Cut Mark Cluster Geometry and Equifinality in Replicated Early Stone Age Butchery

Academic Article


  • Early Stone Age cut marks created during tool-assisted carnivory potentially offer inferences into hominin butchery behaviour and access to complete or defleshed carcasses. Actualistic butchery trials of 16 goat and cow half-carcasses were completed by an experienced butcher with replicated Oldowan tools to investigate how the geometric organisation of cut mark clusters reflects flake versus core tool use and bulk muscle versus scrap defleshing. A cluster of cut marks is defined as a series of adjacent cut mark striations that occur at an anatomical location and are bounded by unmarked cortical surface. Tool type and butchery action were predicted to differentially mark certain long bone portions and influence cluster attributes. Moulds of 613 cut mark clusters were photographed and measured using ImageJ software (National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA) for cluster area, cut mark count, median cut mark length and standard deviation of cut mark length and angle. Analysis suggests the following results: (i) cluster attributes are correlated;(ii) changes in cluster geometry are related to increasing cut mark count and length but not tool type or defleshed muscle amount; (iii) large clusters occur on large animals; and (iv) long bone midshaft portions are cut-marked during both bulk and scrap muscle defleshing. Analysis of 179 cut mark clusters on long bone shafts of sizes 1–4 mammals from three Okote member assemblages at Koobi Fora, Kenya, shows that archaeological clusters have a similar number of marks when compared with experimental clusters but are significantly smaller, have shorter median marks and include less deviation in mark length and angle. Archaeological clusters corroborate that increasing area is positively correlated with cut mark count, median mark length and standard deviation of mark length and angle. A quantitative inferential model that links cut mark cluster geometry to tool type or the amount of muscle defleshed is not supported by these data. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Merritt SR
  • Start Page

  • 585
  • End Page

  • 598
  • Volume

  • 26
  • Issue

  • 4