A functional assessment of the notched bone artefacts from klasies river main site

Justin Bradfield, Sarah Wurz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


The recent publication of previously unrecognised musical instruments from two South African Later Stone Age deposits has prompted us to relook at some of the bone tools from Klasies River Main site (KRM). Notched bones are enigmatic artefacts found throughout the world and attributed diverse functions, including sound-producing instruments. We re-analyse the three pieces of notched bone from Klasies River Main site for use-traces that may indicate their use as musical rasps. Although we find no evidence to support their use as rasps, the use-wear and ancient starch residues suggest a complicated use history in which several activities may be implicated. While Francesco d’Errico’s original interpretation of their use as skin abraders still stands as plausible, we conclude that the presence of quantities of ancient starch grains, coupled with the absence of ancient animal residues, implicates their use in some kind of plant processing activity, either exclusively or in addition to other uses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-136
Number of pages9
JournalSouth African Archaeological Bulletin
Issue number213
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Klasies River Main site
  • Melon processors
  • Musical rasps
  • Notched bones
  • Use-trace analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archeology (arts and humanities)
  • Archeology


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