This past weekend I took a hike in the Sierras de Jaén to celebrate my birthday, figuring that a day spent outside in the fresh air would be gentler on my liver than my usual celebratory exploits. Gasping for breath after hauling my suddenly anvil-heavy body up yet another series of steep switchbacks I began to reconsider this perspective, but on the whole the trek provided an enjoyable way to avoid contemplating my ever-increasing age.
There are a series of summits just outside of the city limits that are accessible off of main roads as you cross into one of the outer barrios of Jaén. However, after a certain point the paved roads dwindle to gravel roads, the gravel roads dwindle to dirt paths, the dirt paths dwindle to goat tracks, and occasionally the goat tracks dwindle to nothing. At such points, I focused on the few meters in front of me and kept climbing higher and higher, trying not to spend too much time looking down, because when I did I would see views like this:
After summiting Los Morteros (the jagged dark gray ridge line visible in the first photo), I decided to return to the Castillo Santa Catalina via El Neveral, a gently domed peak that appeared to lead directly back to the fortress (appeared being the operative word here; a story for another time).
After the initial excitement wore off, I realized there might be more comparative specimens just lying around for the taking – possibly even a cranium. I explored the area for a few minutes, and while I didn’t find a cranium, I did spot a few other tell-tale splashes of white in the landscape, marked with arrows in the following photograph:
I found the bones fairly close to the summit, and while I’m not a zooarchaeologist, there’s a few things I was able to tell right off of the bat. My questions for you, intrepid and equal-opportunity osteologists, are as follows:
1. Given the local environment and the size of the specimens, what species would you guess these bones belong to?
2. Was this animal’s death recent? How can you tell?
3. Was this animal’s death the result of predation? How can you tell?
I’ve provided anterior and posterior views of the fragments of bones below, with a Euro for scale. For any zooarchaeologists reading, feel free to be as specific as possible as to species – I think I’ve got a pretty good idea of what these are, but I would love a chance to double-check!