TUKUL 4: Melka Kunture Archaeology

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Butchering site



A limited excavation carried out in 1974 allowed the identification of a hippopotamus butchering site. This interpretation was confirmed by the 1993 excavation: fragmentary remains of two hippopotami were associated with some lithic artifacts. In 2001, this site has been musealized and inserted in The Open Air Museum. More than 250 casts of paleontological and lithic remains found during previous excavations have been positioned on the paleosurface.

Stratigraphy and chronology

Above the Tuff C, covering the main Middle Acheulean level of Gombore II, a 6 m thick formation is covered by volcanic and clay deposits. In one of these levels,  the butchering site, dated to about 730,000 years (the age of the paleomagnetic Matuyama-Brunhes transition), was found.

The paleosurface


The faunal remains (including some vertebrae and ribs) of two hippopotami of different size can be attributed to Hippopotamus amphibius.

Lithic industry

The lithic industry is rare: both basalt and obsidian have been used (choppers, polyhedrons, flakes): a basalt handaxe was also found.

Organization of the living floor

In the butchering sites large sized animals, such as elephants and hippopotami, are the most commonly found. The lithic tool kit is suitable for carcass dismemberment, meat cutting and bone fragmentation. The butchering sites are well known during the most ancient phases of  Prehistory in several regions of the World. Amongst the most ancient sites of this kind, two have been excavated, for example, at Olduvai (Tanzania) and Barogali (Gibuti). They are butchering sites where one elephant was killed and utilized during Oldowan or Acheulean times.   Similar sites have been found also in Europe. An Acheulean butchering site was found at Aridos in Spain. In one of the upper levels of the Acheulean site of Notarchirico (Basilicata, Italy), dated to 650,000 years ago, an elephant skull was found with its tusks still in situ, surrounded by several choppers, flakes and handaxes. 

The elephas of Barogali

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