Roe Deer Stone Tool Butchery part 2

A few weeks ago I posted about the roe deer stone tool butchery that I was involved in. Finally, the bones that were given to me are meat free (if a little smelly) and ready for butchery analysis!

Stripping the bones

I was given the defleshed humeri, femora and one rib from the carcass. After utilising their nutritional benefit by stewing them in my slow cooker, I then did some googling about the cheapest and most appropriate way to remove the last bits of flesh and cartilage. I’ve never prepared bone specimens before so I used Jake’s Bones guide.

I settled upon macerating the bones in water with biological washing powder as they had very little soft tissue left on them. As I’m a liquitab kind of girl this led to me sitting on the floor of Tescos reading washing powder boxes, finally finding some thankfully inexpensive enzyme-containing Daz. I poured some Daz into a plastic tub, filled it with lukewarm water and put the bones in. I think I left it for two days.

When I took the bones out the water smelt quite bad! I carefully washed all the solution and remaining cartilage off with a (my boyfriend’s) toothbrush (sorry Sam, you never read my blog posts properly anyway). I was a little alarmed to see that the end of the rib starting to flake away – I think I had left the bones in the solution for too long! I dried the bones and the butchery marks started to become really clear, which was very exciting!

Drying the bones!

Recording butchery marks

Recording butchery is an important part of my PhD thesis. I’m using butchery as an indicator of carcass processing practices and also as a cultural process that can change between groups and over time. I record instances of butchery marks on an access database, noting exactly where the butchery mark occurred through the bone zone and orientation, the type of butchery mark and how many strokes. In addition to this I draw the butchery on templates taken from Barone’s Anatomie compare des mammifères domestiques (1976). Each bone has a different layer and each type of butchery mark has a different colour. This methodology is great for seeing all the butchery episodes that affected a certain kind of bone in one diagram.

Butchery type Colour Description
Scratch Light blue Very light butchery with a flatter cross section than cut marks.
Cut Green Sharp incisions with a v-shaped cross section.

Below I’ll attempt to show the locations of the butchery marks on the Roe Deer bones, and show the butchery diagrams that were created from layering the left and right elements. While the butchery marks can be seen by the naked eye, they are somewhat harder to spot in photographs!

The butchery

The humerus

Butchery on the humerus tended to affect the distal articulation and the shaft – in fact, no butchery from the proximal epiphysis was recorded. The disarticulation of the elbow joint yielded many bone-scraping moments during butchery, and this is clearly displayed on the humerus.

Humerus btch
Highlighted butchery marks on the left and right humerus.
Roe Hum (2).png
Recorded butchery marks on the left and right distal humerus. Anterior, lateral, posterior and medial views (diagram of cattle humerus: Barone 1976).

The pelvis

As the pelvis was given to fellow zooarchaeologist Malene Lauritsen and was roasted. For this reason, evidence of roasting was also included on the butchery diagrams. Roasting mainly affected the extremities of the bone that would be more exposed to the heat, as shown below. Evidence of light butchery was noted primarily on the lateral surface of the bone on the ischium, but also on the neck of the illium.

The pelvis, showing some evidence for roasting and light butchery.
Roe Pelvis2.png
The recorded pelvis, lateral view. Roasting is displayed as a grey area. Where the grey area is stronger, the roasting affected both left and right pelves. Caprine pelvis diagram: Barone 1976.

The femur

Like the humerus, butchery on the femur was focussed around the epiphyses, although due to the more intensive butchery needed to disarticulate the knee and the hip, butchery on the femur affected both the distal and the proximal epiphyses.

Femur btch
Highlighted butchery on the left and right femora. Bonus tiger nail varnish.
Roe Fem1.png
Example of the recorded butchery marks on the right and left femur, anterior and lateral views. Cattle femur diagram: Barone 1976.


I was surprised by just how many butchery marks were recordable on the bones, especially considering the proportion of bones affected by butchery in the LBK is typically low. However, butchery marks are often found in the same sorts of places on bones from the LBK, which suggests that basic disarticulation encouraged the same sorts of marks.

Each element was first butchered by Professor Bradley, who is familiar with butchering these types of animals with stone tools, and then by a student, who was not – despite this, there was no particular paucity of butchery marks on an element of one side compared to the other, as one might have expected comparing the work of a novice with a teacher. I can’t wait to get the corresponding bones – namely the tibia, radius and ulna – and see if these patterns hold true!

Until I do get the other bones, this post sums up my Roe Deer Stone Tool Butchery mini-series. It’s been really great to get hands-on with processes that were extremely commonplace in the past, which your typical ‘Western’ academic these days has nothing to do with. I’d like to thank Professor Bradley and the experimental archaeology Masters students again for letting me be involved.


Barone, R. (1976). Anatomie compare des mammifères domestiques. Osteologie. (2nd Edition). I (1), Paris: Vigot.



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