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2015-12-20 16:40:16   •   ID: 1256

Flint Dagger from the Neolithic of the Gargano / S-Italy

Figure 1
Gargano is a mountainous peninsula ca. 30km from north to south and 40km from east to west located on the Adriatic coast just south of the latitude of Rome. The Gargano is full of prehistorical sites with a density only comparable to some regions in the Perigord-See here: 1467 , here: 1683 and here 1684 . This late bifacially flaked Neolithic dagger (11 cm long) was found many years ago as a stray find.

If it was made from the characteristic Gargano flint, remains unknown, because the artifact is covered by a thick white patina, characteristic for many prehistoric flint tools from the area.

Morphologically, Flint daggers of Italy overlap with large flint-projectiles and halberds; therfore the researchers prefer the term" chipped stone foliates". The length of these items and microtraceological approaches allow normally a functional differentiation of these items.

Foliates are a typical phenomenon of the mid 5th millennium BC and pieces that can be defined as "daggers" are known from the 4th millennium onwards. Although many of these artifacts are old findings with lost context, some important data already emerged.

In N-Italy most foliates are from the rich flint resources of the Lessinian hills. Flint daggers in N-Italy appear simply as a larger version of tools already produced during the 5th millennium.

In central Italy the production of daggers was linked with Scadlia Rossa flint, but of minor importance.

In S-Italy the very homogeneous flint of the Gargano peninsula was most prevalent, both in the production of large-blade daggers and bifacially knapped daggers. There are numerous underground extraction structures in the Gargano promontory, remains of intensive flint quarrying. Mining began in the 5th millennium and continued to be used in the 4th and 3rd millennia. The production was specialized for making daggers, mainly from large blades. Insofar the production of large blades was part of a pan-European phenomenon, the "large blade tradition"*.  

The morphology of these blades is quite different from those made in earlier periods. Such blades are always around 20–21cm long. Almost all the large blades of the region are made on local flint and were retouched into daggers through pressure flaking. The extension of the retouch was variable on the upper face, and covers only the proximal part and the tip on the lower face. 

Figure 2
Compared with the blade daggers, bifacial daggers in the Gargano region are much rarer. Their size and their morphology have been used to distinguish them from the arrowheads. They are longer, and they are always wider. They are between 9,5 cm and 33 cm long. Their tang, if they possess one, is always large, unlike the tang of the arrowheads.

The bifacial daggers and the arrowheads are made by fine, bifacial pressure flaking. The only preform known to have been subjected to heat treatment was that of the dagger from Telese, but heat treatment seems not to be a regular part of the production process.

Manufacture and circulation networks could have had economic values, as well as being ‘social signs’ for indicating competitive status. There is an important symbolic dimension to exchange relationships which is well known in anthropological literature. The Neolithic exchange system from mines in the Gargano with nearby communities for flint was mainly used in blade production and for tranchet axes.

On the basis of ethnographic comparisons and archaeological data from contemporary contexts in southern Italy, a definition of part-time specialists in dagger production was proposed. Extraction activities were carried out by people who may be described as specialists given their technological skills, but who carried out this activity in a periodic and irregular way.

Extraction may have been a collective activity which functioned according to the same cyclical or seasonal mechanisms of temporary cooperation typical for ancient agricultural Societies.

*The most famous mass production of extraordinary long blades, which were used to produce Neolithic daggers in Europe, is known from the Grand Pressigny area, dating to the mid 3th millennium BC cal. These blades were massive: 25 to 38 cm long, 4 to 6 cm wide and about 1 to 1.5 cm thick and detached from special cores (“livre-de-beurre” cores). In 1970, a cache of 134 to 138 fresh blades was discovered at “La Creusette” and carefully excavated. The technological analysis of this cache revealed, that the blades were detached from the “livre-de-beurre” cores by an individualized indirect percussion technique. “Livre-de-beurre” cores as smaller scatters have been detected at some other sites in S-W-France, suggesting that some craftsman ordinarily working at Grand Pressigny helped to spread the “savoir faire” of such long blade and dagger production around an extended area.

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