restricted access Chapter 8. A Scanning Electron Microscopy Evaluation of the Lange/Ferguson Mammoth Bone Assemblage: Bone Fracture, Technology, and Use-Wear in Taphonomic Context
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117 In this chapter, I review attempts to define clear, objective criteria upon which bone expediency tools can be recognized in the archaeological or fossil record and how I have applied those criteria to materials from the Lange/ Ferguson site in South Dakota (39SH33). Criteria include both gross or macroscopic features (preservation of surfaces , damage, breakage patterns) of the specimens and microscopic features (use-wear, polish, differential obliteration of anatomical features) of surfaces and marks on the bones based on comparative samples of known taphonomic history for which similar data are available. I also consider other taphonomic evidence from the site, such as bone surface condition, abrasion, carnivore marks, and weathering. These data are used to evaluate two alternative hypotheses: (1) that the Lange/Ferguson site records evidence of killing and butchery of mammoths using bone expediency tools, or (2) that the breakage of the bone assemblage was caused postdepositionally by heavy equipment. Both macroscopic and microscopic criteria overwhelmingly support the hypothesis that the mammoths at Lange/Ferguson were killed and butchered when fresh using bone expediency tools. Identifying Bone Tools Bone expediency tools are difficult to identify with certainty because by definition they are minimally modified prior to use and are often discarded after brief use. Thus, evidence for either the modification or the use of the bone is not always compelling. Controversies over the interpretation and identification of bone expediency tools occupied much of the taphonomic and archaeological literature from the early 1980s until the early 2000s and delayed recognition of some genuine pre-Clovis or Clovis-age sites in North America. Many controversial specimens have been those of very large animals, often mammoths or mastodons. Anthropologists and archaeologists have struggled to find reliable methods for accurately identifying humanly broken bones and criteria by which such bones can be distinguished from bones broken by other taphonomic agents, such as water transport, elephant activities, freezethaw cycles, and heavy machinery. Calls for greater rigor and the application of more skepticism about claims for bone expediency tools have been warranted in general, though not necessarily in each specific case. As taphonomic knowledge about agents of bone breakage and their effects has increased, types of breakage or apparent wear that once seemed credible indicators of human agency have sometimes become less so. The identification of bone expediency tools initially relied primarily on intuition based on inspection of macroscopic criteria, including breakage patterns (Breuil 1939; Dart 1957; Pei 1938). In the 1970s and later, with the rise of taphonomic studies, more rigorous studies were undertaken to characterize the types and patterns of damage and breakage resulting from different taphonomic agents and to apply knowledge from bone biomechanics and histology to understanding and interpreting archaeological bone materials. These attempts clarified some issues and produced heated feelings about others. Largely macroscopic criteria were developed and applied (e.g., Bonnichsen 1979; S. Holen 2006; E. Johnson 1985, 1987, 1989; E. Johnson and Shipman 1986; Karr 2012, 2015; Karr and Outram 2012a, 2012b, 2015; S. Miller 1989; Morlan 1980, 1984, 2003; Stanford 1979; Steele and Carlson 1989) with less ready acceptance to early sites in North America, some of which were involved in debates over pre-Clovis settlement or Clovis hunting adaptations. Some of the more contentious American sites have few or no stone A Scanning Electron Microscopy Evaluation of the Lange/Ferguson Mammoth Bone Assemblage Bone Fracture, Technology, and Use-Wear in Taphonomic Context chapter eight Pat Shipman 118 Chapter Eight tools and no human remains, and/or have been plagued by difficulties in radiometric dating. Accepting human modification of bones in those cases would constitute the primary or only evidence for a Clovis or pre-Clovis occupation of the Americas, and it is imperative that such claims be investigated thoroughly. Criteria for identifying bone expediency tools based on microscopic features were developed primarily for use on the earliest known bone tools, which at present are from sites dated 1–2 million years ago in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania , and Swartkrans, South Africa (Backwell and d’Errico 2001; Brain and Shipman 1993; Shipman 1988a, 1988b, 1989; Shipman and Rose 1988). The application of these techniques, involving both macroscopic and microscopic wear, has convinced most paleoanthropologists that some of the putative bone tools were, in fact, modified and used by hominids. In my studies, a key criterion for accepting a specimen as a utilized bone tool was the presence of differential wear on the apparent working edge and the lack of similar wear away from the edge. With...


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