Food Processing Marks
Cut and Butchering Marks
Skinning, butchering, and cutting carcasses into smaller parts for food sharing and cooking all leave cut marks. We systematically record any marks or breakage that might be related to human removal of skins and preparation of animals for consumption. Most of the cut marks occur on the larger animals, such as white-tailed deer. However, we do find cut marks on smaller animals such as raccoon, muskrat, turkey, waterfowl, turtles, and fish. Cut marks are relatively rare at Koster and Modoc Rock Shelter, but bones are highly fragmented. As noted above, we think that Archaic Period people intentionally broke some bones to extract nutritious bone marrow.
We look for and record evidence of cooking by examining conditions, burning patterns, and fragmentation of bones. Archaic Period people likely cooked animal foods using a variety of methods. We think that Archaic people heated rocks in hearths and placed them in pits along with water to cook foods. The foods may have been covered with layers of plants and perhaps sand. We find lots of fragments of burned and fire-cracked rock at Archaic sites. Accumulations of fire-cracked rocks, freshwater mussel shells, and burned plant remains around and in pits suggest that Archaic Period peoples steamed mussels at the Koster site. People may have also used skin bags for boiling and heating foods, but the bags would not have been preserved. As noted above, Archaic Period people may have broken marrow-rich bones into small pieces and then boiled them to extract the marrow and fat. Deer bones that would have contained marrow are highly fragmented at the Archaic period sites that we studied for our grant.
During the Archaic Period, people likely roasted many foods over the open fire. Bones burned on both ends but not in the middle have provided evidence for roasting of sections of meat at sites in Ireland, but the burning patterns at Koster and Modoc were not that clear cut.
At Modoc Rock Shelter some bones were burned to a red color. Preliminary experiments suggest that this type of burning might result from indirect heat. The reddening could result from hearths affecting buried bones, indirect heating of bones surrounded by meat, or even cooking partially buried pieces of meat with bones inside. If you have ever roasted a chicken in the oven, you know that the bones become discolored.
Burning of Refuse
We record the intensity of burning of bones. For example, at Modoc Rock Shelter burned bones were described as burned red, black, differentially burned (e.g., burned on one end only), and calcined (heavily burned to a white or gray color). Heavily burned bones (black or calcined) may have been thrown into fires to dispose of food refuse. Heavy burning destroys bones so we calculated the proportion of bones that were heavily burned as another way to look at destruction of bone. Modoc Rock Shelter had more heavily burned bones than did Koster. However, even the heavily burned bones at Modoc are well preserved.
Tool and Ornament Manufacture and Use Marks
Bone and shell were important raw materials for making tools and ornaments. We record any evidence for human modifications of bone and/or wear resulting from use of bone as tools or ornaments. Archaic Period people shaped bones using techniques such as cutting and snapping, whittling, grinding, polishing, drilling, and incising or engraving. Use of bones as tools left signs of wear such as polish and damage.
We look at modification and wear to try to determine how the object was used.
During the Archaic Period, people modified many kinds of bones and shells for utilitarian items. For example, at Modoc and Koster, they:
whittled and ground bones to make pointed implements
hollowed out and sharpened deer antler tines to make points for spears
shaped antler tines to make flakers for chipping stone tools
fashioned bones and antler into handles
ground the interiors of turtle carapaces (the upper shell) to make bowls
used freshwater mussel shells as natural scrapers and spoons
They also made ornamental objects such as bone pins and shell beads. They shaped and incised bone to make pins with distinctive designs. At Modoc Rock Shelter, they drilled freshwater mussel shells and drilled and ground aquatic gastropod (snail) shells to make pendants and beads. They also drilled and used the natural interior structures of aquatic snail shells to make and string beads. Marine shell beads provide evidence for exchange or transport of marine shells from the east coast. We will discuss bone and shell ornaments and tools in the section on Human Use of Animals.