AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGY 78:361-367 (1989) Engis: Preparation Damage, Not Ancient Cutmarks TIM D. WHITE AND NICHOLAS TOTH Department of Anthropology, The University of CaliforniG Berkeley, California 94720 (TD. W);Department of Anthropology, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana 47405 (N. T) KEY WORDS Neandertal, Mousterian, Taphonomy ABSTRACT Scratches found on the Engis 2 cranium have been described as perimortem and interpreted as intentional scalping marks by Russell and LeMort (Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 69:317-323,1986). These marks are described and compared to damage on other fossil hominids. The Engis marks have been misinterpreted. These marks are sandpaper striae formed during restoration of the vault, moulding striae formed when mold part lines were incised into the fossil and profiling striae formed when craniograms were made with sharp steel instrument tips. None of them have anything to do with prehistoric behavior. The discovery of cutmarks on the Bod0 cranium in 1981 (White, 1986)prompted several investigators to focus on the fossil hominid record in efforts to see what patterns of perimortem damage could be discerned. One of the first specimens to be examined was the child’s cranium from Engis. This specimen, found in 1829, has been described as a Neandertal. Mary Russell and Franqoise LeMort (1986) in an article entitled “Cutmarks on the Engis 2 Calvaria?” published their Engis observations and interpretations before the Bod0 cutmarks were described. We have examined the original Engis 2 specimen as part of a wider study of trauma to fossil hominid remains. Our conclusions on Engis 2 differ from those of Russell and LeMort. Russell and LeMort (1986) illustrate scratches on the Engis 2 cranium by means of close-up photographs and drawings. Descriptions of these scratches are also provided. Two basic kinds of marks are described-scratch fields concentrated around the broken edges of the specimen and subparallel striae that sagittally divide the frontal. Russell and LeMort draw three major conclusions about these scratches. First, they consider the striations to be ancient. Second, since bone remodeling is not present, they consider the marks to be perimortem. Third, they conclude: “Deliberate hominid activity seems to us to be the most conservative explanation for these striations . . .” (p. 321). 6 1 1989 ALAN R LISS, INC. As indicated by the interrogative nature of their title, Russell and LeMort present their conclusions as “hypothesis” and go on to recommend scanning electron microscopic analysis of the scratches while hinting that this is not possible because of preservative cover. Their interpretation of scratches on the Engis 2 cranial vault is summarized as follows: “In summary, it seems likely that the frontal squama of Engis 2 was repeatedly scored with a stone tool at or near the time of the child’s death. Striations on other parts of the calvaria are more enigmatic . . . . The striations make little sense in any functional interpretation of the cutting” (Russell and LeMort, 1986: p. 323). It is our conclusion that the human(s) responsible for the Engis scratches were modern workers rather than Paleolithic scalpers. We have come to this conclusion based on examination of damage to a worldwide sample of hominid fossils. In many cases, this damage is extensive and severe, most often resulting from cleaning, restoration, measurement, and molding. A summary of our findings is in preparation (Toth and White, in preparation). Russell and LeMort’s 1986 misidentification of the Engis marks as evidence of prehistoric behavior has prompted this more directed response. It is a response designed to highlight some of the pitfalls asReceived March 21, 1988; accepted May 15,1988. 362 T.D. WHITE AND N.TOTH Fig. 1. A Frontal view of horizontal (left supraorbital) and parasagittal striae on the Engis child‘s frontal bone made by molding and sagittal profiling (craniograph production) as described in the text. B: Basal view of the Engis child’s nuchal plane. Rear half of the foramen magnum is on top. Note the fine subparallel striae along the midline caused by the profiling tool. C: Photo- graph of the Engis child’s cranium mounted, for craniograph production, in the holder described in the text. The photo is from archives in the Department of Anthropology at the Royal Institute of Natural Sciences of Belgium, Brussels. It was taken in 1951, before the specimen was separated from the Spy fossils and moved to LiBge. PREPARATION DAMAGE ON ENGIS Fig.2. A Close-up photograph of the frontal of the adult specimen from Engis (Engis 1).Note the vertical sagittal striation on the frontal squama, above and centered between the supraorbital eminences. This striation, like the ones on the child's cranium, was caused by craniograph production. Such scratches are common on subfossil Neandertal and Upper Paleolithic hominid crania. B: Close-up photograph of plaster filling and 363 subsequent sanding on a Neandertal cranium from Spy (Spy D. The sagittal suture is horizontal and leads off to the viewer's right; the coronal suture is vertical. The patch of plaster is at bregma and bears striations caused by sanding. The sanding striations continue onto the adjacent bone surface as they did on the Engis 2 specimen before the plaster was removed. 