An Arrow-Caused Lesion in a Late Upper Palaeolithic Human Pelvis

by L. Bachechi, F. Mallegni, P-F. Fabbri
An Arrow-Caused Lesion in a Late Upper Palaeolithic Human Pelvis
L. Bachechi, F. Mallegni, P-F. Fabbri
Current Anthropology
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An Arrow-Caused Lesion in a Late Upper Palaeolithic Human Pelvis1

Sezione Paleontologia Umana, Dipartimento Scienze

Archeologiche, Universita degli Studi di Pisa, via Santa Maria 53, 56 roo Pisa, Italy. 2 VIII 96

The age of the origin of the bow is still an unsolved problem. There is no archaeological evidence for the

I. O 1997 by The Werner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved OOI 1-3~o4/97/3801-001 I $1.00. We thank the staff of the Paleontological Museum of the University of Florence for casting the piece, Alberto Rocchetti of the Anthro- pological Institute for extracting the flake, and the Museum of Prehistory and Protohistory of Florence, directed by A. Vigliardi.


FIG. I. Representations of humans pierced through by weapons in Palaeolithic art. a, b, Cougnac Cave (L'art des cavemes 1984, Clottes and Courtin 1992); C, Pech Merle Cave (L'art des cavemes 1984); d, Cosquer Cave

(Clottes and Courtin 1992).

bow until after the end of the Upper Palaeolithic, but already in the Mesolithic the bow is widely distributed across Europe, Asia, North Africa, and the Near East. Representations usually interpreted as human beings pierced through by weapons occur in Palaeolithic art (fig. I), and certain lithic, bone, and antler tools dated to the early Upper Palaeolithic suggest a sort of handle on a thin shaft and high speed, but the earliest arrow shafts come from Stellmoor, Germany, and date to Dryas I11 (Rust 1943). Evidence relevant to this problem can be found in prehistoric bone remains, animal or human, that have retained the points of weapons (arrows or jave- lins) in their tissues and consideration of the mechanical and ballistic principles that allowed these points to pen- etrate the bones. One of these rare fossil specimens (see table I)is a female human pelvis from an Upper Palaeo- lithic burial in San Teodoro Cave, Messina, Sicily.

The bones of this individual (San Teodoro 4 [Oakley et al. 1971:256]) were found in 1942 during an excavation carried out by the Istituto Italiano di Preistoria e Pro- toistoria under the direction of P. Graziosi (1947). Ac- cording to Graziosi, San Teodoro 4 was an adult male individual of uncertain age. Fabbri has reviewed the hu- man material found in the cave and proposed a new sex determination for this individual based on metric, mor- phometric, and morphological features of the pelvis (Fabbri 1993:219-31), including the form of the greater sciatic notch, the presence of a preauricular sulcus (Houghton 1974:381-go), and the presence of a com- pound arc (GenovCs 1959:3-95). Only the value of the

Volume 38, Number I, February 1997 1 137

Pleistocene Lithic Artifacts Piercing Human or Animal Bones

Cultural Attribution1

Dating B.P. Find Site Kind of Artifact Position on the Find Source

Epigravettian Grotta di San Teodoro Fragment of a triangle (?) Right ilium (human) This paper (Italy

Epigravettian Grotta dei Fanciulli "Arrowhead" Thoracic vertebra (human) Dastugue and de Lurnley (Italy (1976)

Allerod interstadial Meez (Belgium) Backed point Deer mandible Aquilas-Wauters (I95 6) 12,000-10,000 Jebel Sahaba (Sudan) Fragments of backed tools Several bones of the skele- Wendorf (1968)

ton (human) I 1,000 Stellmoor (Germany) Trapezoidal backed point Vertebra of reindeer Rust (1943) Epipaleolithic Voloshskoe (Ukraine) Fragment of backed point Cervical vertebra (human) Danilenko (1955) Epipaleolithic Vasil'evka (Ukraine) Backed point and fragments Rib and cervical vertebra Telegin (1961)

of backed tools (human) Late Pleistocene Sarj Nahar Raj (India) Microlithic backed tools Rib (human) Sharma (1963)

cotylo-sciatic index (Sauter and Privat 195 5:60-84) falls flint flake was embedded in the lateral face of the right within the male range of most modem human popula- ilium about 18 mm from its anterior edge, between the tions. Although malelfemale overlap in the values of antero-superior and antero-inferior iliac spines (fig. 2). the cotylo-sciatic index shows great variability among The flake was surrounded by a roundish-edged elongated modem reference populations (Sauter and Privat projection 45 mm long, 10 mm wide, and 6 mm high on 1955 :60-84) and no suitable Upper Palaeolithic sample the surface of the normal bone. This projection, roughly can be established, we think that San Teodoro 4 is proba- parallel to the inferior gluteal line, begins at the antero- bly a female. Her stature according to Trotter and superior iliac spine and ends 14 mm beyond the flake Gleser's formulas (~g~z, (fig. 3). The macroscopic appearance of most of the sur-

