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The Breaking of Ochred Pebble Tools as Part of Funerary Ritual in the Arene Candide Epigravettian Cemetery

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 January 2017

Claudine Gravel-Miguel
Affiliation:
School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, P.O. Box 872402, Tempe, AZ 85287-2402, USA, Email: cgravelm@asu.edu
Julien Riel-Salvatore
Affiliation:
Département d'Anthropologie, Université de Montréal, C. P. 6128, Succursale Centre-ville, Montréal, QC H3T 1N8, Canada, Email: julien.riel-salvatore@umontreal.ca
Roberto Maggi
Affiliation:
Scuola di Specializzazione in Beni Archeologici, Università di Genova, Palazzo Balbi Senarega, Via Balbi, 4-I piano, 16126 Genova, Italy, Email: romaggi2003@libero.it
Gabriele Martino
Affiliation:
Soprintendenza per I Beni Archeologici della Liguria, Via Balbi, 10, 16126 Genova, Italy, Email: garibaldomare@gmail.com
C. Michael Barton
Affiliation:
School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, P.O. Box 872402, Tempe, AZ 85287-2402, USA Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity, Arizona State University, P.O. Box 874804, Tempe, AZ 85287-4804, USA, Email: Michael.Barton@asu.edu

Abstract

We present the analysis of 29 human-transported limestone pebbles found during recent excavations (2009–11) in the Final Epigravettian levels at the Caverna delle Arene Candide, Italy. All pebbles are oblong, most bear traces of red ochre and many appear intentionally broken. Macroscopic analyses demonstrate morphological similarity with pebbles used as grave goods in the Final Epigravettian necropolis excavated at the site in the 1940s. Mediterranean beaches are the most plausible source for the pebbles, which were carefully selected for their specific shape. Microscopic observation of the pebbles’ surfaces shows traces of ochre located on the edges and/or centres of most pebbles. A breakage experiment suggests that many pebbles were broken with intentional, direct blows to their centre. We propose that these pebbles were used to apply ochre ritually to the individuals buried at the site, and that some were subsequently ritually ‘killed’. This study emphasizes the importance of studying artefacts that are often ignored due to their similarities to simple broken rocks. It also provides a method to study pebbles as a distinct artefact category, and shows that even broken parts should be studied to understand the story told by such objects in the context of prehistoric human social systems.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research 2017 

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