Lap Shear and Impact Testing of Ochre and Beeswax in Experimental Middle Stone Age Compound Adhesives

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The production of compound adhesives using disparate ingredients is seen as some of the best evidence of advanced cognition outside of the use of symbolism. Previous field and laboratory testing of adhesives has shown the complexities involved in creating an effective Middle Stone Age glue using Acacia gum. However, it is currently unclear how efficient different adhesive recipes are, how much specific ingredients influence their performance, and how difficult it may have been for those ingredients to be combined to maximum effect. We conducted a series of laboratory-based lap shear and impact tests, following modern adhesion testing standards, to determine the efficacy of compound adhesives, with particular regard to the ingredient ratios. We tested rosin (colophony) and gum adhesives, containing additives of beeswax and ochre in varying ratios. During both lap shear and impact tests compound rosin adhesives performed better than single component rosin adhesives, and pure acacia gum was the strongest. The large difference in performance between each base adhesive and the significant changes in performance that occur due to relatively small changes in ingredient ratios lend further support to the notion that high levels of skill and knowledge were required to consistently produce the most effective adhesives.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalPLoS ONE
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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