• actualism;
  • breakage;
  • brown bear;
  • taphonomy;
  • tooth marks


Actualism has been a fundamental tool in taphonomy. The knowledge of accumulation patterning of modern faunal allows us to interpret the activity of different actors in the archaeological record and to reconstruct the behaviour of preterit animals and humans in which we are interested. However, until now, there are few works that include bone modifications made by bears amongst those made by carnivores.

Most data about bone modifications made by bears have been obtained from the archaeo-palaeontological record. In most of these assemblages, the presence of bears is related to their period of hibernation. Therefore, in these contexts, the changes documented on recovered bear bones are associated only with cannibalism.

In this paper, we present an actualistic study about modifications on bones made by modern brown bears. These animals can cause damage similar to those produced by other large carnivores. Generally, bear activity leaves slight damage, mainly on large-sized animal bones. However, on bones of small-sized animals and those of greater fragility, the bears can produce abundant damage. Though not usual, bears can break long bones and consume the complete epiphysis. This study suggests that bears have the potential to be agents of bone modification in fossil assemblages. Consequently, they should be considered as a possible agent of modification of faunal remains in the fossil record. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.