Middle Stone Age pièces esquillées from Sibudu Cave, South Africa: an initial micro-residue study


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June 2012


In this paper I present the results of a micro-residue study conducted on ten pièces esquillées (scaled pieces) from Sibudu Cave, South Africa. These artefacts are associated with the Howiesons Poort Industry (∼61.7 and ∼64.7 ka years ago at Sibudu), representing part of the later phase of the Middle Stone Age. Until now, it was unclear on what these pieces were used, and whether they were functional. Previous experimental use-wear work tentatively pointed towards bone processing. However, replication work on stone tool production technology suggests that pièces esquillées are merely the by/end-product of bipolar knapping. I used residue analysis on the Sibudu artefacts because this alternative method has the potential to identify if they were used, and if so, illuminate the specific materials the pieces were used on. Although the sample is small, all the pièces esquillées reveal a clear animal processing signal. There are some bone deposits on the utilised edges that may substantiate bone processing, or perhaps a bone hammer was used with them, but additional study, including Later Stone Age artefacts, is needed to assess the feasibility of these observations. It remains possible that the artefacts are core reduced pieces that were subsequently used as tools or simply knapped with a bone hammer.


Micro-Residue Analysis, Middle Stone Age, South Africa, Pièces Esquillées, Scaled Pieces, Core Reduced Pieces, Howiesons Poort

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Journal of Archaeological Science, Vol. 39, no. 6 (2012-06-01).