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An Experimental Program to Evaluate Proposed Functions of Crescents from the Western United States
AuthorLenzi, Michael Raymond
AdvisorSmith, Geoffrey M.
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Crescents are generally lunate bifaces associated with terminal Pleistocene/early Holocene assemblages in the western U.S. and are commonly found near relict lakeshores, marshes, and the Pacific Coast. Many hypotheses regarding crescents’ function have been proposed but it has remained a mystery for over a century. This study attempts to demystify crescents by employing a series of experiments involving replicated crescents to evaluate some of the more common hypotheses and gain a better understanding of their role in the prehistoric toolkit. I used crescents to cut leather, scrape willow, and tip projectiles thrown at targets. I then applied models from human behavioral ecology to evaluate the efficiency of crescents for each task. Additionally, I analyzed the breaks that accrued from use on the replicated crescents and compared them to archaeological patterns. Results from this study indicate that the primary function of crescents for cutting and slicing tasks and scraping plants is not supported; however, use as transverse projectile points is well-supported. These results have wider applicability to understanding Paleoindian lifeways and adaptation in the West.