Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 11, Issue 11, pp 5879–5891 | Cite as

Experimental lithic tool displacement due to long-term animal disturbance

  • Benjamin J. SchovilleEmail author
Original Paper
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Controlled experiments in lithic technology and function


Controlled experiments in lithic technology tend to focus on controlling the human component of lithic tool manufacturing and use; however, animal disturbance can move and alter artifacts in non-random ways, thus altering the behavioral meaning assigned to artifacts and their contexts. The patterning visible in archeological debris on a horizontal plane can provide evidence for activity zones, pathways, and site formation processes. While the effects of trampling actors on the vertical displacement of artifacts have shown that artifacts can be dramatically displaced, the horizontal movement due to trampling is relatively less studied, particularly the effect over extended time periods. Here, an experimental investigation of experimentally produced lithic tools in three contexts with varying degrees of animal trampling intensity is described, and the resulting patterns of artifact displacement are presented. Animal trampling can produce directed, non-random patterning in how artifacts are moved from their original location. The role that bedding slope plays in transport direction given different degrees of activity is also explored. These results show that trampling can produce patterned artifact scatters similar to activity centers and should be taken into consideration for spatial analyses of archeological formation processes.


Taphonomy Spatial analysis Trampling Activity areas 



Keith Groves at Alpen Cellars, California, generously provided his property for trampling experiments, Kyle Brown knapped all the material used in these experiments, Terry Ritzman generously helped recover the trampled material, and Jayne Wilkins provided comments on a previous version of the manuscript. The helpful critique by Shannon McPherron and an anonymous reviewer significantly improved the manuscript, however any errors or inconsistencies are the sole responsibility of the author. The efforts of the symposium organizers Radu Iovita, João Marreiros, and Telmo Pereira made the session exciting and successful. Their energy to seeing this special issue through to completion is greatly appreciated. All coordinate data used in the analysis are available online through Figshare (


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social ScienceUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.Human Evolution Research InstituteUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa

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