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Tools Underfoot: Human Trampling as an Agent of Lithic Artifact Edge Modification

  • Sally McBrearty (a1), Laura Bishop (a1), Thomas Plummer (a2), Robert Dewar (a3) and Nicholas Conard (a4)...

A series of eight replication experiments tests the proposition that human trampling of stone flakes can produce edge damage that mimics deliberate retouch. Retouchlike edge damage, breakage, and other forms of macroscopic mechanical damage were observed on large numbers of pieces in all trampled sets. Experiments measured the relative contributions of three variables-raw material, artifact density, and substrate-in generating damage. Results indicate that while all three factors contribute to some degree, substrate plays the most decisive role, and that artifacts are more likely to exhibit damage if trampled on an impenetrable substrate. It was further found that trampling transforms flakes into pseudo-tools that can be classified as formal tools using a standard typology. Many of these are notched and denticulate pieces, indicating that special caution is needed in behavioral interpretations based on these tool types, and that the European Paleolithic Denticulate Mousterian industry requires critical reassessment.


Una serie de ocho experimentos de réplica prueban la proposición de que el pisoteo humano de lascas líticas puede producir daños que imitan retoque deliberado. Este tipo de dahos, rotura, y otras formas de modificación mecánica fueron observados en un gran número depiezas en todos los conjuntos pisoteados. Los experimentos midieron la contribución relativa de tres variables: materia prima, densidad, y sustrato, en la generación de daño. Los resultados indican que las tres variables contribuyen parcialmente, pero que el sustrato juega el rol más decisivo, y que los artefactos pisoteados sobre un sustrato impenetrable son los más dañados. También se encontró que el pisoteo transforma lascas en seudo-herramientas que pueden ser clasificadas en categorías formates usando una tipología estándar. Muchas de éstas tienen muescas y denticulados, indicando que se necesita cautela en interpretaciones conductuales basadas en estos tipos de herramienta, y que la industria paleolítica del denticulado musteriense necesita ser revisada criticamente.

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