The Archaeological and Anthropological Society of Victoria is a group that promotes the study of archaeology, anthropology, ethno-archaeology and ethno-history in both Australia and further abroad. Lectures, from a range of talented presenters, are held every third Thursday of the month at 6:30pm at the The Kathleen Syme Library & Community Centre – 251 Faraday St, Carlton.
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 Next Lecture – Thursday 16th of August 2018

Technology or Taphonomy? A study of the world’s oldest bone tools from Drimolen, South Africa

Presented by Rhiannon Stammers
Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Archaeology and History, La Trobe University

The world’s oldest purported bone tool technology comes from a series of palaeocave sites in the UNESCO Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa World Heritage Area, Gauteng Province, South Africa. These purported bone tools are dated to between c.2 and 1 million years and have been suggested to be utilised to either excavate underground storage organs (Brain and Shipman, 1993) or forage for termites (Backwell and d’Errico, 2001). The identification of these bone tools is based on their gross morphology and an associated use-wear pattern (Backwell and d’Errico, 2001). However, there is disagreement as to if these fossils are in fact tools (Kuman, 2005). Through comparative analysis and utilising of the concepts of traceology, a collection of 64 specimens from DMQ and two specimens from Kromdraai B were identified as bone tools. The use-wear on the working tip of these tools most closely correlates to sediment interaction and the tools are most likely a multi-purpose implement. Bone surface modifications created by site formation processes do not appear to correlate with the use-wear pattern that is restricted to the working end of the tools. Additionally, it is argued that the bone technology is a genuine element of the South African ESA, equally associated with Mode 1 and Mode 2 stone technology and the correlation between tool user and tool is not clear.



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