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.

Suggested Reading:

http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0029029

About upper Pleistocene discpersals of the genus homo:

http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijeb/2011/615094/cta/

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