Evaluating the Role of Skill Level in Fish Butchery.
Lauren M. Willis, Andrew R. Boehm.
Keywords: EXPERIMENTAL ARCHAEOLOGY, CUT MARKS, CHINOOK SALMON, SKILL, KNOWLEDGE, KNOW-HOW, BUTCHERY
Recent butchery experiments have acknowledged the potential influence of experience level on experimental results. This paper evaluates the effect of skill level on the number and distribution of cut marks produced on fish bone during butchery. Participants of varying skill levels (novice, intermediate, and professional) butchered a total of 30 salmon. Professional butchers differed from intermediate- and novice-level butchers in the number of cut marks produced and the amount of time required to butcher the fish. Specifically, the professional butchers produced nearly 50% fewer cut marks than novices and intermediate-level butchers; the intermediate- and novice-level butchers were statistically indistinguishable. The distribution of the cut marks varied both within and between the skill levels. These results have implications for experimental methodology and for future efforts to identify butchery skill within the archaeological record.