predators, in particular cave hyaenas. In this multi-taxon, multi-site cementochronological study, we tested season-at-death of different prey accumulated by either hyaenas or hominins during the second half of MIS 3 in the Belgian Ardennes. In conjunction with a classic seasonal study on ungulate species, this study's specificity is that carnivore (hyaena) dental cementum was tested on 19 teeth from three anthropogenic and hyaena-accumulated assemblages. Despite a low proportion of interpretable data, this attempt shows that cave hyaena can yield seasonal information and can successfully be analyzed to explore top predators' differential spatial strategies.
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