Investigating the use of paleolothic perforated batons: new evidence from Gough's cave (somerset, UK)


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Publication Date

June 2019


Perforated batons, usually made from a segment of antler and formed of a sub-cylindrical shaft and at least one perforation, have been documented across Europe from sites throughout the Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic. The function of perforated batons is still debated. We present here three Magdalenian perforated batons from the site of Gough’s Cave (Somerset, UK); these are unique to Britain and represent an important northern example of this artifact type. Our technological analysis revealed that the Gough’s Cave perforated batons did not have a purely symbolic purpose, but were clearly used as tools as demonstrated by extensive use-wear on the perforations’ edges and ancient fractures across both the distal parts and the shafts. The reconstruction of the chaîne opératoire suggests that the engraving of the deep curved lines within the perforation of each baton was a functional re-adjustment following the significant distortion of the perforation by use. Additionally, oblique bands of incisions were engraved on two of the batons’ shafts possibly to provide grip on the smooth antler surface. Altogether, the modifications of the perforations and shafts of the three batons support the hypothesis that the Gough’s Cave batons were used in a task associated with ropes and subjected to considerable forces. Their extensive use may be due to the rarity of the raw material (reindeer antler) in the Cheddar Gorge area during the Magdalenian. Extensive usage aside, the Gough’s Cave batons fit typologically and share a number of features with other Magdalenian perforated batons. They can, therefore, add significant insight to the debate about the use of perforated batons.


Madalenian, Osseous Technology, Engraving, Use-Wear

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Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, Vol. 11 (2019-06-11).