Taphonomic contribution of large mammal butchering experiments to understanding the fossil record

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dc.contributor.author Leenen, Andrea
dc.date.accessioned 2011-07-07T12:08:10Z
dc.date.available 2011-07-07T12:08:10Z
dc.date.issued 2011-07-07
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10539/10280
dc.description.abstract The primary goal of this project is to create a modern comparative collection of complete large bovid skeletons that record butchery marks made by stone tools. Four different raw materials commonly found in the southern African archaeological record (chert, quartzite, dolerite and hornfels) were selected for flake production. Butchery was conducted on three cows by modern Bushmen subsistence hunters skilled in the processing of animal carcasses. They form part of a relatively isolated group of !Xo-speaking Bushmen resident in the village of Kacgae in the Ghanzi district of western Botswana. The study focuses on characterising the type and conspicuousness of stone-generated butchering marks on bones under low magnification, and documenting patterning including anatomical location, number and orientation. Due to the fact that numerous natural events and human practices modify bones, unequivocal interpretation of bone modifications is sometimes difficult. Further to this, mimics, which are a result of non-human activity, produce the same or qualitatively similar patterns that complicate positive identification of butchery marks made by hominins. Reliable measures are required for interpretation of fossil bone modifications, and controlled actualistic observations provide a direct link between the process of modification (stone tool butchery aimed at complete flesh removal) and the traces produced. A number of taphonomic processes, including bone modification by various animals and geological processes are recorded in comparative collections housed at institutions in the province of Gauteng in the Republic of South Africa. These provide reference material for taphonomists attempting to identify agents responsible for the modification and accumulation of fossil bone assemblages, particularly from early hominin cave sites in the Sterkfontein Valley. However, no reference material exists for hominin modification of bone, and thus motivates for the collection of such traces. The modern comparative collection produced by this study shows butchery marks inflicted exclusively by habitual hunters who are also skilled butchers, and provides a resource for researchers to help accurately identify hominin-produced butchery marks on fossil bones. The accompanying catalogue records the type and conspicuousness, anatomical location and orientation of the butchery marks and provides a controlled sample against which a fossil assemblage can be compared. Results indicate no consistent patterning in the intensity of butchery marking with regard to the type of stone tool material that is utilised. However, a high number of butchery marks per surface area were recorded for most stone tool materials for certain skeletal elements including the mandible, ribs, scapula and humerus. Overall, there are indications that raw material influences butchery marking, however, the small sample size hinders the potential of an identifiable pattern with regard to the type of raw material from which the stone tools responsible for the butchery marks were produced. Furthermore, the vast range of variables that can exist during the butchery process contribute to the equivocal nature of the results. Additional research is required, some of it ongoing, which expands the sample of stone tool butchering, utilises iron tools and investigates ethnographic differences in butchering techniques. en_US
dc.language.iso en en_US
dc.subject taphonomy eng
dc.subject fossilisation eng
dc.subject large animals eng
dc.subject butchering eng
dc.title Taphonomic contribution of large mammal butchering experiments to understanding the fossil record en_US
dc.type Thesis en_US

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