• taphonomy;
  • cutmarks;
  • butchery;
  • Stw 53


Cutmarks inflicted by a stone tool were observed on the right maxilla of Stw 53, an early hominid partial skull from Sterkfontein “Member 5” (South Africa). The morphology of the marks, their anatomical placement, and the lack of random striae on the specimen all support an interpretation of this linear damage as cutmarks. The location of the marks on the lateral aspect of the zygomatic process of the maxilla is consistent with that expected from slicing through the masseter muscle, presumably to remove the mandible from the cranium. Although radioisotopic dates are not available and relative faunal dating of the deposit from which Stw 53 derives is problematic, the morphology of the hominid skull suggests a Plio-Pleistocene age for the specimen. This therefore constitutes the earliest unambiguous evidence that hominids disarticulated the remains of one another. Am J Phys Anthropol 111:579–584, 2000. © 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.