A Cut-marked and Fractured Mesolithic Human Bone from Kent's Cavern, Devon, UK



An isolated adult human ulna fragment recovered from the ‘black mould’ layer of Kent's Cavern by William Pengelly in 1866 exhibits a series of stone tool cut marks. The specimen has been directly AMS 14C-dated to 7314–7075 cal bc (OxA-20588: 8185 ± 38 bp) and may be from the same individual as a maxilla fragment dated to the same period. The cut marks are located on the olecranon process, in a position indicative of dismemberment, whereas the fracture characteristics of the bone furthermore suggest peri-mortem breakage, typical of butchery for the extraction of marrow. We here present and discuss the specimen and consider both ritual mortuary treatment and anthropophagy as possible explanations. Although it is difficult to interpret a single element in isolation, the latter scenario seems to be better supported and is not without parallel in prehistoric Europe, as indicated by a review of the available literature. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.