Although we know that our lineage has been producing sharp-edged tools for over 2.6 Myr, our knowledge of what they were doing with these tools is far less complete. Studies of these sharp-edged stone tools show that they were most probably used as cutting implements. However, the only substantial evidence of this is the presence of cut marks on the bones of animals found in association with stone tools in ancient deposits. Numerous studies have aimed to quantify the frequency and placement of these marks. At present there is little consensus on the meaning of these marks and how the frequency relates to specific behaviours in the past. Here we investigate the possibility that mechanical properties associated with edges of stone tools as well as the properties of bones themselves may contribute to the overall morphology of these marks and ultimately their placement in the archaeological record. Standardized tests of rock mechanics (Young's modulus and Vickers hardness) indicate that the hardness of tool edges significantly affects cut-mark morphology. In addition, we show that indentation hardness of bones also impacts the overall morphology of cut marks. Our results show that rock type and bone portions influence the shape and prevalence of cut marks on animal bones.
One contribution of 14 to a theme issue ‘Cutting science in biology and engineering’.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
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