Butchering patterns and the origins of metallurgy in Europe and Near East

Study Period: 2001–Present

Location:          Europe and Near East (Israel, Turkey, Jordan, Poland, Serbia, Romania)

Description: My research on the origins of metallurgy and its relationship to butchering patterns has been ongoing. It investigates the origins and spread of metallurgy from a new perspective ‑ the analysis of slice marks on the bone remains of animals slaughtered and butchered by metal and stone implements. I conducted experiments with chipped stone tools and metal knives in order to distinguish the types of tools that made slice marks made on animal bones using each. The differences are particularly visible when silicone molds of the grooves are examined under high magnification in a Scanning Electron Microscope. A Scanning Electron Microscope is necessary since it is only under very high magnifications that metal versus stone tool marks can be differentiated. The results of the experiments were then applied to prehistoric materials from the Europe and the Near East in order to monitor the origins of metallurgy in various regions. This study is currently being extended to Turkey (Çatal Höyük, Göltepe, Ziyaret Tepe, and Titriş Höyük) and Poland.

There is no evidence of metal use for butchering prior to the Bronze Age. The results of the experiments were first applied to prehistoric materials from the central Balkans in order to monitor the origins of metallurgy in a region. A parallel project has also been launched for Israel which found similarities in the spread of metallurgy between the two continents. Metallurgy does not appear everywhere at the same time. High status sites have earlier access to metal tools for butchering than low status sites. The incidence of metal cutting implements is minimal prior to the Bronze Age. During the Eneolithic/Chalcolithic (3300-2500/4500-3100 BCE, calibrated – Balkans/Israel), there is no evidence that metal tools were used for butchering. The numbers of metal cut marks slowly increases during the Early Bronze Age (2500-1900/3100-2100 BCE). In the Middle Bronze Age (1900-1500/2100-1600 BCE), the availability becomes more widespread and begins to overtake the use the stone. It is not until the Iron Age (ca. 1000 BC) that metal tools become widely and commonly available to all levels of society. Metallurgy does not spread equally through a region, or even within early cities. Access to metal tools appears to be dependent upon one’s position in society. Stone tools remain important at lower status sites until then.

I continue to expand the range of samples in order to trace the spread of metallurgy in ancient times and its impact upon society. Such experimental work allows for the introduction and spread of metallurgy in a region to be quantitatively monitored for the first time. Thus, slicing marks were used, in the absence of metal tools, to study the introduction and spread of metallurgy both within and between regions (and potentially even within complex societies) through time. This opens the possibility of quantifying for the first time the rate and nature of adoption of metallurgy across a region, between regions, and across continents.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s