Cut Marks and Decaying Bodies: An Experimental Study

Author(s): Rosalind Wallduck; Silvia M. Bello

Year: 2018


It has been suggested that cutting into decaying bodies occurred in the past, for instance during the cleaning or dismemberment of corpses during protracted funerary rituals. However it can be difficult to confirm the timings of such interactions, particularly for secondarily deposited bones. An experimental study was therefore conceived to test whether the frequency, location and micro-morphometric characteristics of cut marks might differ on fresh compared to decaying bodies. In order words, whether cut marks can be used to verify the stage of carcass decay. Incisions were regularly made into pig body parts as they decomposed over a period of three months. For metric evaluations of the experimentally produced cut marks, Focus Variation Microscopy was used. The effects of different hand pressures and different tools were also studied. Our results show that micro-morphometric analyses of cut-marks have the potential to enable the timing of cutting to better hypothesized with regards to defleshing and disarticulation practices in the past.

Cite this Record

Cut Marks and Decaying Bodies: An Experimental Study. Rosalind Wallduck, Silvia M. Bello. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443020)

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Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 20297