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A way to break bones? The weight of intuitiveness

By D. Vettese, T. Stavrova, A. Borel, J. Marin, M.-H. Moncel, M. Arzarello, C. Daujeard

Posted 31 Mar 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.03.31.011320

During the Middle Paleolithic period, bone marrow extraction was an essential source of fat nutrients for hunter-gatherers especially throughout cold and dry seasons. This is attested by the recurrent findings of percussion marks in osteological material from anthropized archaeological levels. Among them some showed indicators that the marrow extraction process was part of a butchery cultural practice, meaning that the inflicted fracturing gestures and techniques were recurrent, standardized and counter-intuitive i.e. culturally influenced. In order to assess the weight of the counter-intuitive factor in the percussion mark pattern distribution, we carried out an experiment that by contrast focuses on the intuitive approach of fracturing bones to extract marrow, involving individual without experience in this activity. We wanted to evaluate the influence of bone morphology and the individuals’ behaviour on the distribution of percussion marks. Twelve experimenters broke 120 limb bones, a series of 10 bones per individual. During the experiment, information concerning the fracture of the bones as well as individual behaviour was collected and was subsequently compared to data from the laboratory study of the remains. Then, we applied an innovative GIS (Geographic Information System) method to analyze the distribution of percussion marks to highlight recurrent patterns. Results show that in spite of all the variables there is a high similarity in the distribution of percussion marks which we consider as intuitive patterns. The factor influenced the distribution for the humerus, radius-ulna and tibia series is the bone morphology, while for the femur series individual behaviour seems to have more weight in the distribution. To go further in the subject we need to compare the intuitive models with the distributions of percussion marks registered in fossil assemblages. Thus, it would be possible to propose new hypotheses on butchering practices based on the results presented in this work. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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