The Conversation is running a neat story by Justin Bradfield that details the use of the ZooMS protein-barcoding technique on bone arrowheads from Late Stone Age archaeological sites in South Africa: “New technology tells us which animal bones were used to make ancient tools”.
The results indicate that farmers used fewer species for tool manufacture than they hunted for food. We also found that certain animal species were used for tools that didn’t appear to have been hunted for food.
We identified a narrow range of antelope from the bone tools from nine archaeological sites from Gauteng and Limpopo. Of particular interest is the presence of sable, roan, zebra and rhino. Until now, we didn’t know that these species’ bones were used to make tools in southern Africa.
The story is a popular rendering of results from a research paper out last week in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences: “Identifying the animal species used to manufacture bone arrowheads in South Africa”.
Although this particular research doesn’t strike into the deeper-time use of bone as a raw material, such as by Neanderthals, it does show the potential of the ZooMS bone-identification method to address some of the (in my opinion fallacious) arguments about bone tools. I’ll look forward to seeing more ancient work on the species that earlier hominins used for toolmaking.