195 8) was 163.5 cm (white) or 160 cm (black). The state of preservation of the skeleton face of the projection is entirely similar to that of the precludes a quantitative determination of its age at surrounding bone except at its upper end. Here we ob- death, but it seems to be that of an adult, since all the serve extensive cribrosity and a short groove with a hole secondary epiphyseal points have already been fused and in it running parallel to the course of the projection. the lumbar vertebrae and lower limbs show no signs of On the anterior surface of the antero-superior iliac spine degenerative joint pathology (Fabbri 1gg3:219-31). Dur- there is a second hole of similar dimensions, surrounded ing the review of the material, Fabbri noted that a small by a small cribriform area. The left ilium of San Teodoro

4 shows none of these features.

Neither observations of the hip bones from the osteo- logical collections housed in the Dipartimento Scienze Archeologiche nor a review of major anatomical trea- tises ~roduced any evidence of characters similar to those just described. Radiological and scanning exami- nations were performed on the piece in order to analyze

2. Portion of the iliac crest on the rinht ilium of
Sun Teodoro 4, showing embedded flint &ke. FIG. 3. Detail showing embedded flake.


FIG. 4. X-ray diffraction of the iliac crest with the

embedded flake.

the internal structure of the bony tissue and to deter- mine the form and dimensions of the flint flake. Both of these techniques revealed an area of thickening of the cortical bone and the presence of sclerosis around the flake. The sclerosis diminishes and then disappears to- ward the upper part of the antero-superior tubercle. It is absent below this tubercle because of postmortem loss of a small square of bone tissue in this region. The radio- graphs of the lesion (fig. 4) proved to be clearer than the images produced by the scanner.

This lesion can be explained as the sclerosis of new bone formation following a cicatrized septic focus. The flint probably caused a wound in the soft tissues (ante- rior of the insertion of the lesser gluteal muscle) and of course in the bone, which it pierced to a depth of 5 mm. The wound was soon followed by inflammation and ab- scess and then by the bone sclerosis just described. The abscess opened close to the antero-superior iliac spine, where, as previously reported, there are two draining holes and extensive cribrosity (fig. 5). The abscess drained close to the spine, because the gluteal muscles would have blocked any other route. The septic focus, the new bone growth, and the other features previously described indicate that the individual under study sur- vived the wound for some time.

Since the morphology of the lithic flake could not be ascertained either by radiological or by scanning exami- nation, the bone was cast and photographed (see fig. 6) and then the flake was extracted. It proved to be the distal part of a backed tool retouched on the right side by direct retouch and on the left side by a burin spa11 perpendicular to the long axis of the piece (fig. 7, bottom FIG. 5. Detail showing cribrosity interpreted as

drainage for bone abscess resulting from the

penetration of the flint point.

right). It is 11 mm long, 5 mm wide, and 3 mm thick,

and the burin facet is I mm wide and 10 mm long, the flake seems to be the distal part of a microlithic weapon, probably a backed point or a triangle. We reviewed the whole lithic industry from San Teodoro-which had been studied by A. Vigliardi (1968)-to establish its form. Vigliardi reported that in the lower level two trian- gles displayed short burin facets (Vigliardi 1968: 65), and our review of the material identified three more with burin facets close to the distal end: a scalene triangle and two backed points (fig. 7).The retouch on the triangles is always direct, while on the backed points it is bipolar. The burin facets are I mm wide and 5-7 mm long on the backed points and I mm wide and 6 and 10 mm long on the triangles. Considering these few data and taking into account the type of retouch, we can suggest that the San Teodoro 4 flake is more likely to be part of a triangle than part of a backed point.

FIG. 6. Closeup of the embedded flake. Volume 38, Number I, February 1997 1 139

FIG. 7. Lithics from the Epigravettian layer of Sun Teodoro Cave. Top left and center, backed points; top right, bottom left and center, triangles; bottom right, flake extracted from Sun Teodoro 4 (drawings by M. Maestrini, natural size).

