A decorated raven bone from the Zaskalnaya VI (Kolosovskaya) Neanderthal site, Crimea

Majkic, A.
Evans, S.
Stepanchuk, V.
Tsvelykh, A.
D'Errico, F.
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Public Library of Science
We analyze a radius bone fragment of a raven (Corvus corax) from Zaskalnaya VI rock shelter, Crimea. The object bears seven notches and comes from an archaeological level attributed to a Micoquian industry dated to between 38 and 43 cal kyr BP. Our study aims to examine the degree of regularity and intentionality of this set of notches through their technological and morphometric analysis, complemented by comparative experimental work. Microscopic analysis of the notches indicate that they were produced by the to-and-fro movement of a lithic cutting edge and that two notches were added to fill in the gap left between previously cut notches, probably to increase the visual consistency of the pattern. Multivariate analysis of morphometric data recorded on the archaeological notches and sets of notches cut by nine modern experimenters on radii of domestic turkeys shows that the variations recorded on the Zaskalnaya set are comparable to experimental sets made with the aim of producing similar, parallel, equidistant notches. Identification of the Weber Fraction, the constant that accounts for error in human perception, for equidistant notches cut on bone rods and its application to the Zaskalnaya set of notches and thirty-six sets of notches incised on seventeen Upper Palaeolithic bone objects from seven sites indicate that the Zaskalnaya set falls within the range of variation of regularly spaced experimental and Upper Palaeolithic sets of notches. This suggests that even if the production of the notches may have had a utilitarian reason the notches were made with the goal of producing a visually consistent pattern. This object represents the first instance of a bird bone from a Neanderthal site bearing modifications that cannot be explained as the result of butchery activities and for which a symbolic argument can be built on direct rather than circumstantial evidence.
Bear , Common raven , Crimea , Experimental study , Human , Multivariate analysis , Nonhuman , Paleolithic , Perception , Radius , Turkey (bird) , Anatomy and histology , Animal , Archeology , Fossils , History, Ancient , Humans , Microscopy
Majkic, A. et al. 2017. A decorated raven bone from the Zaskalnaya VI (Kolosovskaya) Neanderthal site, Crimea. PLOS ONE 12(3), Article number e0173435.