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The first bone tools from Kromdraai and stone tools from Drimolen, and the place of bone tools in the South African Earlier Stone Age

Stammers, Rhiannon C., Caruana, Matthew V., Herries, Andy I.R.
Quaternary international 2018 v.495 pp. 87-101
Homo, fossils, quarries, Eastern Africa, South Africa
An apparently unique part of the Earlier Stone Age record of Africa are a series of bone tools dated to between ∼2 and ∼1 Ma from the sites of Olduvai in East Africa, and Swartkrans, Drimolen and Sterkfontein in South Africa. The South and East African bone tools are quite different, with the South African tools having a number of distinct characters formed through utilisation, whereas the East African tools are flaked tools that in some cases mirror stone tool production. The South African bone tools currently consists of 108 specimens from the three sites above. They have been interpreted as being used for digging into homogenous grained soil to access high quality food resources, or as a multi-purpose tools. It has generally been assumed that they were made by Paranthropus robustus, as this species is most often associated with bone tool bearing deposits, especially when high numbers occur. However, early Homo is also found at these sites. Here we report on two fossils from the Paranthopus robustus site of Kromdraai B, which has only yielded one stone tool to date, that have the same characteristic wear patterns as the bone tools identified at other sites. We also describe a small collection (N = 6) of the first stone tools recovered from the bone tool and Paranthropus and early Homo bearing site of Drimolen Main Quarry. These discoveries further increase the association between bone and stone tool technologies in the South African Earlier Stone Age. However, there remains no direct correlation between the occurrence of bone or stone tools and a particular species being found at the different sites. We then review the place of these bone tools within the South African archaeological record. They appear to be a consistent part of the South African record for around a million years or so between <∼2.3 and >∼0.8 Ma. While they change little over this time, they occur with both Oldowan and Acheulian assemblages.