Elephant dung, chewed antlers, weathered bones: documenting a unique taphonomic collection
- Subject Areas
- Animal Behavior, Ecology, Paleontology, Taxonomy, Zoology
- Taphonomy, Collection, Vertebrate, Teeth, Bones, Skin, Faeces
- © 2017 Pappa et al.
- This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed. For attribution, the original author(s), title, publication source (PeerJ Preprints) and either DOI or URL of the article must be cited.
- Cite this article
- 2017. Elephant dung, chewed antlers, weathered bones: documenting a unique taphonomic collection. PeerJ Preprints 5:e3280v1 https://doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.3280v1
The Antony John Sutcliffe Collection is a unique taphonomic reference collection held within the Department of Earth Sciences at the Natural History Museum (NHM). Sutcliffe was the Curator of Fossil Mammal at the NHM from 1957 to 1987, during which time he collected a large assemblage of modern comparative vertebrate material, including complete skulls, bones, teeth and soft tissues (skin and faeces) of numerous species from across the world including sites in East Africa, Canada, Alaska, Siberia and northwest Europe. Sutcliffe studied Pleistocene mammals and was particularly interested in the alterations to their remains after death and how they come to be fossilised, i.e., their taphonomy.
The specimens were either collected during Sutcliffe’s own fieldwork or gifted to him by international colleagues, and are often accompanied by detailed notes on their provenance and original letters of donation.
After a preliminary study in 2013, and given the value of the collection for future taphonomic studies, a curatorial project ran from 2015 to 2017 aiming to document the entire collection on EMu (the museum’s collection management system), recording the anatomy, taxonomy, previous and new locations within the museum, and any associated documentation of over 1500 specimens. Photographs of each object were included and all specimens have been registered, safely repacked and rehoused at Wandsworth museum store, where they are now accessible to researchers. The specimens have the potential to form curated taphonomic reference standards for use by researchers around the world.
This is an abstract which has been accepted for the SVPCA 2017 conference