A techno-functional perspective on quartz micro-notches in Sibudu’s Howiesons Poort indicates the use of barbs in hunting technology

Publication date: Available online 15 March 2018Source:Journal of Archaeological Science
Author(s): P. de la Peña, N. Taipale, L. Wadley, V. Rots
In this paper we present the results of a use-wear study of quartz micro-notches identified during a technological analysis of lithics from the Howiesons Poort layers of Sibudu Cave. Building on the technological analysis and preliminary functional screening of the archaeological material, a series of experiments was designed to evaluate different hypotheses for notch formation (blank production, intentional notching, hafting, projectile use, and trampling). The experimental reference collection was compared with archaeological micro-notches and a large sample of other archaeological quartz pieces (including bladelets, bipolar blanks, flakes and retouched pieces). This allowed us to evaluate the causes of micro-notch formation in the studied assemblage. Results indicate two novelties in the Howiesons Poort hunting technology at Sibudu: the use of quartz barbs and non-retouched quartz blanks. It seems that in addition to backed pieces (segments, obliquely backed points, etc.), unretouched pieces were mounted as elements in hunting weapons during the Howiesons Poort techno-tradition. Seven probable and 29 tentative barbs were identified. We thus present one of the strongest and oldest bodies of evidence for the use of barbs as projectile elements.