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Keywords:

  • archaeozoology;
  • calf age-at-death estimation prediction models;
  • unfused post cranial bones;
  • Middle Neolithic

ABSTRACT

For cattle (Bos taurus), age estimations using dental criteria before the eruption of the first molar (3–8 months) have large error margins. This hampers archaeozoological investigation into perinatal mortality or the putative slaughtering of very young calves for milk exploitation. Previous ageing methods for subjuveniles have focused on the length of unfused bones, but it is rarely possible to use them because they are restricted to foetuses and because of the fragmentation of bones. This paper presents new age prediction models based on length, breadth and depth of post cranial bones produced from a dataset of modern calves (n = 27). This reference collection was compiled from material of known age at death, sex and breed from collections in Britain, France, Germany and Switzerland. Linear regression models were constructed using the modern data for age prediction, and these models were then successfully tested and assessed using a Middle Neolithic assemblage of complete calves' skeletons from Bourguignon-Lès-Morey, France. From the assessment, the astragalus and metapodials were determined to be the most reliable bones, and the femur was the worst. Measurements of the epiphyseal and distal elements and depth measurements were the most reliable. For ages before 12 months, these models can provide ±1 month age estimates. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.