Bechar / Algeria: Aterian Artifacts and their functional meaning

These are some “Aterian” artifacts from the Algerian Sahara showing the variability of a random sample. The morphological continuum of Aterian tools ranges from pointed and elongated triangular forms to rounded and squat blunt forms, as demonstrated in this post. Typologically this sample of consists of “points”, “side-scrapers” and “end-scrapers”. Actually we have no idea about the functional impact of “Aterian” implements.

The Aterian is certainly much older than previously assumed and dates back at least to OIS6. The technocomplex is defined by the presence of ‘tanged’ or tools, which have been widely assumed to be among the earliest projectile weapon tips. This hypothesis has never been explored in detail before, despite the fact, that many Aterian Artifacts rather resemble “scrapers” and that the “points” are better described as stemmed convergent tools with two retouched edges.

Radu Iovita (RGZM, Schloss Monrepos, Neuwied, Germany) recently demonstrated in a large sample of Aterian tools that the variation in shape within that the sample exhibits size-dependent patterns consistent with a reduction of the tools from the tip down, with the tang remaining intact. This pattern supports a functional hypothesis of Aterian artifacts as hafted knives or scrapers with alternating active edges, rather than as weapon tips. Anyhow the use of (spear) tips of some of these tools cannot be ruled out.

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About Katzman

During my whole life I was fascinated by stone age artefacts. Not only the aesthetic qualities of these findings, but also the stories around them and the considerations arising from their discovery, are a part of my blog. Comments and contributions are allways welcome! About me: J.L. Katzman (Pseudonym). Born in Vienna. Left Austria in 1974 and did not regret. Studied Medicine and Prehistory at a German University. Member of a Medical Department at a German University. Copyright 2010-2017 by JLK. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to use material in these posts so long as you cite the work.
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