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2020-05-25 09:23:33   •   ID: 2182

Prehistoric Awls

Figure 2
Figure 1 and 2: This is a bipointed meticulous polished bone awl from a pile dwelling site of Lake Constance.

Because Bi-pointed awls are known since the early Upper Paleolithic in the Old World a pre- Neolithic age of the item can not be excluded.

Figure 3 displays a more simple awl from the Terramare Culture at Maggio near Bologna, Italy (courteously by W. Hernus; about Terramare see here: 2092 ).

The awl, shown in Figure 1 and 2 has an elegant flat form, a length of 7 cm, and a pointed tip on both ends. Anyhow this tool could also be a projectile, a clothing pin or a fishing hook-see here: 1411 .

While the use as a small projectile or a clothing pin can not be excluded, fishing hooks usually exhibit a drilled hole or a notch on the shaft / medial part of the artifact and therefore are unlikely.

Anyhow Mortillet in his Placard Monograph described an almost identical piece as "hameçon". Only Microtraceology of our piece could settle the Problem of a correct functional designation of the piece.

Functionally and supported by micro wear studies, awls were pointed tools for making small holes in inorganic and organic materials, but could also have been used to create decorative incisions on pottery.

A major purpose of Awls during the Paleolithic was certainly the piercing or drilling holes to sew together clothes from animal skins, before the revolutionary advent of sewing needles-see here: 1677

There is no no standard typology available, describing bone awls, but according to several researchers morphologically awls may classified into:

  • Splinter awls wich were made from bone splinters that were sharpened at one end but remain otherwise without modification

  • Cylindrical awls on small long bones, for example on the radius or ulna of different small species. like birds. They were usually fully polished and oval or round in cross section : Figure 3

  • Bipointed awls: Morphology as shown in Figure 1 and 2

Figure 3
First polished bone artifacts, which are suggested to be awls are known from the Still Bay and Howiesons Poort levels at Blombos Cave and Sibudu in South Africa (77-64 k.a. BP.

The fine polish of these tools is suggestive for a non-utilitarian purpose, for example their use as a part of exchange systems along the South African cost and its hinterland (d’Errico & Henshilwood 2007).

After 40 k.a. BP Awls were a constant feature in the Archeological record all over the old world.

Anyhow, the evidence of such artifacts is dependent on the environmental milieu of their embedment and therefore, they have been mainly found in anaerobic, basic milieus, such as bogs and pile dwellings-like the example shown here.