Functional Aspects of Early Palaeolithic Tool Use in the Philippines

Alfred Pawlik1, Hubert Forestier2, Maria Gema Chacon3, Jacky Despriée2, Marian C. Reyes4, Maricar Bellarmino4, John de Vos5, Thomas Ingicco6

1Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines

2Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle Département Homme et Environnement UMR 7194, Musée de l'Homme, France

3Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES), Spain

4National Museum of the Philippines, Philippines

5Naturalis Biodiversity Center, The Netherlands

6Muséum National D’Histoire Naturelle, Département Homme et Environnement, UMR 7194, Musée de L’Homme, France

Use-wear analysis or traceology is a method applied to determine the function and uses of prehistoric tools. Traceological laboratory analyses have been undertaken in the Philippines for more than 20 years. Here, and in Island Southeast Asia in general, use-wear analysis plays an important role in understanding the mostly unmodified and amorphous flake tool assemblages that largely elude technological and typological approaches. Systematic microscopic use-wear studies involving low- and high-power methods have been conducted on various artefacts made of stone and marine shell recovered from Philippine Pleistocene and Holocene contexts. An early study was the use-wear analysis of an Early Palaeolithic assemblage, including a bifacial handaxe and cleaver, from Arubo in Nueva Ecija, Central Luzon. Since then, the research has expanded to include flaked tool assemblages, shell implements and ground adze blades from a variety of archaeological sites on the islands of Palawan, Sulu, Mindoro, and Luzon (Pawlik 2021). A significant recent study has been the functional analysis of lithic implements found in association with the Middle Pleistocene Rhinoceros skeleton dated to 709ka at Kalinga in Northern Luzon (Ingicco et al. 2018). These are tools that were potentially used in the butchering activities detected on the skeletal remains of the rhinoceros. In this paper, we provide an overview of use-wear analysis in the Philippines and present the results of our preliminary traceological study of selected artefacts from the Kalinga site.