ZooMS identification of bone tools from the North African Later Stone Age

Abigail Desmond, Nick Barton, Abdeljalil Bouzouggar, Katerina Douka, Philippe Fernandez, Louise Humphrey, Jacob Morales, Elaine Turner, Michael Buckley

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This study applies peptide mass fingerprinting (also known as ‘ZooMS’) to bone tools from the North African Palaeolithic, as the first stage in a research programme aimed at understanding distinct phases within a bone tool chaîne opératoire. We report on the largest collection of bone tools from the North African Later Stone Age (LSA), from the cave site of Taforalt (Grotte des Pigeons) in eastern Morocco. Their appearance at this site from c. 15,000 cal BP appears to coincide with other changes in human behaviour which led to increased sedentism, cemetery use, and intensive exploitation of certain food resources. As such, bone tools can provide insights into how such broad-scale cultural renegotiations may have been brokered technologically, independent of the lithic record. Here, we explore initial raw material selection and manufacture strategies through use of ZooMS, a technique that permits identification of specific animals from very small bone samples. We found that ZooMS is highly suitable for use on the Taforalt material, and that bone tool morphology and construction tracks closely with the original animal from which a tool was made. Our results indicate that the Iberomaurusian occupants of Taforalt embedded bone tools within culturally-mediated technological strategies, potentially involving other perishable materials.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)149-157
    Number of pages9
    JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
    Early online date31 Aug 2018
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


    • Chaîne opératoire
    • Collagen fingerprinting
    • Grotte des Pigeons
    • Iberomaurusian
    • LSA
    • Osseous implements
    • Palaeolithic
    • Proteomics
    • Taforalt
    • ZooMS

    Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

    • Manchester Institute of Biotechnology


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