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Experimental butchery study investigating the influence of timing of access and butcher expertise on cut mark variables.

Pobiner, B.L. and Higson, C.P. and Kovarovic, K. and Kaplan, R.S. and Rogers, J. and Schindler, W. (2018) 'Experimental butchery study investigating the influence of timing of access and butcher expertise on cut mark variables.', International journal of osteoarchaeology., 28 (4). pp. 377-387.


Cut marks on fossils from Plio‐Pleistocene faunal assemblages can elucidate the timing and nature of hominin procurement of animal tissues. While butchery experiments have great potential to enhance our ability to understand hominin butchery behaviors, studies that model variation in the timing of access to carcasses and butcher expertise have either yielded conflicting results or have not yet been investigated. We conducted butchery experiments on 8 pig limbs with replicated Oldowan flake tools that varied the amount of flesh removed prior to butchery (simulating early or late carcass access) and butcher expertise. These experiments investigated the effects of these variables on resultant cut mark count, length, and number of tool strokes. The relationship between the number of tool strokes as a measure of butchery intensity and the number of cut marks produced was also explored. We also compared the length of experimental cut marks to those on 1.5 million year old fossil bones from Koobi Fora, Kenya. While the bones that were partially defleshed prior to butchery had a higher number and longer cut marks on average than fleshed bones, and the expert butcher created fewer and shorter cut marks than the novice butcher, none of these relationships were statistically significant. We found no relationship between the number of tool strokes and the amount of flesh removed prior to butchery or the number of cut marks produced during butchery, although the expert butcher used fewer tool strokes. While not statistically significant, the length of cut marks created by the novice butcher is much more variable than those created by the expert butcher and the fossil cut marks, and fossil cut marks are much shorter than those created by both modern butchers. More work needs to be undertaken to identify cut mark attributes that may be influenced by behavioral or ecological variables that can be measured and manipulated during butchery experiments.

Item Type:Article
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Publisher statement:This is the accepted version of the following article: Pobiner, B.L., Higson, C.P., Kovarovic, K., Kaplan, R.S., Rogers, J. & Schindler, W. (2018). Experimental Butchery Study Investigating the Influence of Timing of Access and Butcher Expertise on Cut Mark Variables. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 28(4): 377-387, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.
Date accepted:31 March 2018
Date deposited:19 April 2018
Date of first online publication:04 May 2018
Date first made open access:04 May 2019

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