Ephemera: Bone Tools as Windows into the “Archaeologically Invisible”

Author(s): Abigail Desmond

Year: 2023


This is an abstract from the "Animal Resources in Experimental Archaeology" session, at the 88th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

How does our knowledge of what people made influence our understanding of who people were? In most prehistoric contexts, stone tools serve as default technological benchmarks. This emphasis on stone tools, in turn, foregrounds practices related to hunting and animal processing. Organic technologies more closely linked with child-wearing, transportation, resource collection, clothing, storage, and the like are often absent from our understanding of the remote past. My research focuses on developing methods to account for technologies and practices often deemed “archaeologically invisible.” Specifically, bone tool use-wear can serve as an evidence-based proxy for archaeological materials with low taphonomic survival rates. Microtopographic changes occur on the surface of a bone tool when it is used repeatedly to perform a task. By examining the form and patterning of these changes, it is possible to understand how the tool was used, and in some cases, the crafts the tool was used to produce. This presentation will discuss how bone tool use-wear can be used to account for less visible technologies in deep time, how the use of ethnographic collections (and ethnographic analogy) can contextualize archaeologically recovered bone tools, and how use-wear data can be documented and shared in high-fidelity, reproducible formats.

Cite this Record

Ephemera: Bone Tools as Windows into the “Archaeologically Invisible”. Abigail Desmond. Presented at The 88th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology. 2023 ( tDAR id: 473103)

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 35560.0