364 T.D. WHITE AND N. TOTH Fig. 3. A Close-up photograph of profiling marks on the Engis 2 child’s frontal. Note the superficial nature of the striae. Note also the “chattermarks” just to the left of frame center made by the tip of the profiling device. B: Sanding striations on the left frontal of the Engis child’s cranium. C: Striations on the endocranial surface of the Engis child’s left frontal not mentioned by Russell and LeMort. PREPARATION DAMAGE ON ENGIS Fig. 4. A Frontal view of the Engis child’s cranium. Placement of the three SEM images is shown by white rectangles. B: SEM view of sanding striae on the right supraorbital region. Note the V-shaped course of the striae to the left, showing the movement of sanding 365 particles at the end of a sanding stroke. C: SEM view of sanding striae on along the broken edge of the left frontal. D SEM view of sanding striae on the supraorbital region to the left of nasion. Note again the V-shaped, “doubling back” course of the striae. that concentrate around the broken edges of the Engis 2 cranium have, according to Russell and LeMort “. . . no obvious functional or anatomical meaning” (p. 322). We have not encountered such marks on recent huANALYSIS man material (post-1000BC) but have identiWe agree with Russell and LeMort (1986) fied them on fossil material we have studied that there is no bony healing associated with (see below). We interpret the parasagittal marks, the Engis scratches and that the scratch pattern and dimensions indicate human in- patches of scratches, and other striae on the volvement in their manufacture. We have Engis 2 cranium to represent three human studied experimental cutmarks on fresh activities. Before identifying these, however, bones from a variety of mammalian taxa, it is first necessary to add several observaincluding humans. We have also examined tions to those made by Russell and LeMort hundreds of archaeologically derived human (1986).The long linear striae on the Engis 2 crania with cutmarks made by stone tools. vault are uniformly superficial and do not The linear, subparallel scratches on the En- resemble typical archaeological or experigis 2 frontal superficially resemble cutmarks mental cutmarks made by stone tools (see such as those seen on Melanesian, Anasazi, Fig. 3A). Russell and LeMort describe exfoland Aztec crania. The patches of scratches iation of the bone table but do not indicate sociated with the analysis of scratches on fossil bone and thereby prevent “cutmark mania” (Lewin, 1981) from claiming more modern victims. 366 T.D. WHITE AND N.TOTH that much of the Engis 2 ectocranial surface is invested with a thin skin of partially exfoliated, white bone (Fig. 3A). Thus not all striae are the same color as the surrounding bone, as maintained by Russell and LeMort; those on this thin, light-colored layer of partially exfoliated bone have revealed darker bone below (see Russell and LeMort, Plates 3 and 4; this paper, Figs. 1A and 3A). Russell and LeMort dismiss the possibility that the Engis 2 striations represent postexcavation damage, implying that postexcavation scratches have a “clean, white, unweathered” appearance. These characteristics, however, vary widely according to the handling and preservative application that a specimen undergoes during its curated lifetime. The Engis 2 striations are described as antedating “weathering” cracks, “abrasion” on the frontal, and breakage of the vault because they cross these features. We describe below a set of postexcavation mechanisms that account for these observations. Russell and LeMort (1986) do not comment on much of the damage to the Engis 2 specimen. For example, they do not describe or illustrate dense parallel and subparallel striae in the left orbital roof, the left lateral frontal edge (Fig. 4A, C), the broken edge of the left parietal, the area around the right occipital condyle, and the right temporal squama. In the patches they describe, they do not note that individual striae in the scratch patches sometimes end in loops showing that the striation-causing particle doubled back at the end of a stroke (Fig. 4A, D). A more important omission involves a set of subparallel, sagittal striae that mark the external occipital surface from the foramen magnum posteriorly for an average of 17 mm (Fig. 1B). One scratch extends to the nuchal line. No reference is made to the “chattermarks” associated with the frontal striae (Fig. 3A). Finally, Russell and LeMort neither describe nor illustrate the endocranial surface where there are two major sets of long striae on the frontal and another set of striae on the left parietal. There are also scratch patches endocranially, most notably on the left frontal (Fig. 3C). Cranwgraph damage The sagittally oriented marks noted by Russell and LeMort on the Engis 2 frontal and documented above on the occipital are found in numerous fossil hominid crania. Rather than indicating a systematic prehistoric sagittal scalping activity, however, they correspond to what has been a much more widespread activity-the production of craniographs by mounting the cranium in a holder (“Kubuskraniophor mit einem Arm”) and tracing its outline with a sharp metal point or diagraph. As described by Martin (1914:p. 575; translation and italics ours): The technique is as follows: First draw the median sagittal. Set the needle point of the diagraph on a point on this plane, for example, the nasion. . . . Next guide the diagraph-preferably from left to right-slowly along the skull by holding the footplate with both hands and watching the needle closely. The point should only just touch, not scratch, the skull surface, and should always be directed at the surface radially, i.e. as much as possible perpendicular to the skull wall. The technique described by Martin was apparently not followed during cranial profiling on the Engis child, where the surface was repeatedly scratched. Multiple attempts at midsagittal profiling appear to have been made. The resulting multiple subparallel scratches appear to have been caused as the cranium was repeatedly repositioned in an attempt to bring nasion and bregma into the same horizontal plane as determined by the needle point (Fig. 1A). Midline striae on the nuchal plane described above also were made by a profiling point (Fig. 1B). Fraipont presents the