Abstract

Before palaeoecological statements are made concerning the assemblage of fossil vertebrates at a particular site it is essential to understand the factors which have controlled bone accumulation. In this way some allowance can be made for the biases which must inevitably cause a fossil collection to differ from the living community or communities from which it was derived. In addition to conventional sedimentological techniques and the study of fossils merely as the remains of animals this can be partly achieved by treating bones as an integral part of the sediment. Such studies are the concern of taphonomy (Gk. tapho— burial, nomos—law) which deals with the processes potentially leading to the fossil-ization of an animal (Efremov 1940).

The differences between a fossil assemblage and the original community are particularly great in the case of terrestrial vertebrates, which seldom accumulate in autochthonous circumstances. It is therefore surprising that techniques familiar in invertebrate palaeontology seem rarely to have been applied to terrestrial vertebrates, where perhaps there is a greater need. Most previous work is in fairly recent archaeological contexts, though Voorhies (1969) and Dodson (1971) provide more strictly geological examples. This note records an attempt to establish a number of simple parameters of a vertebrate assemblage. It is hoped that other workers may be able to supply similar, or suitably modified, information concerning vertebrate accumulations that they investigate, which will then provide a basis for useful comparison.

Bukwa II is an early Miocene fossil locality situated on the northeastern slopes of Mount

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