Degree Name

MS (Master of Science)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Steven Wallace

Committee Members

Chunhua (Daniel) Zhang, Michael Whitelaw


Discovered in 2000, the Gray Fossil Site provides a snapshot of the flora and fauna that lived during late Miocene to early Pliocene time in eastern Tennessee. These fossils occur in sediments consisting of fine-grained clays and sands of lacustrine origin, which were deposited after multiple sinkholes formed in the underlying Knox Group basement carbonates. Three-dimensional nearest neighbor analysis has been applied to fossils of Tapirus polkensis, characterizing the spatial patterns exhibited. These analyses determined the importance of taphonomic and depositional processes that occurred during the sites formation. Six characteristics were analyzed, four at the bone level including carnivore utilization, weathering, abrasion, and arthritis, and two at the specimen level, articulation and age class. Weathering, arthritis, and articulation, show clustered patterns indicating that the site had active predators, it consisted of many microenvironments, and deposition occurred in a passive setting. Although the current state of excavation makes any spatial analyses and taphonomic interpretations difficult, spatial analysis in both dimensions can be accomplished.

Document Type

Thesis - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.