Recent developments in Paleolithic research have underscored the dynamic and temporal nature of the archeological record. Most Paleolithic assemblages are palimpsests defined by stratigraphic criteria and are aggregates made up of remains from an unknown number of depositional events. Although the exact duration of such formation processes cannot be established, it is possible that most Pleistocene assemblages accumulated over the course of hundreds or thousands of years. This cumulative character has important consequences in interpreting archeological assemblages, especially when attempting to apply ethnographically-derived middle-range theories constructed in high resolution temporal contexts. Events of different natures can contribute to these palimpsests and assemblages should therefore not be considered as coherent constructs from a functional, economical or cultural point of view.
Stone artifacts may exhibit complex life histories characterized by the succession of different manufacture and/or use events. The meaning of artifacts may differ through time and the “final “form in the archaeological record, is usually the outcome of the successive modifications and may be very different from that imposed in the first manufacture event. Recycling of artifacts is a behavior that implies successive stages of modification and/or use of the same artifact Resharpening is a maintenance procedure aimed at extending the use life of an artifact (a scraper remains a scraper). It can be considered an economic behavior which is especially useful in contexts characterized by a shortage of raw materials, in which it is costly to discard worn-out artifacts. Unlike Resharpening, recycling is defined by a phase of discard between the different use events. It is not the extension of the use life of the artifact, but the beginning of a new use life.
This is a large (9x5x2,5 cm) convergent scraper from the Middle Paleolithic of Northern France. I do not think that that this artifact started as a simple side scraper and was later reworked. It seems that this artifact was made with the intention to detach a heavy triangular flake from a core and to use it as a convergent tool. It was surly more than a “geste automatique” made by a dull Neanderthal.