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Arrowheads from the Santa Cruz Islands (Temotu, Solomon Islands): design, raw material, and how they are linked

Abstract : Several written sources from the 19th and early 20th century indicate that, on the Melanesian archipelago of Santa Cruz, the heads of the war arrows were made of human bone. The aim of this study was to consider this behavior from the perspective of bone tool technology: confirm the choice of human bone as raw material and understand how it influenced the conception of the projectile and its point. A sample of 57 arrows collected on the Santa Cruz islands in the late 19th - early 20th century was thus studied in order to (1) establish the range of typological and technological variation in point design; (2) determine the nature of the raw materials used; (3) discuss the relationship between the two. The typological study shows that the arrowheads can be divided into two main categories, "large points" (10% of the sample) and "small points" (88% of the sample), and that the latter are designed as imitations of the former. Material analyses performed on four points show that the large points are made of bone, the species of which could not be determined; however the small points, which make up the large majority of the sample, are not made of bone but probably of keratinous material. This apparent discordance between the written record and the analysis of the artifacts may be due the heterogeneous and patchy nature of our sources, or to the existence, in the culture of the Santa Cruz islanders, of a gap between the ideology and the actual technical practice.
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Contributor : Jean-Marc Pétillon <>
Submitted on : Friday, May 24, 2013 - 10:15:18 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, August 5, 2020 - 3:12:16 AM
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  • HAL Id : halshs-00825891, version 1


Jean-Marc Pétillon, Aurore Lemoine, Katharina Müller, Ina Reiche. Arrowheads from the Santa Cruz Islands (Temotu, Solomon Islands): design, raw material, and how they are linked. 8th Meeting of the ICAZ Worked Bone Research Group, 2011, Salzburg, Austria. pp.203-216. ⟨halshs-00825891⟩



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