Rudabànya: Taphonomic analysis of a fossil hominid site from Hungary

Peter Andrews*, David Cameron

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)


    The late Miocene deposits at Rudabànya, Hungary, were laid down in a shallow valley sloping westwards from a range of hills and opening out into the Pannonian Lake. Rise and fall of lake level gave rise to varying conditions, from dry land with soil formation to swamp and lake. The stratigraphic and palaeontological succession has been investigated at one of the sites, Rudabànya 2, where two cycles of deposition and erosion are represented, with soil formation, swamp conditions with lignite formation, and periods of extended high lake level succeeding each other. Both mammal and plant fossils are present at several levels. Taphonomic modifications in the Rudabànya 2 vertebrate faunas include losses of skeletal elements through carnivore selection, fluvial sorting at some levels, and post-depositional destruction by leaching and/or acid soils. The lowest level, the lower lignite, has few fossils. The fossil mammals from the level above, the grey marl, are the least modified but they are mixed with abraded, probably allochthonous, bone fragments and more complete specimens resulting from near-lake deaths. Modifications of bones by carnivores are indicated, but the specimens were too broken post-depositionally for the impact of the carnivores to be assessed. Carnivore action is also indicated for the fauna of the black clay which formed on the surface of the grey marl. The fauna consists of relatively abundant small mammals and the primates Anapithecus hernyaki and Dryopithecus hungaricus, with the latter much less common. The predator accumulating the smaller species was probably a viverrid. The red marl fauna is a transported assemblage from higher up the valley with the fossils extremely fragmentary and abraded and few identifiable specimens, almost all of which are teeth. The black mud fauna is also probably a transported assemblage, lower energy than the red marl environment, and the bones are much modified subsequently by acid corrosion similar to that seen today in bone preserved in peat bogs. Dryopithecus is a major constituent of the fauna, with Anapithecus less common. D. hungaricus is thus associated more strongly with swamp forest and shallow riverine conditions with low energy movement of water, and A. hernyaki is associated with lake shore (probably forest) conditions, accumulating in lake sediments and lake-flat sediments. The palaeoecology of the area as a whole, based on the associated flora and fauna, is a combination of swamp forest, lake shore forest and open mud flats.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)311-329
    Number of pages19
    JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2010


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