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A method for the taphonomic assessment of bone tools using 3D surface texture analysis of bone microtopography

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McPherron,  Shannon P.
Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Schulz-Kornas,  Ellen
Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;
Max Planck Weizmann Center for integrative Archaeology and Anthropology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Steele,  Teresa E.
Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Martisius, N. L., McPherron, S. P., Schulz-Kornas, E., Soressi, M., & Steele, T. E. (2020). A method for the taphonomic assessment of bone tools using 3D surface texture analysis of bone microtopography. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, 12(10): 251. doi:10.1007/s12520-020-01195-y.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-35C6-E
Abstract
Increasingly researchers have employed confocal microscopy and 3D surface texture analysis to assess bone surface modifications in an effort to understand ancient behavior. However, quantitative comparisons between the surfaces of purported archaeological bone tools and experimentally manufactured and used bones are complicated by taphonomic processes affecting ancient bone. Nonetheless, it may be reasonable to assume that bones within the same deposits are altered similarly and thus these alterations are quantifiable. Here we show how unworked bones can be used to quantify the taphonomic effect on bone surfaces and how this effect can then be controlled for and incorporated into an analysis for evaluating the modified surfaces of purported bone tools. To assess the baseline taphonomy of Middle Paleolithic archaeological deposits associated with typologically identified bone artifacts, specifically lissoirs, we directly compare the surface textures of ancient and modern unworked ribs. We then compare the ancient unworked ribs and lissoirs to assess their differences and predict the ancient artifacts’ original surface state using a multilevel multivariate Bayesian model. Our findings demonstrate that three of five tested surface texture parameters (Sa, Spc, and IsT) are useful for distinguishing surface type. Our model predictions show that lissoirs tend to be less rough, have more rounded surface peaks, and exhibit more directionally oriented surfaces. These characteristics are likely due to anthropogenic modifications and would have been more pronounced at deposition. Quantifying taphonomic alterations moves us one step closer to accurately assessing how bone artifacts were made and used in the ancient past.