As far as a functional interpretation of the flake is concerned, it can be said that lithic tools with burin facets are not uncommon in Europe at the end of the Pleistocene. In the lithic assemblages of Federmesser, for example, many tools display an apically placed burin facet. These kinds of tools are referred to as arrow- heads (Rozoy 1978:962; Fischer, Hansen, and Rasmus- sen 1984:22; Gonzilez-Urquijo and Ibafiez-EstCvez 1994:158). Unfortunately, it is impossible to ascertain the type of shaft and the type of weapon that propelled the flake, but it must have been supported by an exten- sion made of wood or bone (i.e., a javelin propelled by a spear-thrower or an arrow propelled by a bow) or the flake could not have been so deeply implanted in the ilium of San Teodoro 4. If the shaft was a javelin, the flake might belong to a class of lithic tools represented by assegai (fig. 8, left) from Talickji, a Later Upper Palaeolithic site in the Urals, where seven lithic ele- ments were inserted in a bone base to form the point of a weapon (Gvozdover 1952). If it was an arrow, the flake might be one of the two lithic elements that form, for example, the arrowhead (fig. 8, right) from Loshult, a Mesolithic Swedish site dated to the beginning of the Boreal, about 9,300 b.p. (Malmer 1969, Rozoy 1978). In fact, from the point of view of ballistics the morphology of the tool indicates use as an arrowhead because javelin points must have significant weight, given that their low velocity must be balanced by their mass. By con- trast, the bow supplies the arrow with higher velocity and a more precise trajectory, and consequently the head and the shaft may be light.

Starting from the position of the lithic flake in the ilium, one could try-to ascertain the trajectory of the projectile and the nature of the weapon that propelled FIG. 8. Left, bone assegai with lithic elements from

Talickji (Gvozdover 1952); right, arrow from Loshult

(Rozoy 1978).

it, given that the two are interdependent. Indeed, in the cases of the arrow or the javelin, thrown either by hand or by spear-thrower, we have different initial velocities, angles of propulsion, and heights of the projectile at the starting point. In the present case we unfortunately can- not determine the position of San Teodoro 4 when she was wounded. In order to understand the trajectory of the projectile we would need to know whether she was standing or lying down (or in some other position) and whether she was above or below her attacker. Since it is impossible to remove this uncertainty, it is better not to make any decision about the type of support (i.e., arrow or javelin) of our lithic flake and simply suggest that it was probably an arrowhead.

The San Teodoro find is certainly one of the earliest instances of a bone retaining part of a lithic weapon. Of the other 12 cases the earliest is the arrowhead2 embed- ded in one of the thoracic vertebrae of the second child in the double burial from Grotta dei Fanciulli (Grotte des Enfants) at Balzi Rossi, Italy (Dastugue and de Lum- ley 1976: 617, 620). These two burials lay above the un- dated "foyer C," which yielded a Ligurian final Epigra- vettian with truncates and geometrics, particularly

2. This is the excavators' identification; the skeleton is currently under study by D. Gambier of the University of Bordeaux I.

triangles (Palma di Cesnola I976;I993:427). This lithic assemblage is earlier than the overlying "foyer B," dated to 12,200 + 400 b.p. (Thommaret 1973) and probably belonging to Dryas 11. San Teodoro 4 comes from the lower level of the archaeological deposit found in the cave (Graziosi 1947)~ which underlay a final Epigravet- tian level with geometrics, predominantly triangles (Vigliardi 1968). No absolute dating has been performed at San Teodoro, but the final Epigravettian of other Sicil- ian sites dates to 13,760 + 330 b.p. at Grotta delllAcqua Fitusa near Agrigento (Bianchini and Gambassini 1973) and 12,840 + IOO b.p. at Grotta Giovanna near Siracusa (Cardini 1971). These dates are a terminus ante quem

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Opportunity for Natural Selection among the Muklom of Arunachal Pradeshl

Anthropological Survey of India, In&an Museum, 27, Jawaharlal Nehru Rd., Calcutta 700 016, India. 10 v 96

Two major forces of natural selection, differential fertil- ity and differential mortality, are responsible for changes in the gene frequencies in a population, and selection intensity is a measure of the fitness of a population as expressed by the ongoing patterns of differential fertility and differential mortality combined in a particular man- ner. The index of opportunity for selection measures the maximum potential rate of change by selection, where zero indicates no change (Livingston and Spuhler I9 6 5 ). An indirect method for computing the index of total selection based on the maximum amount of differential

I. O 1997 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. All rights reserved 0011-3204/97/3801-0006 $1.00. I am grateful to the Muklom for their kind help and cooperation during data collection. I am also grateful to the district authorities, includ- ing the District Health Centre, Changlang, for extending help and cooperation during the entire field trip. I express my sincere thanks to R. K. Bhattacharya, director of the Anthropological Survey of India, Calcutta, for allowing me to carry out the present work and to the Head of Office, Anthropological Survey of India, Shillong, for his help and encouragement.

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