Skin working

The faunal record of the Neolithic and Chalcolithic sites in central Cappadocia is rich in wild and domesticated taxa, which were processed primarily for food. Skin processing can also be anticipated mainly on the basis of cut-marks on bones and use wear on stone and bone tools. Ethno-archaeological and ethno-historical data reveal considerable variability in the techniques and the equipment employed to work and to preserve the various hides. We examined these data as a general basis for understanding the theory of skin processing and used them to define the lines along which variability in the raw materials and use modes of the stone and bone tools could be monitored. The raw materials and the morphology of the tools, the movements executed during the work, and the origin, state, and position of the hide during the work were established as major factors of variability.

Experimental bone tools replicated edged instruments and awls commonly found in the archeological sites under study. These tools were mainly made from fragments of long bones of small and large ruminants, juveniles or adults, and from ribs of large ruminants. The experimental specimens were made from femurs, tibiae, and metapodials of sheep and cattle. Cattle ribs were also used. They were worked fresh or after having been buried in the ground during a year in order to remove soft tissues. Dry splinters of the long bones were also used. Apart from obsidian blades, basalt was employed to shape tools. Overall, the topographies observed on the ground surfaces are more uneven than those seen on the scraped ones. Such differences influence the appearance and localization of the use wear, particularly during the first stages of its formation and are therefore taken into consideration in our analyses (see also Christidou, R., Legrand, A., 2005. Hide working and bone tools: experimentation design and applications. In: H. LUIK, A. CHOYKE, C.E. BATEY, L. LÕUGAS, eds. From hooves to horns, from mollusc to mammoth. Manufacture and use of bone artefacts from prehistoric times to the present, Proceedings of the 4th meeting of the ICAZ Worked Bone Research Group, 26–31 August 2003 Tallinn. Tallinn: Muinasaja Teadus 15, 216–227).

Fleshing and softening are the two main stages of skin processing and are often related to bone scrapers. These tools can also be used with similar movements in other operations (e.g. membraning, wringing, and dehairing). In this case, the state of the hide resembles closely that in the two aforementioned operations. Major experiments were simple actions executed during fleshing and softening. Each experiment examined one or two of the factors responsible for variation in use wear.

Experimental results revolve mainly around constraints imposed by the state of the hides and by the dimensions and forms of the tools. They also include comparisons between raw materials. On image 6, long bone and rib fragments are used to flesh red deer hides. As a rule, bone scrapers are very efficient fleshing tools, since they can clean thoroughly the flesh side of the hide without damaging it. Moreover, fleshers on ribs are worn at a much slower rate than those made from long bones. Rib tools can still be used effectively for at least 105 minutes of scraping. The maximum duration of effective use of the long bone ones is about an hour. This was perhaps one of the reasons for which ribs were systematically chosen for scraping hides in various prehistoric sites. The cutting properties of these tools and the mechanical properties of their raw material are further investigated.

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