The use of metal axes in butchery at Early Bronze Age Göltepe: a new method for the differentiation of stone and metal axe marks on bone

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Okaluk, Tiffany
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Chopping carcasses into segments for effective distribution and processing is an essential part of the butchery process from the distant past to the modern era. However, identification criteria, definitions, and experimental work pertaining to chop marks is lacking in the zooarchaeological literature. Butchery marks on archaeological faunal assemblages provide indirect evidence for utilitarian tool use related to food processing and mitigates the need for the physical presence of the tool itself. This thesis uses an experimental approach to determine the axe material type (bronze, copper, ground stone, or chipped stone) that created the prominent chop marks found on the Early Bronze Age faunal assemblage from Göltepe, Turkey. Experimentation shows that both width and sharpness of the axe are the major aspects of the chopping tool that effect the morphology of the chop mark. A thick, dull axe is more likely to crush the bone rather than cut through it, and often leaves the bone highly fragmented. A thin, sharp axe is more likely to cut through the bone with little to no crushing, and leaves a smooth sheared surface extending from the point of entry. All chop marks can be classified according to both their levels of crushing and shearing on a scale from 1-5. Chop marks falling between a Class 1 and a Class 3 were likely created by stone axes, whereas chop marks that fall between a Class 4 and Class 5 were likely created by metal axes. The experimental results indicate that metal axes created the majority of the chop marks on the Göltepe faunal assemblage even though no metal axes were recovered from the site. The extensive level of shearing on many of the chop marks and relatively high number of bronze artefacts recovered from Göltepe, suggest that the dominate material type for axe heads used for butchery were either bronze or arsenical-copper.
zooarchaeology, butchery, Anatolia, Early Bronze Age, chop marks