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Bone point functional diversity: A cautionary tale from Southern Africa

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In this chapter I present the results of a use-trace study conducted on 357 pointed bone tools from terminal Pleistocene and Holocene assemblages in southern Africa. All the bone points considered here conform to the morphological criteria of projectile arrow heads, as defined by analogy to historic Bushman arrows. Use-wear and residue traces consistent with wood-working and hide processing reveal that not all bone points functioned as projectile armatures in the past. Functional diversity is evident only during the last 6000 years. Bone points from the Pleistocene are routinely subject to rigorous use-wear analyses to establish their function, yet it is often taken for granted that similar tools found in the more recent Holocene were used as projectile tips. This paper cautions against the specious imputation to projectile technology of all bone points based solely on morphometric criteria.




Bradfield, J. (2016). Bone point functional diversity: A cautionary tale from Southern Africa. In Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology (pp. 31–40). Springer.

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