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2012-01-22 19:18:27   •   ID: 1052

Bechar / Algeria: Aterian Artifacts and their functional meaning

Figure 1
These are some “Aterian” artifacts from the Algerian Sahara showing the variability of a random sample. The morphological continuum of Aterian tools ranges from pointed and elongated triangular forms to rounded and squat blunt forms, as demonstrated in this post.

Typologically this sample consists of “points”, “side-scrapers” and “end-scrapers” , „becs „ and pointed retouched blades – a rather modern programm avant les lettres...

Looking at the morphology, it seems unlikely that all Aterian implements were used as Projectile points, as often suggested.

In addition, beside the tanged implements- the Non-Tanged MSA in the Maghreb is by no means techno-typological different from the Aterian ensembles (Dibble 2013).

The technocomplex is defined by the presence of ‘tanged’ or tools, which have been widely assumed to be among the earliest projectile weapon tips. This hypothesis had rarely been explored in detail. Radu Iovita was the first demonstrating in a large sample of Aterian tools that the variation in shape within that the sample exhibits size-dependent patterns consistent with a reduction of the tools from the tip down, with the tang remaining intact.

This pattern supports a functional hypothesis of Aterian artifacts as hafted knives or scrapers with alternating active edges, rather than as weapon tips. Anyhow the use of (spear) tips of some of these tools could not be ruled out.

Tamasso and Rots, showed on the Ifri n'Ammar material, that a part of the tanged artifacts were indeed hafted- this was verified both for points (Armatures) and scraper. The points prooved to have been used as armatures in hunting activities, while the scrapers were used in hide-working activities.

What remains to be important is the use of tanges for various tools that were hafted – as points, scrapers, Becs and pointed Blades– a clear regional pattern not seen anywere in the Old World before the advent of the Upper Paleolithic.

Provenance: Collection Weigand (AUT)