Experimental bone toolmaking: A proposal of technological analytical principles to knapped bones


  • Paula Mateo-Lomba Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES) & Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV)
  • Andreu Ollé Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES) & Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV) https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8643-5536
  • Isabel Cáceres Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV) & Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES) https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8487-2591




bone tools; technology; taphonomy; methodology; Logical Analytical System; knapping


Since the origins of technology, human groups have used a wide variety of lithic and organic raw materials to make tools. In particular, bone was used as raw material for creating knapped artefacts. Nevertheless, the recognition of these technological elements in the archaeological record has generated some debate, since modern taphonomy has shown that certain non-anthropic agents create modifications that can mimic knapped bone tools. For this reason, the criteria for identifying archaeological bone tools and pseudo-tools have still not been clearly defined.

As a contribution to this subject, here we present the results of an experimental programme of intentional anthropic marrow fracturing of fresh and semi-fresh bovine long bones. After marrow removal, some of the diaphyseal fragments obtained were selected to be used directly as tools, while others were slightly retouched. The aim was to describe the bone toolmaking process and the simple and retouched tools obtained experimentally according to technological criteria. The technological analysis approach was based on an adaptation of the Logical Analytical System (LAS), which uses structural categories within an operative chain rather than techno-typological features. LAS has been widely used to analyse Pleistocene lithic assemblages and is here applied for the first time to the study of bone industry.

The results allow us to present new analytical criteria with which to describe simple and retouched bone tools from a holistic perspective, combining technological and taphonomic terminology. Our intention is to improve the criteria for differentiating intentional retouching in bone tools from other modifications to bone remains generated by non-anthropic agents. The final goal of this study is to further the interdisciplinary study of minimally modified bone tools, proposing a technological method for studying knapped bone tools.

Author Biographies

Paula Mateo-Lomba, Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES) & Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV)

Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES-CERCA)
Zona Educacional 4
Campus Sescelades URV (Edifici W3)
43007 Tarragona, Spain

Universitat Rovira i Virgili
Departament d’Història i Història de l’Art
Avinguda de Catalunya 35
43002 Tarragona, Spain

Andreu Ollé, Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES) & Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV)

Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES-CERCA)
Zona Educacional 4
Campus Sescelades URV (Edifici W3)
43007 Tarragona, Spain

Universitat Rovira i Virgili
Departament d’Història i Història de l’Art
Avinguda de Catalunya 35
43002 Tarragona, Spain

Isabel Cáceres, Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV) & Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES)

Universitat Rovira i Virgili
Departament d’Història i Història de l’Art
Avinguda de Catalunya 35
43002 Tarragona, Spain

Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES-CERCA)
Zona Educacional 4
Campus Sescelades URV (Edifici W3)
43007 Tarragona, Spain


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How to Cite

Mateo-Lomba, P., Ollé, A., & Cáceres, I. (2023). Experimental bone toolmaking: A proposal of technological analytical principles to knapped bones. Journal of Lithic Studies, 10(2), 24 p. https://doi.org/10.2218/jls.7386