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Taxonomic identification of Hawaiian bone fishhooks using Zooms: documenting raw material selection and possible ritual use of terrestrial species

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Amano,  Noel
Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Boivin,  Nicole L.
Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Crowther,  Alison
Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Peters,  Carli
Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Lambourne, M.-L., Amano, N., Boivin, N. L., Crowther, A., Peters, C., & Weisler, M. (2024). Taxonomic identification of Hawaiian bone fishhooks using Zooms: documenting raw material selection and possible ritual use of terrestrial species. SSRN, 4696254. doi:10.2139/ssrn.4696254.


Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000E-4960-4
Abstract
Fishhooks are one of the most important artefact classes in East Polynesian archaeological sites with stylistic traits used for building chronologies, demonstrating linkages between island communities, inferring marine foraging strategies, and understanding target prey. Owing to a limited distribution of local pearl shell, terrestrial mammal bone was primarily used for bone fishhook manufacture in the Hawaiian Islands. By identifying the species of bone used in fishhook manufacture we can gain insight into raw material selection, access to ethnographically attested high status goods such as pig, and the extent to which human bone was used. Because raw materials and fishhooks were extensively worked during production, it is not usually possible to taxonomically identify manufacturing detritus and finished fishhooks using morphological characteristics. Additionally, raw material size alone is not a reliable indication of species. Here we use collagen peptide mass fingerprinting, known as Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry (ZooMS), to identify the species used for bone fishhook manufacture from late prehistoric (post AD 1500) sites on Moloka‘i, Hawaiian Islands. The species identification of Hawaiian fishhook manufacturing debris and finished hooks are the first unequivocal identifications of raw material by ZooMS confirming the use of pig, dog, and human bones, with a preference for pig bone. While utilitarian explanations for raw material selection can be inferred, considering differences in the width and thickness of elements between species, the use of human bone and pig bone suggests a ritual function as well.