Assessing Macrofracture analysis as a method for identifying Stone Age hunting weapons.
Macrofracture analysis is an experimentally derived method that can be used as an initial step towards investigating the hunting function of stone artefacts. The method has been widely applied and has proven to be useful for understanding prehistoric subsistence practices when used in conjunction with other studies such as micro-residue, micro-wear and faunal analyses Recently it gained favour in Middle Stone Age studies, supporting hypotheses for effective hunting during the late Pleistocene in sub-Saharan Africa. Diagnostic impact fractures, which can only develop as a result of longitudinal impact, are a key set of macrofracture types that underpin the method. Yet, the limitations of the method and factors affecting macrofracture formation are not fully understood.
This paper outlines a set of experiments designed to test macrofracture formation under human and cattle trampling conditions. The results show that: a) macrofractures occur frequently when stone artefacts are trampled by cattle and humans and in knapping debris; b) diagnostic impact fractures occur on some of the trampled experimental flakes and knapping debris, but are not often associated with tips or pointed ends; c) when they do occur, they could have been produced by forces similar to those experienced during knapping or hunting activities; e) considering artefact morphology is important during macrofracture analysis; and f) macrofracture analysis is not a standalone method, but is most useful as part of a multidisciplinary approach. These experiments help in understanding the limits of the macrofracture method and contribute to existing experimental reference samples relating to macrofracture formation.
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