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2018-11-11 14:46:42   •   ID: 2050

Upper Paleolithic Endscrapers

Figure 1
Figure 1 shows a heavy Aurignacian scraper from Combe Capelle in the Dordogne.

Correlation between a tool-class and a specific function is always problematic. The relationship between form and function is an ambiguous issue, that needs to be demonstrated en detail, rather than assumed.

A Middle Paleolithic “point” may have been a projectile point but more often was used as a scraper for wood and hide-working.

Large “Gravette points” were used as knifes and burins are formidable bladelet cores  and a “microlithic saws” may have been used as a projectiles.

A Levallois point embedded in the vertebra of a wild ass, as found at Umm el Tlel (El Kowm basin of Central Syria; strata older than 50 k.a) certainly shows that this artifact was part of a hunting device, but does not mean that every Levallois point, or even that the majority of these artifacts may have been used in this way.

Simple end scrapers from the European Upper Paleolithic were typically made from blades or flakes without modification except to produce a convex scraping edge. A number of (sub-) parallel flakes were removed from the end or side of the distal part of the blank to produce a thick wide-angled “scraping edge”.

The retouches on this edge varies from irregular to a perfect regularity.

The scraping edge typically has an angle that ranges from 70 to 90 degrees. Edge wear is very characteristic of end scrapers and they must have been repeatedly resharpened in order to serve effectively.

Consequently, scrapers became shorter and shorter in length with continued usage (Figure 3).

Function: As the name suggests, the scraper has traditionally been an artifact assigned to one specific function: namely the scraping and working of hides or animal skins. This assumption is substantiated, at least for many European specimens by microtraceology.

Implements that facilitated the efficient scraping, cutting, and piercing of animal hides were of overall importance to produce clothings to protect the body in harsh environments.

Preparing skins according the Archeological context and Ethnological records begins with cooling the animal skin immediately once it was removed from the animal's body by placing it in the shade on a cool surface.

Visible tissue or fat that was left on the hide has to be removed by scraping tools, which could be made of stone or even organic materials made of bone or antler.

Organic Lissoirs, one of the first standardized bone tools, made by Neanderthals during MIS3, made of deer ribs, could have been used to prepare hides to make them more "supple, lustrous and impermeable". They were steadily used during the Upper Paleolithic, also.

Certainly we have to imagine some kind of tanning process, but micro residues about this important step of preparation have not been found from Paleolithic times.

At Pavlov I 15/18 end scrapers were used for hide working and 2 /18 for Antler / Ivory work. The picture at other sites is similar: hide working is most prominent, but scrapers had been used multifunctional, for example as adzes for woodworking (during the late Magdalenian at  La Garenne; Indre; France).

Figure 2
The end scraper as a tool may hold more functions than had been previously thought. Instead of having a one- dimensional use for the scraping of hides, it may have demonstrated several different forms of use throughout its life, on several different substances.

In addition, the function of the scraper may have changed during the course of its life as wear and retouching altered the edge angles. Especially during the Aurignacian, "Carinated scrapers" and "Nosed Scrapers" served as bladelet cores (Figure 2 from the Aurignacian of La Rochette near Le Moustier in the Vezere Valley)

Typologically several types of scrapers exist. These include the side scraper (working edge on the long edge), the classic artifact of the MSA and MP but not absent during the Upper Paleolithic and the end scraper (convex working edge on the distal end of a flake or blade).

End scrapers can be combined with a second scraper edge (double scrapers) or with a burin edge (for hafting?). Some end scrapers are denominated according to their size (thumbnail scraper, approximately the size and shape of a thumbnail)

“Spoon scrapers” first appeared at Ehringsdorf (OIS7) and were common during the Aurignacian (Fig. 3:  Aurignacian near the Mont Circeo in West-Italy south of Rome) .

Figure 3
Cortical scapers are made on a cortical blade or flake and are known from the Solutrean in S/W-France and as scrapers from the Levantine Bronze age.

Other scrapers  are named according to the site, they were first found. For example the Ksar Akil scraper found at Ksar Akil-see here: 1149 , in Stratum 4/5 (non-calebrated lC-14 data: 29-30 k.a. BP). Other specimens are known from Tha’lab al-Buhayra (Wadi al-Hasa in west-central Jordan; 24-26 k.a.) and Boker D (Negev; Israel25-27 k.a.).

Laugerie scrapers are flat (double) scrapers with lateral retouches, first found during the 19th century diggings at the Grimaldi caves ("Grimaldi scrapers") and at Laugerie haute west where they are characteristic for an evolved Solutrean with bilateral Leafpoints.

End scrapers in Europe are common since the Early Upper Paleolithic (including “transitional industries” such as the Châtelperronian and Szeletian), although they can occasionally observed during Lower and Middle Paleolithic ensembles. Nice examples were present at the “Atelier Commont” (OIS9) at St. Acheul.

During the earlier stages of the Aurignacian in France and Central Europe (Figure 4: from Swabia / South West Germany) end scrapers with lateral retouches were common.  These lateral retouches may have allowed a better hafting .

An interesting combination found both in the French and central European Aurignacian are endscrapers on strangled blades.

Figure 5 shows an endscraper from the Early Gravettian from La Vigne-Brun, located in the eastern Massif Central, 5 km upstream from Roanne in the Loire river valley. Vigne Brun / Villerest-see here: 1718 .

During the earlier Gravettian complex simple end scrapers are found in abundance (for example during the early Perigordian in S/W-France, in the Rhone and Upper Loire Valleys, but also in central Europe at Pavlov I, while the domestic tools during the later phases are more characterized by burins. It is unknown, why endscrapers lost their role at this time.

Figure 5
The Magdalenian has a large variability of end scrapers ranging  from tiny specimens to very large and robust ones. Small thumbnail scrapers during the final European Paleolithic are characteristic for the late Epigravettian and the Azilian.

The scraper may be hafted onto wood or antler, as indicated by microtraceological studies on some examples. The only scraper embedded into a haft I know comes from the Magdalenian of the Pekarna cave in the Moravian Karst.

A great potential for a better characterization of the scraper function will be the search and evaluation of organic residues by sophisticated techniques of organic chemistry. This methodology promises to achieve a lot of new insights, as recently demonstrated for  Fat Residue and Use-Wear Found on Acheulian Biface and Scraper Associated with Butchered Elephant Remains at the Site of Revadim, Israel.