Macrofracture analysis is an experimentally derived method used as an initial step in investigating the hunting function of stone artefacts. Diagnostic impact fractures, which can only develop as a result of longitudinal impact, underpin this method. Macrofracture analysis recently gained favour in Middle Stone Age studies, supporting hypotheses for effective hunting during the late Pleistocene in southern Africa. However, the factors affecting diagnostic impact fracture formation and the interpretation of these fracture frequencies are not yet fully understood. This paper outlines a set of experiments designed to test macrofracture formation under human and cattle trampling and knapping conditions. The results show that: (a) macrofractures occur frequently when stone artefacts are trampled by cattle and humans and in knapping debris; (b) diagnostic impact fractures occur on some of the trampled flakes and knapping debris (≤3%), but significantly less often than in previous hunting experiments; (c) when they do occur, they are likely produced by longitudinal forces similar to those experienced during hunting; (d) considering artefact morphology is important during macrofracture analysis; and (e) macrofracture analysis is not a standalone method, but is most useful as part of a multi-analytical approach to functional analysis. These experiments help to establish a significant baseline diagnostic impact fracture frequency for the interpretation of archaeological macrofracture frequencies.
- Experimental archaeology
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