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Assessing Edge Damage in MSA Lithic Assemblages: Experimental Proxies for the Analysis of Use and Post-Depositional Damage Open Access

Given the low frequency of retouched stone tools in many Middle Stone Age (MSA) assemblages, the analysis of edge damage on simple unretouched artifacts offers a promising depth of insight into tool-use behavior. Taphonomic process such as trampling, however, can also cause edge damage on lithic artifacts. As part of the investigation of GaJj17, an MSA site in the Koobi Fora region (Kenya), we conducted an experiment designed to investigate differences between edge damage resulting from use and that resulting from post-depositional damage. Damage was inflected on the edges of a series of ignimbrite flakes in a variety of experimental contexts (e.g. butchery, trampling). These experiments mimicked processes that may inflect damage on tool edges. We assessed the relationship between edge andle and the intensity and continuity of edge damage in these experimentally damaged artifacts. A qualitative assessment of the intensity and continuity of edge damage was used to distinguish use from post-depositional damage. These criteria were applied to in situ and surface collections from GaJj17. These analyses sought to test whether the archaeological assemblages exhibit patterns of damage more similar to experimental use or trampling. This research was sponsored by the National Science Foundation IRES Program (OISE-1358178 and 1358200).

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