Thursday, January 19, 2012
Ruthven Museum Building Room 2009
Cutmarks have played an important role in determining whether our hominid ancestors were hunters or scavengers, highlighting the diversity of prehistoric butchering behavior, describing ritual modification of human bone, and defining the origin of metallurgy. But for all the big questions cutmarks are helping to answer, archaeologists have had difficulty identifying diagnostic cutmarks of prehistoric butchering, processing, and consuming behaviors. Linking cutmarks to specific activities allows us to test fine-grained hypotheses concerning the nature of an archaeological site and to do this, a rigorous understanding of cutmarks as archaeological evidence is essential. An analysis of caribou bones collected by Lewis Binford from the Palangana site in Alaska is used to develop a general framework for cutmark analysis. This case study demonstrates that cutmarks can be used to simultaneously address large-scale anthropological questions and reveal intrasite behavioral variability in the archaeological record.