YESHURUN Reuven's profile
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YESHURUN Reuven

  • Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel
  • Africa, Ancient Palaeolithic, Asia, Middle Palaeolithic, Paleoenvironment, Spatial analysis, Taphonomy, Upper Palaeolithic, Zooarchaeology
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Educational and work
I am an archaeologist interested in the Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic periods, ancient human ecology, the evolution of hunting and early sedentism. I study the first settled societies of the Near East, with special focus on the Natufian Culture. Additionally, I use zooarchaeological methods to investigate human subsistence and ecology during the Pleistocene. Following my PhD (Archaeology, University of Haifa, 2012) and post-doc (Program in Human Ecology and Archaeobiology, Smithsonian Institution, 2012-2014), I was appointed as a faculty member in the Department of Archaeology, the University of Haifa. I co-direct multi-annual excavation projects in two Epipaleolithic sites in Mt. Carmel, Israel: the UNESCO World Heritage Site of el-Wad Terrace (Natufian Culture) and the Geometric Kebaran camp of Neve David. Additionally, I study diverse Middle and Upper Paleolithic archaeofaunal assemblages, notably from Misliya Cave, Nesher-Ramla and Manot Cave.

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14 Sep 2020
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A way to break bones? The weight of intuitiveness

Recommended by and based on reviews by Terry O'Connor, Alan Outram and 1 anonymous reviewer

Breaking bones: Nature or Culture?

The nature of breaking long bones for obtaining marrow is important in Paleolithic archaeology, due to its widespread, almost universal, character. Provided that hammer-stone percussion marks can be correctly identified using experimental datasets (e.g., [1]), the anatomical location and count of the marks may be taken to reflect recurrent “cultural” traditions in the Paleolithic [2]. Were MP humans breaking bones intuitively or did they abide by a strict “protocol”, and, if the latter, was this protocol optimized for marrow retrieval or geared towards another, less obvious goal?
The new preprint by Vettese and colleagues [3] took a novel approach to this question, by conducting an experiment which involved novice butchers, relying on nothing but their intuition, and recording the way in which they broke marrow-rich bones. Some variability was noted in the “intuitive” patterns; indeed, future studies replicating this experiment and adding more variables such as more experienced butchers and non-bovid bones are warranted. Similarities in the means by which novice butchers break bones was also observed, and especially telling is the strong effect of anatomical features in most bones, except for the femur.

This paper provides a baseline for location analyses of percussion marks. Their dataset may therefore be regarded as a null hypothesis according to which the archaeological data could be tested. If Paleolithic patterns of percussion marks differ from Vettese et al.’s [3] “intuitive” patterns, then the null hypothesis is disproved and one can argue in favor of a learned pattern. The latter can be a result of ”culture”, as Vettese et al. [3] phrase it, in the sense of nonrandom action that draws on transmitted knowledge. Such comparisons bear a great potential for understanding the degree of technological behavior in the Paleolithic by factoring out the “natural” constraints of bone breakage patterns. Vettese et al. [3: fig. 14] started this discourse by comparing their experimental dataset to some Middle and Upper Paleolithic faunas; we are confident that many other studies will follow.

Bibliography

[1]Pickering, T.R., Egeland, C.P., 2006. Experimental patterns of hammerstone percussion damage on bones: Implications for inferences of carcass processing by humans. J. Archaeol. Sci. 33, 459–469. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2005.09.001

[2]Blasco, R., Rosell, J., Domínguez-Rodrigo, M., Lozano, S., Pastó, I., Riba, D., Vaquero, M., Peris, J.F., Arsuaga, J.L., de Castro, J.M.B., Carbonell, E., 2013. Learning by Heart: Cultural Patterns in the Faunal Processing Sequence during the Middle Pleistocene. PLoS One 8, e55863. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0055863

[3]Vettese, D., Stavrova, T., Borel, A., Marin, J., Moncel, M.-H., Arzarello, M., Daujeard, C. (2020) A way to break bones? The weight of intuitiveness. BioRxiv, 011320, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by PCI Archaeology. https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.03.31.011320

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YESHURUN Reuven

  • Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel
  • Africa, Ancient Palaeolithic, Asia, Middle Palaeolithic, Paleoenvironment, Spatial analysis, Taphonomy, Upper Palaeolithic, Zooarchaeology
  • recommender

Recommendation:  1

Reviews:  0

Educational and work
I am an archaeologist interested in the Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic periods, ancient human ecology, the evolution of hunting and early sedentism. I study the first settled societies of the Near East, with special focus on the Natufian Culture. Additionally, I use zooarchaeological methods to investigate human subsistence and ecology during the Pleistocene. Following my PhD (Archaeology, University of Haifa, 2012) and post-doc (Program in Human Ecology and Archaeobiology, Smithsonian Institution, 2012-2014), I was appointed as a faculty member in the Department of Archaeology, the University of Haifa. I co-direct multi-annual excavation projects in two Epipaleolithic sites in Mt. Carmel, Israel: the UNESCO World Heritage Site of el-Wad Terrace (Natufian Culture) and the Geometric Kebaran camp of Neve David. Additionally, I study diverse Middle and Upper Paleolithic archaeofaunal assemblages, notably from Misliya Cave, Nesher-Ramla and Manot Cave.