resulting midsagittal craniograms in his 1936 monograph on Engis. In addition, there are photographs archived in Brussels, taken in 1951, that actually show the Engis 2 cranium in a Kubuskraniophor (Fig. 1C). This, of course, is not proof that craniograph production caused the parasagittal scratches on Engis 2. However, given the patterning, the superficial nature of the marks, the associated chattermarks, and the presence of midline striae on the nuchal plane, this possibility deserves consideration. The adult cranium from Engis (Engis 1) also shows midsagittal profiling damage (Fig. 2A) as do both the Spy I and I1 crania. It is likely that the silbparallel striae that vertically traverse the Engis 2 frontal represent an unfortunately common damage pattern on fossil crania that has nothing to do with prehistoric activity. Sanding damage Russell and LeMort (1986)describe patches of scratches, which they note on the Engis 2 PREPARATION DAMAGE ON ENGIS specimen as “enigmatic” and “puzzling.” Explanation of these marks is straightforward but requires consultation with Fraipont’s 1936 monograph on the specimen. It is clear from the plates in this publication that the specimen was stabilized by restoring the missing vault sections with plaster or a plaster-wax mixture. Sandpaper was apparently used to smooth the restoration material between the broken vault edges to make it conform to the vault contours. Sanding overlapped onto the adjacent bone, creating striae, or patches of scratches at this time. Sandpaper striae are clearly visible in Fraipont’s 1936 published photographs of the specimen (his Plates 1 and 2)-photographs taken before the plaster was removed. The plaster was ultimately removed, but the scratches remained. This kind of scratching is evident on other similarly restored specimens. The Spy I and I1 Neandertal crania, housed in Brussels with the Engis 2 cranium for decades, are good examples of this phenomenon. Sections of plaster restoration still remain on the Spy crania. These sections bear sanding scratches that overlap onto the adjacent fossil bone, creating scratch patches on the bone itself (Fig. 2B). Molding damage The Engis 2 cranium has been molded for casting at least twice since its recovery. The first molding was a n extremely complex affair, documented by photographs in the Anthropology Department of the Institut Royal des Sciences Naturelles de Belgique. In addition, at least one more recent mold has been made that now resides in Liege. Formation of a part line between mold portions and the subsequent removal of the two opposing mold halves has often been accomplished by technicians using sharp metal tools, sometimes scalpels. Some of the scratches noted by Russell and LeMort correspond to such molding damage. These include the longer endocranial striae and probably the horizontal scratches encircling the vault. Such damage is very common in Neandertal fossils (Toth and White, in preparation). CONCLUSIONS The striae that Russell and LeMort (1986) describe on the Engis 2 cranium and attribute to prehistoric hands are damage patterns too common among fossil hominids. These damage patterns are postfossilization and postexcavation. They stem from sandpaper striae formed during restoration of the vault (Figs. 3 and 4), molding striae formed when 367 mold part lines were incised into the fossil, and profiling striae formed when craniograms were made with sharp steel instrument tips (Figs. 1 and 2). None of the marks have anything to do with prehistoric behavior. Russell and LeMort tabulate European fossil hominid crania reported by LeMort (1981) as bearing incised striations. They choose the Krapina “A” specimen as a n example, noting that it bears “. . . a large number of long, finely incised striations, in that case running roughly parallel to the coronal suture, passing from one squamosal suture to the other” (1986: p. 319). Paracoronal craniograph production is responsible for these scratches, just as it is for the ones found on the Steinheim specimen. Patterns of striations certainly do exist on fossil hominid crania, and these patterns relate clearly to human behavior. Engis 2, however, demonstrates that not every scratch was made by the edge of a Paleolithic tool. Those that were not threaten to create a false view of Paleolithic mortuary practices. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Thanks are extended to the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation for making our work on trauma to hominid fossils possible; and to J.-M. Cordy, who made it possible to study the Engis specimens; and to A. Leguebe, for permission to study the Spy material. We are extremely grateful to Prof. J. de Heinzelin for the photograph from I.R.S.N.B. archives, and for discussion, encouragement, and patience. Four unnamed reviewers provided incisive, helpful comments. The photographs were printed by David Symonik, and the translations were provided by Larissa Smith of the Institute of Human Origins. LITERATURE CITED Fraipont C (1936) Les hommes fossiles dEngis. Arch Inst. Paleont. Hum. 16t1-52. LeMort F (1981) IJegradations artificirlles stir d c ~os humains du Palbolithique. PhD Thwis, Dcpt. of Vert+ brate Paleo. and Hum. Paleo., L’Universite Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris. Lewin R (1981) Protohuman activity etched in fossil bones. Science 213:123-124. Martin R (1914) Lehrbuch der Anthropologie. Jena: Gustav Fischer. Russell MD, and LeMort F (1986)Cutmarks on the Engis 2 calvaria? Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 69~317-323. Toth N, and White TD (in preparation) Modern trauma to hominid fossils: Chipping, probing, grinding, peeling and slicing away at our heritage. White TD (1986) Cutmarks on the Bod0 cranium: A case of prehistoric defleshing. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 69t503-509.