Tools or tucker? Developing methods for identifying utilised Polymesoda (Geloina) erosa (Bivalvia: Corbiculidae) shell valves

01st June 2012

Matthew Harris TA AA74Matthew Harris

BA(Hons), School of Social Science, The University of Queensland, October 2011

In contrast to the robust analytical frameworks developed for stone tool identification, there is at present a paucity of research addressing the identification of expedient shell tools in archaeological contexts. The development of analytical frameworks to identify expedient shell tools would enhance archaeological understandings of coastal economies in Australia and abroad. The identification of shell tools requires a holistic approach that considers the life cycle of the shell as a component of the mollusc as a living organism, and the shell as a tool. Identification of shell tools also requires detailed consideration of pre- and post-mortem processes of alteration post-depositional processes, including environmental and taphonomic sources of modification.

Experimentally derived expedient shell tools and archaeologically recovered samples were investigated to ascertain diagnostic differences between anthropogenically and naturally modified shell valves. By utilising a number of complementary analyses at different scales (macroscopic and microscopic), a robust framework for the identification of expedient bivalve tools was created. Results indicate that it is possible to differentiate between those shell valves which were utilised, and those which were not. A case study of archaeological shell tools from Princess Charlotte Bay, Cape York, northeast Queensland, has shown that these methods can be successfully applied to archaeological samples.

Matthew Harris
Tools or tucker? Developing methods for identifying utilised Polymesoda (Geloina) erosa (Bivalvia: Corbiculidae) shell valves
June 2012
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Thesis Abstracts
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