The excavation of the Abri des Autours, a rock-shelter located in southern Belgium, enabled the discovery of three human burials, two dated to the Early Mesolithic and a third dated to the Middle Neolithic. In addition to the human bones, more than 200 faunal remains were uncovered. A taphonomic analysis was undertaken to determine whether their presence resulted from anthropogenic activities and whether they are linked to the burials. Two assemblages were distinguished. The majority of the fauna corresponds to remains of animals found scattered throughout the cave, including in the Mesolithic levels. These are mainly portions of carcasses brought in to the rockshelter by scavengers or predators. Therefore, their deposition did not result from human activity. Thus far, no animal bone had been found in direct association with Mesolithic burials in Belgium, and this site conforms to that pattern. Moreover, this interpretation corroborates the archaeological study, which did not uncover any traces of domestic activity in the cave, during either the Mesolithic or the Neolithic. On the other hand, several bone artefacts, including various tools and a pendant, were also identified. With the exception of an isolated artefact, all of these were clearly associated with the Middle Neolithic burial (Michelsberg culture). This is only the fourth Neolithic cave burial to have yielded animal bone artefacts in Belgium. A preliminary micro-wear analysis has confirmed that these objects had been used before being deposited and has allowed us to propose several hypotheses concerning their original use.
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Vol. 52 • No. 2