Early Holocene bone technology at the La Olla 1 site, Atlantic coast of the Argentine Pampas

Eileen Johnson, Gustavo Politis, Maria Gutierrez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


La Olla 1, in the Pampas of Argentina, is an open-air site located on the Atlantic coast in the Monte Hermoso District, southern Buenos Aires Province. Bones in lacustrine layers outcrop during very low tide exposed by longshore drift. Based on an initial analysis of the faunal assemblage, two species of sea mammal, guanaco, pampean deer, greater rhea, and a fish were represented in the almost 300 bones recovered during the rescue excavation. The lithic assemblage consisted of unifacially flaked tools, rounded cobbles reduced by bipolar technique, flakes, and artifacts with flat abraded surfaces. Radiocarbon determinations of c. 7300 and 6600 BP came from sea mammal femora. An informal bone tool recovered from the site is made from the left proximal tibia of an adult otariid. It is identified as a utilitarian bone tool on the basis of use-wear characters that are restricted in distribution, and as a fracture-based bone tool on the basis of technological characters. The element was dynamically impacted in the mid-diaphysis region. Use-wear characters are loss of edge angularity, microflaking, pitting, striae, and polish. Microflaking occurs along the posterior fracture surface and exterior adjacent cortical surface. Pitting of the fracture surface extends along the entire length of the worn edge, but is most concentrated along the posterior fracture surface. A multitude of very fine striae runs parallel to the fracture edge. The area of striations is limited to this edge with a well-demarcated boundary. Covering all of these characters is differential wear-polish. This high gloss polish is strongly reflective and occurs over very worn and rounded areas, providing a very bright, melted appearance. Based on these different use-wear patterns, the La Olla 1 bone tool is interpreted as a dual-purpose implement most likely used for carcass dismemberment and hide processing. The La Olla 1 tool is unusual in that it is made from pinniped bone. Biomechanical analysis of southern fur seal bone indicates, however, a strong suitability for impact-related tasks and, therefore, an appropriate choice for use as butchering tools. (C) 2000 Academic Press.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)463-477
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2000


  • Argentina
  • Bone technology
  • Bone tool
  • Holocene coastal adaptation
  • Otariids
  • Pampas


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