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2021-09-04 22:51:58   •   ID: 2266

Flint Sickle, Keilmesser or a Neolithic Crescent-Knife?- An Artifact from the Seine/Marne Region

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Figure 4
This is a flat, most probably late Neolithic Flint Tool (8x5x2,5 cm), found decennia ago in the Seine /Marne Region in France.

The upper part, in the orientation shown in Figure 1-3, resembles a highly convex bow, with a bifacial flat retouche and a repeatedly reworked, circumferential working edge.

The artifact ends with a short bifacially retouched pin-like short tang, which probably facilitated hafting.

the "Back" of the tool,-the lower part in the orientation shown in Figure 4, consists of a 1.2 cm thick intentional breaking edge- a principle that has been widely used since the Mousterian and MSA- see here: 1734 .

The most well known example of this technique in Prehistory is probably the intentionally breakage of large “Canaanean” blades during the Latest Neolithic / Early Bronze Age of the Middle East.

Principially the tool could be an extreme form of a "Keilmesser" from the Late Middle Paleolithic, but such a designation seems to be not very probable, although not impossible (see attached file from Weiss 2020). Anyhow I am not aware of any comparable piece from the Paleolithic of northern France and the Paris region.

The artifact does not resemble any Neolithic or early Bronze Age sickle. Since the early Neolithic, sickles are either made from rectangular, often backed and sometimes serrated blades or flakes. An example from the early Bronze Age in Israel can be viewed here: 1298

Or, on the other hand, sickles with a Bifacial, straight or concave design are well known from Neolithic Egypt, North Africa and North/East Europe -see here: 1737

Finally, many prehistoric sickles are characterized by a shiny patina, called sickle-gloss, a silica residue, clearly missing on the artifact, shown of this post. Therfore, I personally consider the tool to be rather a knife-like artifact.

During the Late Neolithic of Northern France comparable pieces are found sporadically, for example from La Croix-Saint-Ouen site (Oise)- although designated in the Publication as a Flake-Scraper.

Functionally, a convex design of a knife-like stone tool has a number of important advantages. When properly executed, a convex retouched knife-like tool will have a comparatively stronger cutting edge and still be able to cut smoothly, as it can be thinned several times over the entire circumference by reworking.

If the device is shafted along the blunted back, it is possible to achieve a much stronger cutting force than with an ordinary knife as we know it from today, which ends in a longitudinal handle.

Also conceivable would be a levering function that would have allowed to break pieces from different materials. Finally, the cutting edge is comparatively longer compared with straight examples.

I do not think much of ethnological comparisons, but in the case of this artifact, the idea of an Ulu (Manson 1890), a crescent knife made from thin slate plates, but occasionally also from Flint and Hornfels by Inuit women, comes to my mind. The Ulu had a high symbolic value for woman’s identity as described in a short essay here: Symbolism .

The hafting of an Ulu by wood, bone or horn followed various configurations and was already described in detail by Mason in 1890 - a good example of an early material-based ethnology - still worth reading today (see attached file).

This technological analogy was first proposed for Middle Paleolithic leaf points and Keilmesser, as far as I know by the eminent German Prehistorian Hansjürgen Müller-Beck (1927–2018).

Ethnological comparisons show that similar hafted tools, in addition to a cutting function, allow scraping movements from different directions, for example for cleaning skins or cutting up meat for food sharing.