Right. This animal bone had been used as a hammer to make hand axes. Under a microscope, fragments of flint could be seen embedded surface.
Below: This microphotograph of one of the Boxgrove hominid's incisors shows that the top surface was worn flat and the tooth itself was heavily scratched. But note that some of the scratches run from top left to bottom right demonstrating that Boxgrove man used his teeth to hold the meat that he was cutting with his hand axe -and that therefore he (or was it she?) was right handed.
Photo. Courtesyof Natural History Museum,
landmarks with other tibiae, it is possible to produce an estimate of size.
The next problem was how to work out the physique of Boxgrove Man. Was he a
'cold-adapted' physique, like the modern
Eskimos or Inuits who have short legs so they lose less body heat? Or was he of the African body form with long limb extremi-
ties? To do this they needed to work out the thickness of the cortical bone, so the tibia was taken to University College Hospital for a CT
(= Computerised Tomography) scan to show the internal morphology of the bone. This study indicated that the tibia was from a robust individual, heavily muscled and very active, very like the Neanderthals in this respect. They are therefore working on the assumption that he was of the' cold adapted' physique which would suggest that he would have been around 6ft tall; The tibia is assigned to the group now known as homo heidelbergensis, one of the largest hominids that ever lived.
A current problem is to work out his age at death. To do this some minute thin sections have been taken from the mid shaft bone to examine the size of the osteons.
Osteons are the microscopic bone cells which form the individual elements of bone, and they eat into each other as you grow older and become more tightly packed, so they should thus reveal the age.
In 1995 they returned for another major season, enlarging the hominid trench into a large L-shaped trench. Before the season began the excavators ran a sweep stake as to how many handaxes they would find. Ten would have been about the norm for the trench size, but hopes were high, and esti-
mates ranged from 20 up as high at 50.
Eventually some 250 were discovered, mostly on the very bottom of the sequence, in the channels formed by the stream running down from the cliffs.
Just what sort of site was this? The first clue came from the flints, for despite the very large numbers of handaxes, there was very little flint debitage, just a few resharpening flakes. Handaxes were being used here, but not made here.
The second clue to the nature of the site came from the huge number of animal bones. In particular there were numerous bones from larger animals, -red deer, bison, horse and rhino, for most of these had cut marks on them where they had been cut up by flint handaxes. Of particular interest were some rhinos, a juvenile with deciduous teeth and a number of adults with well worn permanent
teeth. Numerous parts of the adult rhinos were preserved, but more significant were the missing bones: the major limb bones with the best cuts 9f meat on them had been removed elsewhere to be eaten. This was clearly a butchery site, a watering hole where large animals came to feed and drink, and where they were preyed upon by even larger carnivores, and by the most dangerous animal of all, man.
One of the most interesting bones was one that had been used as a hammer for making flint implements. Numerous microscopic fragments of flint were found embedded in the bone, thus demonstrating that bones were used as soft hammer stones even at this
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