Quantifying Traces of Tool Use: A Novel Morphometric Analysis of Damage Patterns on Percussive Tools

Percussive technology continues to play an increasingly important role in understanding the evolution of tool use. Comparing the archaeological record with extractive foraging behaviors in nonhuman primates has focused on percussive implements as a key to investigating the origins of lithic technology. Despite this, archaeological approaches towards percussive tools have been obscured by a lack of standardized methodologies. Central to this issue have been the use of qualitative, non-diagnostic techniques to identify percussive tools from archaeological contexts. Here we describe a new morphometric method for distinguishing anthropogenically-generated damage patterns on percussive tools from naturally damaged river cobbles. We employ a geomatic approach through the use of three-dimensional scanning and geographical information systems software to statistically quantify the identification process in percussive technology research. This will strengthen current technological analyses of percussive tools in archaeological frameworks and open new avenues for translating behavioral inferences of early hominins from percussive damage patterns.