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A Quantitative Diagnosis of Notches Made by Hammerstone Percussion and Carnivore Gnawing on Bovid Long Bones

  • Salvatore D. Capaldo (a1) and Robert J. Blumenschine (a1)

The frequency and morphology of notches produced on bovid long bones by carnivore gnawing (tooth notches) and hammerstone-on-anvil breakage (percussion notches) are quantified. Notches are semicircular- to arcuate-shaped indentations on fracture edges with corresponding negative flake scars on medullary surfaces. We restrict our analysis to notches produced under controlled conditions by either carnivores or hammerstones when diaphyses are breached to extract marrow. Percussion notches are characteristically more frequent, and, in cortical view, broader and shallower than tooth notches. The flakes removed from percussion notches are typically broader, and have a more obtuse release angle, than those removed from tooth notches. These morphological differences are statistically significant for notches on Bovid Size 1 and 2 long bones but not on Bovid Size 3 long bones.

Notches should be more durable than marks produced by carcass consumers on bone surfaces because they penetrate the entire thickness of the bone. As a result, notches are not easily obscured by weathering, chemical corrosion, or adhering matrix. Given this durability, and the initial success we have had in distinguishing the actor responsible for notch production on modern bones, notches can be used, with some limitations, to identify bone consumers archaeologically.


La frecuencia y morfología de las muescas producidas por la roedura de carnívoros en huesos largos de bóvidos (muescas de dientes) y aquéllas producidas por la fractura de yunque-y-martillo (muescas de percusión) son cuantificadas. La forma de las muescas varía entre semicircular y arqueada en los bordes de la fractura con las correspondientes cicatrices negativas de lascas en las superficies medulares. Restringimos nuestro análisis a las muescas producidas, bajo condiciones controladas, cuando dientes o martillos abren la diáfisis para extraer la médula. Las muescas de percusión tienden a ser más frecuentes y, en piano cortical, éstas son más anchas y superficiales que las muescas de dientes.

Las lascas removidas por las muescas de percusión son tipicamente más anchas y tienen un ángulo de salida más obtuso que aquéllas removidas por las muescas de dientes. Estas diferencias morfológicas son estadisticamente significativas para muescas presentes en huesos largos de bóvidos de tamaño uno y dos pero no para las presentes en huesos largos de bóvidos de tamaño tres. Las muescas deben ser más durables que las marcas producidas por consumidores de carcasas en la superficie de los huesos porque ésas penetran todo el espesor del hueso. Como resultado, las muescas no desaparecen facilmente con la erosión, corrosión química, o matriz adherida. Dada esta durabilidad y el éxito inicial que hemos tenido en distinguir a los actores responsables de la producción de muescas en huesos modernos, podemos decir que las muescas pueden ser usadas, con algunas limitaciones, para identificar a los consumidores de huesos en el registro arqueológico.

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