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Title: Tools of the Ancestors?: Evidence for Culturally Modified Human Bone from Tongan Skeletal Assemblages
Contributor(s): Storey, Alice (author)
Publication Date: 2008
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Abstract: Scattered and fragmentary human remains in Pacific archaeological contexts were once assumed to be proof positive of cannibal activity. Only recently have intensive studies produced a definitive set of diagnostic criteria to identify the archaeological signature for cannibalism in the prehistoric Pacific. Careful examination of fracture types, mortuary practise, medical treatment, and the use of human bone for tool manufacture are necessary to fully evaluate a collection of human bone for tangible evidence of cannibalistic activity. A detailed analysis of four discrete assemblages of fragmentary human remains collected from the Ha'apai Islands in Tonga led to the identification of a human fibula fragment which had been modified and heavily used, likely as a sailing or thatching needle. This is one of only three tools of human bone recovered from in situ Lapita associated archaeological deposits in the region. The presence of human bone tools in Lapita aged deposits in Tonga and Fiji and mortuary evidence for the removal of long bones from the cemetery site of Teouma in Vanuatu, warrants further study of assemblages of fragmentary remains recovered across the Pacific to search for tools of human bone. It also suggests that cutmarks and patina observed on human remains within assemblages of scattered human remains may be interpreted as something other than cannibal refuse.
Publication Type: Book Chapter
Source of Publication: Recent Advances in the Archaeology of the Fiji/West Polynesia Region, p. 57-70
Publisher: Department of Anthropology, Gender and Sociology, University of Otago
Place of Publication: Dunedin, New Zealand
ISBN: 9780473145866
Field of Research (FOR): 210102 Archaeological Science
210106 Archaeology of New Guinea and Pacific Islands (excl New Zealand)
HERDC Category Description: B1 Chapter in a Scholarly Book
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Series Name: University of Otago studies in prehistoric anthropology
Series Number : 21
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Appears in Collections:Book Chapter

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