Does butchering fish leave cut marks?
Lauren M. Willis, a, , Metin I. Erena and Torben C. Ricka
aDepartment of Anthropology, Southern Methodist University, Box 750336, Dallas, TX, USA
Received 3 October 2007; revised 19 October 2007; accepted 22 October 2007. Available online 3 December 2007.
Despite the fact that fish are a common component of coastal and other aquatic archaeological sites, cut marks are rarely reported on archaeological fish remains. To assess whether butchering practices leave cut marks on fish bones, we butchered 37 fish using stone tools and a metal knife following methods provided in ethnographic accounts and by modern fish processors. In contrast to archaeological analyses, our research demonstrates that butchering commonly produces cut marks on fish bones, with 4019 cut marks and 2167 cut mark clusters identified on the bones of 30 fish. Cut marks occurred frequently on vertebral neural and haemal spines, vertebral transverse processes, pterygiophores, ribs, and other bones not generally identified to low taxonomic categories by zooarchaeologists (e.g., family, genus, or species). To test our experimental data, we also analyzed 9391 archaeological fish remains from a Late Holocene shell midden on the California Coast, noting 33 previously undocumented cut marks. We hypothesize that the scarcity of cut marks reported on archaeological fish bones is the result of researchers overlooking cut marks because they occur primarily on undiagnostic bones, taphonomic factors such as root etching that may destroy or obscure cut marks, differences between fish, mammal, and bird anatomy, or ancient butchering strategies that relied on limited cutting of fishes.
Maria C. Hanssona, b, , and Brendan P. Foleyc, d,
aDepartment of Ecology, Lund University, Ecology Building, Solvegatan 37, SE-22362 Lund, Sweden
bDepartment of Biology, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA
cDepartment of Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA
dProgram in Science, Technology, and Society, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
Received 4 April 2007; revised 8 August 2007; accepted 21 August 2007. Available online 10 October 2007.
The origins and spread of eastern Mediterranean civilizations 4000–2000 years ago constitute defining events in human development. Interregional connections across the sea played critical roles in building increasingly sophisticated economies and societies. Research of trade and exchange among these first centers has relied upon ancient societies’ archaeological artifacts. The most ubiquitous artifacts recovered from shipwreck sites are ceramic transport jars, amphoras. However, for archaeologists and historians determining the original contents of these containers has been problematic, aided only occasionally by physical evidence (e.g. olive pits, resins) found inside excavated jars. Here, we investigate whether modern DNA analyses can reveal original contents of amphoras containing no visible physical remains. Using chloroplast DNA markers and PCR we analyzed the walls of two amphoras recovered from a 2400 year-old shipwreck off the Greek island of Chios. Our results show that short (≤100 bp) ancient DNA fragments can be extracted from scrapings taken from amphoras’ interior walls. These DNA fragments identify the amphoras’ original contents. Our analyses indicate that one of the amphoras most likely contained olive oil and oregano, even though no physical traces of remains are visible inside the jar. The second amphora might have contained mastic resin; resins of various types were preservatives commonly added to ancient wine. Our analyses are the first to demonstrate that ancient DNA fragments can be extracted from the walls of amphoras recovered from underwater shipwreck sites. This opens a new field of molecular archaeology analyses, and provides a powerful tool for obtaining information about the agricultural production, contact networks, and economies of the early civilizations.
Zbigniew M. Bochenskia,
aInstitute of Systematics and Evolution of Animals, Polish Academy of Sciences, Slawkowska 17, 31-016 Kraków, Poland
Received 15 May 2007; revised 9 August 2007; accepted 24 August 2007. Available online 1 October 2007.
aDepartment of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, Leipzig D-04105, Germany
bDepartment of Archaeology, Durham University, South Road, Durham DH1 3LE, UK
cEphoreia of Palaeoanthropology-Speleology of Southern Greece, Ardittou 34b, 11636 Athens, Greece
Received 31 May 2007; revised 25 July 2007; accepted 24 August 2007. Available online 18 October 2007.