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2017-10-03 17:28:53   •   ID: 1665

Hafting during the late European Middle Paleolithic

Figure 1
This is an unusual mono-facial scraper (7x5 cm) from Saint-Brice-sous-Rânes (Orne department; France. Figure 1 and 2: dorsal side; Figure 3: ventral side).

What makes this scraper special is the carefully executed spine on the right side and traces of hafting: On the dorsal side, one sees a sharp change in the polishing, color and structure of the retouche, which is well explained by a difference in the use of different areas of the surface: the right part of the surface would have been protected by a handle, while the left surface was freely exposed to mechanical forces (better seen on Figure 2).

Figure 2
In addition, the patination of the two functional units is different. Therefore we can conclude that the polished right part was the prehensile / hafted edge which was modified by a spine, working like a pin for better stability in an organic handle.

Tl-data for the non-Levallois series at Saint-Brice-sous-Rânes scatter around 40 k.a. BP (MIS3). Although the site is a large workshop with many rough outs and unfinished tools, the presence of highly curated tools, like the one introduced in this post, suggest that different activity areas existed at the vast site.

Figure 3
In the European Middle Paleolithic, traces of hafting have been repeatedly observed on convergent tools (Biache-Saint-Vaast, OIS 7; La Cotte-Saint-Brelade-layer 5, OIS 7; Staroselje, OIS 4; Buran-Kaya III-Level B1, OIS3; Königsaue OIS 5d or 3).

In Königsaue (Germany) a birch-bark pitch displays imprints of a bifacial tool and a wooden haft. Inden-Altdorf near Jülich in the Rhineland (Germany) was dated to OIS 5e.

The artefact assemblage from Inden Altdorf is said to be Micoquian, but a final publication is missing. The drawings, published so far seem to be convincing for such a classification. It is one of the rare Paleolithic sites where birch pitch residues were found on tools and offers evidence of the production of synthetic pitch for the use of composite tool technology from the Neanderthal world.

Another finding was published late in 2019: The discovery of a 50 k.a.old birch tar-hafted flint tool found off the present-day coastline of The Netherlands (Niekus et. al 2009).

Two flakes with birch tar residues from Campitello, Central Italy, dated before OIS 6 are the earliest indication for this technology so far. During MIS 3 hafting was clearly a systematic practice at the Sesselfelsgrotte G (Bavaria; Germany).

G Rots (2009) described that hafting was preferable used for projectiles and percussion tools. Scraping tools were also preferentially used in a haft, possibly as a way to increase the exerted pressure, while for other artifacts no particular prehensile mode is vital for their use, and traces of hafting are usually missing.