Tools of Stone Tools of Bone

Teilhard's travels around the world and voluminous correspondence with colleagues ensured that the leading researchers learned about new discoveries in China by firsthand accounts. One of Teilhard's oldest friends and colleagues in France, the eminent archaeologist Henri Breuil, learned of Pei's and Teilhard's discoveries by letter. Breuil was fascinated. In the fall of 1931 Davidson Black arranged an invitation for Breuil to come to China to pass judgment on the stone artifacts that had been excavated so far. Breuil concluded that "the artificial [i.e., cultural] nature of these specimens is already evident."8 But what kindled Breuil's imagination more than the stone artifacts, which to his European eye seemed extremely primitive, was the possibility that this early form of hominid had used bone tools as its primary manner of cultural adaptation.9 A base of a fossil antler from Longgushan that Teilhard had brought with him to Paris in 1930 had first given Breuil the idea. The antler he "recognised immediately as burnt and made into a tool by blows from stone implements."10 During his 1931 trip to China he saw many more examples of what he considered bone and antler tools made by Peking Man.

Breuil's original idea did not sit well with a number of the other researchers at Longgushan. Still, his ideas were well argued and his reputation alone required that he be given an audience. That some people were listening is shown by Breuil's receiving a formal invitation in 1934 to return to China to collaborate with Pei on a detailed study of the bone tools. That collaboration did not end with Pei as a coauthor on the ensuing publication because he failed to be convinced by Breuil's arguments. The 1939 monograph on the presumed bone tools from Longgushan was authored solely by Breuil.

Breuil's hypothesis on the bone archaeological industry at Longgushan has been largely forgotten. He hypothesized that Peking Man had used the mandibles and isolated teeth of carnivores as weapons, asking rhetorically, "what [could be] more natural than to try to steal their arms and turn them against their owners?"11 He ascribed the breakage patterns of many fragmentary fossil bones and teeth to the actions of hominids. We now know from comparative studies of modern hyena dens that many of these types of breaks can be, and at Longgushan probably were, made by animals. The many isolated and pointed bone fragments that Breuil thought were produced by hominids' flaking of bone, for example, are identical to the types of bone refuse produced by hyenas today. And Brueil incorrectly identified a fossil rhinoceros upper foreleg bone (the humerus) with multiple, raking carnivore bite marks, as indicated by their clear U-shaped cross sections, as a Homo erectus "cutting table." But Breuil's work remains an excellent source of information on the now scattered and lost bones from the site, and some of his valid observations have been unjustifiably thrown out.

Breuil was the first researcher to notice the telltale signs of stone-tool cut marks on bone. One of Breuil's photographs of a fossil antelope foot bone

Archaeologist Henri Breuil (ct ter) became involved with the Dragon Bone Hill research through Teilhard de Chardin {left). They are shown with a third, unidentified, man at the site on May4, 1935. Although Breuil developed the now discarded hypothesis of extensive bone-tool use by the Zhoukoudian hominids, his influence also led to the cor trolled excavation and mapp of the site.

showed "fine cuts made by a stone tool."12 He further noted that the bone had not been gnawed.

The importance of Breuil's pioneering observations was that they had the potential of connecting stone tools, which were indubitably made by hominids, with animal bones. Not only did this establish a direct ecological link between Homo erectus and a species of animal, but how the cut marks were oriented and where they were on the bone could tell a lot about what the hominid had been doing with the tool and what he or she was trying to obtain. The bone evidence showed not what Breuil had originally emphasized—that the bones themselves were tools—but instead the effects of stone-tool use, and therefore one of the most important components of the past that any paleoanthropologist wants to discover—behavior.

Archaeologist Lewis Binford and colleagues reexamined a number of the fossil bones from Longgushan that had survived the early excavations and some that had been newly excavated by the Chinese. He had the advantage of much experience in discriminating stone-tool cut marks from animal bite marks on bone from archaeological sites. He saw a large number of cut marks, some of them overlying bite marks made by carnivores (thus implying scavenging by Homo erectus). Hominids had used small sharp stone flakes to cut off pieces of meat from haunches of animal carcasses and to remove the tongues from animal heads. Binford never observed any carnivore bite marks overlying the stone tool cut marks of hominids, implying that the hominids had not run down their meat themselves but instead had scavenged the prizes of carnivores.13

Brueil also observed a number of bones that had been battered, not cut, with stone tools. Binford's observations paralleled this discovery as well. He noted that there seemed to be two patterns of bone modification by hominids: cut bone and battered bone. The two constellations of hominid-modified bone at Longgushan matched the two overall patterns of stone tools noted first by Teilhard: small, sharp flake tools used for cutting, and large, dull tools used for hacking and smashing. Stone tools at Longgushan were apparently used to cut or hack up animal carcasses before eating, or otherwise using, parts of them.

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