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Wang, Yiru; Peters, Joris and Barker, Graeme (2020): Morphological and metric criteria for identifying postcranial skeletal remains of modern and archaeological Caprinae and Antilopinae in the northeast Tibetan Plateau and adjacent areas. In: International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, Vol. 30, No. 4: pp. 492-506

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Abstract

Osseous remains of medium-sized Caprinae and Antilopinae are often found in late Quaternary archaeological sites in the northeast Tibetan Plateau and adjacent areas, but their accurate taxonomic identification poses considerable problems to zooarchaeologists. Building on previous osteomorphological studies and a statistically significant number of modern comparatives, this study presents diagnostic morphological features and metric data of selected skeletal elements, enabling taxonomic classification of six medium-sized wild bovid genera widely distributed across the region, that is, Blue sheep (Pseudois nayaur), Argali (Ovis ammon), Serow (Capricornis sp.), Goral (Naemorhedus sp.) and two genera of Antilopinae (Gazella, Procapra), as well as domestic sheep (O. aries) and goats (Capra hircus). A blind test showed that using these anatomical criteria on modern specimens allowed separating unequivocally all taxa in the case of the distal humerus, but a lesser degree of confidence in the case of the distal metapodials. Applying these criteria to archaeological specimens from the prehistoric northeast Tibetan Plateau, we conclude that distal humeri can be confidently assigned taxonomically by applying a stepwise approach, whereas in distal metacarpals and metatarsals, the probabilistic approach is proving more promising for classifying specimens correctly.

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