Publication Details

Szabo, K. & Koppel, B. (2015). Limpet shells as unmodified tools in Pleistocene Southeast Asia: an experimental approach to assessing fracture and modification. Journal of Archaeological Science, 54 64-76.


Pleistocene tools manufactured in shell are rarely identified. This may in part be due to the complexity of shell as a raw material and associated challenges in recognising and interpreting shell modification. A series of unusually-shaped Scutellastra flexuosa limpets from c. 30,000 year old deposits in Golo Cave, eastern Indonesia were identified as putatively modified during midden analysis. A pilot programme of investigations into the microstructure and natural fracture patterns of this species, coupled with a series of use-wear experiments, demonstrates that some S. flexuosa shells were used as scrapers. The shells were used in unmodified form and were 'repurposed' after having been gathered for subsistence purposes. Taken together with other forms of early shell-working already reported for Golo Cave, the identification of these new unmodified shell tools expands the corpus of shell tool use at the site and presents a picture of diversity and complexity not seen in the associated lithic assemblage.

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