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Keywords:

  • bone raw material selection;
  • Early Bronze Age;
  • Israel;
  • metapodia;
  • skeletal technology;
  • zooarchaeology

ABSTRACT

This paper explores the incongruous relationship between bone raw material availability and technological choice at the Early Bronze Age site of Horvat 'Illin Tahtit (HIT) in central Israel. At HIT, the worked bone assemblage is mostly comprised of minimally modified sheep and goat metapodia whose function(s) are enigmatic. Most specimens have longitudinally oriented scraping abrasions on at least one face, and of these, some have bilaterally symmetrical drilled perforations on the distal–posterior face. Furthermore, the distal epiphyseal plates of almost all worked metapodia are unfused, whereas unfused epiphyses are nearly absent from the general faunal assemblage. Worked goat metacarpals are significantly more common than sheep metacarpals or metatarsals of either species, despite the greater abundance of sheep over goat in the general faunal assemblage. This paper proposes that the desire to express specific visible attributes of the bone raw material was the key motivation in choosing unfused goat metacarpals over similar, more abundant choices. The analysis considers material properties such as bone mineral density and natural morphology and concludes that material properties between various choices were equivocal. This result suggests that social meanings attributed to specific animals and specific skeletal elements structured bone raw material procurement decisions. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.