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Miniaturization optimized weapon killing power during the social stress of late pre-contact North America (AD 600-1600)

Published on Mar 17, 2020in PLOS ONE2.776
· DOI :10.1371/JOURNAL.PONE.0230348
Anna Mika1
Estimated H-index: 1
(KSU: Kent State University),
Kat Flood1
Estimated H-index: 1
(KSU: Kent State University)
+ 7 AuthorsMetin I. Eren6
Estimated H-index: 6
(KSU: Kent State University)
Abstract
Before Europeans arrived to Eastern North America, prehistoric, indigenous peoples experienced a number of changes that culminated in the development of sedentary, maize agricultural lifeways of varying complexity. Inherent to these lifeways were several triggers of social stress including population nucleation and increase, intergroup conflict (warfare), and increased territoriality. Here, we examine whether this period of social stress co-varied with deadlier weaponry, specifically, the design of the most commonly found prehistoric archery component in late pre-contact North America: triangular stone arrow tips (TSAT). The examination of modern metal or carbon projectiles, arrows, and arrowheads has demonstrated that smaller arrow tips penetrate deeper into a target than do larger ones. We first experimentally confirm that this relationship applies to arrow tips made from stone hafted onto shafts made from wood. We then statistically assess a large sample (n = 742) of late pre-contact TSAT and show that these specimens are extraordinarily small. Thus, by miniaturizing their arrow tips, prehistoric people in Eastern North America optimized their projectile weaponry for maximum penetration and killing power in warfare and hunting. Finally, we verify that these functional advantages were selected across environmental and cultural boundaries. Thus, while we cannot and should not rule out stochastic, production economizing, or non-adaptive cultural processes as an explanation for TSAT, overall our results are consistent with the hypothesis that broad, socially stressful demographic changes in late pre-contact Eastern North America resulted in the miniaturization–and augmented lethality–of stone tools across the region.
  • References (53)
  • Citations (1)
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References53
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Archaeologists recognize countless styles of flaked stone projectile points in the archaeological record, but few are as well recognized as the Clovis fluted projectile point. This specimen has a number of interesting morphological and technological features, but one prominent question of its functional morphology involves the lateral edges of the proximal (basal) portion of the point, where it was attached (hafted) to a handle or shaft. These edges are usually ground (or abraded) dull, presumab...
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Abstract Ground stone projectile points can be found throughout the global archaeological record, but why they were selected for by prehistoric foragers has received little attention. Additionally, modern archaeological experiments have increasingly used ground points in lieu of knapped ones. Here, we present an experiment testing whether there is a difference between ground, percussion flaked, and pressure flaked points in terms of impact durability. Our three groups were similar in form, raw m...
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Abstract The occurrence of unnotched triangular points is exceptional in the North American archaeological record. The study of these items can shed light on selective forces that influence the evolution of prehistoric weaponry, especially that which involves small stone tipped projectiles, which is itself a global phenomenon during the late Pleistocene and continuing throughout the Holocene. Following Engelbrecht’s (2015) analysis of points from the Eaton site (1550 CE) in western New York, we ...
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