A step towards the challenging recognition of expedient bone tools
A 115,000-year-old expedient bone technology at Lingjing, Henan, China
Recommendation: posted 05 February 2021, validated 08 February 2021
This article by L. Doyon et al.  represents an important step to the recognition of bone expedient tools within archaeological faunal assemblages, and therefore deserves publication.
In this work, the authors compare bone flakes and splinters experimentally obtained by percussion (hammerstone and anvil technique) with fossil ones coming from the Palaeolithic site of Lingjing in China. Their aim is to find some particularities to help distinguish the fossil bone fragments which were intentionally shaped, from others that result notably from marrow extraction. The presence of numerous (>6) contiguous flake scars and of a continuous size gradient between the lithics and the bone blanks used, appear to be two valuable criteria for identifying 56 bone elements of Lingjing as expedient bone tools. The latter are present alongside other bone tools used as retouchers .
Another important point underlined by this study is the co-occurrence of impact and flake scars among the experimentally broken specimens (~90%), while this association is seldom observed on archaeological ones. Thus, according to the authors, a low percentage of that co-occurrence could be also considered as a good indicator of the presence of intentionally shaped bone blanks.
About the function of these expedient bone tools, the authors hypothesize that they were used for in situ butchering activities. However, future experimental investigations on this question of the function of these tools are expected, including an experimental use wear program.
Finally, highlighting the presence of such a bone industry is of importance for a better understanding of the adaptive capacities and cultural practices of the past hominins. This work therefore invites all taphonomists to pay more attention to flake removal scars on bone elements, keeping in mind the possible existence of that type of bone tools. In fact, being able to distinguish between bone fragments due to marrow recovery and bone tools is still a persistent and important issue for all of us, but one that deserves great caution.
 Doyon, L., Li, Z., Wang, H., Geis, L. and d'Errico, F. 2021. A 115,000-year-old expedient bone technology at Lingjing, Henan, China. Socarxiv, 68xpz, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by PCI Archaeology. https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/68xpz
 Doyon, L., Li, Z., Li, H., and d’Errico, F. 2018. Discovery of circa 115,000-year-old bone retouchers at Lingjing, Henan, China. Plos one, 13(3), https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0194318.
Camille Daujeard (2021) A step towards the challenging recognition of expedient bone tools. Peer Community in Archaeology, 100008. 10.24072/pci.archaeo.100008
The recommender in charge of the evaluation of the article and the reviewers declared that they have no conflict of interest (as defined in the code of conduct of PCI) with the authors or with the content of the article.
Evaluation round #1
DOI or URL of the preprint: 10.13140/RG.2.2.25864.03846
Author's Reply, 02 Feb 2021
Decision by Camille Daujeard, posted 18 Jan 2021
Given that the three reviewers are not equal in their suggestions concerning your manuscript entitled: "A 115,000-year-old expedient bone technology at Lingjing, Henan, China", I decided to ask for a revision of your article. You will find below my main recommendations.
First of all, this manuscript deserves publication. This work represents an important step towards the recognition of expedient bone tools among archaeological faunal assemblages. The comparison between the faunal remains from Lingjing (China, c. 115 ka) and those coming from an experimental sample of broken bones (horse remains), constitutes an interesting and suitable approach of that question. In my opinion, the data provided in that manuscript are in themselves sufficient for publication, even without being able to answer the question of the function of these bone tools. That may represent a second step in the research process and then another article, including notably, as stated by the authors, the use wear analyses.
However, concerning the experimental protocol and data presented here and the references used, I wonder whether they are sufficient to distinguish between bone tools elements and bone splinters due to marrow recovery, which is a persistent and important issue for all of us, but one that deserves a great amount of caution.
Thus, following the reviewers, authors may implement their statistical tests to consolidate their experimental data, and improve some important points concerning the Material and Methods, Results and Discussion. For example, concerning Material and Methods, a developped and detailed nomenclature of marks is required. About statistics, authors should indeed give the confidence intervals for their percentages. Using percentages for about ten remains is not relevant.
Some references are also missing, and in addition to those cited by the reviewers, I would add others such as Blasco et al., 2008 about trampling marks that could generate some ‘pseudo-tools’. In the same way, concerning the state of the art, I would also add the reference of Miller-Antonio et al. (1999), which states on the existence of tools on rhinoceros dental remains in the Palaeolithic site of Dadong in China. In this paper, the authors cite also the work of Sohn (1988), who reports the modification of bone at the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic Korean locality of Yonggul (Chommal) cave. The argument has been made for bone and antler use at Zhoukoudian (Pei 1938; Breuil 1939) and for worked bone from the Lower Palaeolithic localities of Donggutuo (Wei 1985) and Xujiayao (Jia & Ho 1990). Concerning the Research background, I may suggest to the authors to make a review of the articles mentioning the possible existence of expedient tools, at least for early Palaeolithic periods of the whole old world, such as La Cueva Morin (Freeman, 1978; cf. Controverse in Freeman, 1983), de Rebibbia Casal de’Pazzi (Anzidei, 2001) or Saint-Marcel (Daujeard, 2007) in Europe, among others.
Taking into account these few remarks, and above all those requested by the reviewers, the authors are invited to revise their manuscript and resubmit it to the PCI as soon as possible. Authors should pay attention to the detailed reviews made by Reviewer 2 and D. Vettese, who listed various points asked to be improved. Concerning the points highlighted by J. Hutson, authors may consider his remarks on the abstract and discussion about the question of the tasks done with the bone tools. Indeed, the question of the function of these ‘expedient tools’ will be developed in a future work, and the data processed here are not sufficient to address this issue in this article. Thus, the authors may limit their current work to the simple recognition of these tools, and only conclude here that some bones from Lingjing were intentionally shaped, which is itself a very important point that deserves publication.