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Functional Implications of Backed Piece Variability for Prehistoric Weaponry in the Middle Stone Age

Author(s): Benjamin Schoville ; Jayne Wilkins ; Kyle Brown ; Simen Oestmo ; Terrence Ritzman

Year: 2017

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MSA backed pieces are often thought to be components of projectile armaments, however our limited understanding of their functional characteristics as projectiles precludes understanding the adaptive problems they may have solved. Despite widespread acknowledgment of raw material differences and inter- and intra-assemblage morphological variability, whether backed piece morphology reflects functional, economic, or stylistic variation has a paucity of empirical support. Here, the functional differences in backed piece morphology and hafting configuration when used as projectile armatures are examined. Hypotheses that relate backed piece function to morphology and hafting arrangement are tested using experimental and actualistic projectile replications against animal and gelatin targets. The results of this study show that the morphology of backed pieces plays a relatively limited role in their performance as long-range projectile armatures. However, hafting orientation has very different performance characteristics for arrows shot at ballistics gelatin compared to animal targets. Our results suggest that MSA backed pieces hafted as armatures were unlikely to have been used with small, low-powered bows, but would have been lethal with a high-velocity delivery system.

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Functional Implications of Backed Piece Variability for Prehistoric Weaponry in the Middle Stone Age. Benjamin Schoville, Jayne Wilkins, Kyle Brown, Simen Oestmo, Terrence Ritzman. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430537)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14438

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America