LS Barham, AC Pinto Llona, CB Stringer
Volume 2002, Issue 2
Shaped bone tools are now recognised as part of the technological repertoire of some Middle Stone Age hunter-gatherers in southern Africa. Currently accepted dates for the earliest bone working technology in the region range from ~70-90 ka. This study re-examines three bone objects from the site of Broken Hill (Kabwe), Zambia, that were described in the 1940s as formal bone tools. Broken Hill is well known for its fossils of Homo heidelbergensis, a species not previously associated with bone working, and less well known for its small sample of early Middle Stone Age lithic artefacts. The claim for bone tools at Broken Hill takes on added significance in light of new dates from south-central Africa which place the development of stone tool technology (Mode 3) in the later Middle Pleistocene (~300 ka). If these bone objects are indeed tools and associated with the hominid use of the cave, they may be the oldest evidence of bone tool working in the archaeological record. The results are reported of scanning electron microscopy of the surfaces of each putative tool and implications are drawn for the behavioural evolution of H heidelbergensis.