The effect of edge serration on the performance of stone-tip projectiles: an experimental case study of the Maros Point from Holocene South Sulawesi

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Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences


Serrated stone points have been documented in a variety of archaeological settings worldwide. In Indonesia, serrated points known as Maros point began to appear during the mid-Holocene as part of the Toalean techno-complex in southern South Sulawesi. Researchers have speculated functional and cultural reason behind the emergence of these distinctive artefact as projectile points, an assumption that has yet to be verified by archaeological data. In particular, the edge serration has been suggested to allow for deeper penetration and/or act as barbs to prevent the easy withdrawal of the points from the target. In this study, we experimentally test these functional hypotheses regarding the effect of edge serration on stone arrowheads resembling Maros points when fired using different bow draw weights. We also investigate variation in breakage and impact fracture pattern between serrated and non-serrated points. Our result show that, compared to the non-serrated points, the serrated arrows not only deliver deeper penetrations, but also require less force to withdraw from the ballistic gel target. However, these relationships are complicated by the inclusion of skin and bone in the ballistic target. The findings demonstrate that the effect of serrated stone points on projectile performance depends on factors such as the projectile delivery system and prey type. Moreover, under identical firing settings, the serrated points develop more variable macrofracture patterns than the non-serrated points, likely owing the irregular edge morphologies. Taking these results together, we discuss the implications of our experimental study on the appearance of Maros points and the Toalean techno-complex in South Sulawesi during the mid-Holocene.

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Australian Research Council



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