Gravettian lithic Projectile with Marginal Retouche


marginal aggsbachretouche

This is a small (3 cm long) and thin (0,4 mm) symmetric projectile point from the middle Gravettian at a well stratified site in the Vezere valley with a continuous fine marginal retouche on the right edge. It does not resemble a Flechette and has more affinities to “El Wad points” of the Levant. It is straight and not twisted and therefore a contamination of the Gravettian layer by an underlying “Aurignacien recent” at the site is unlikely ( A Protoaurignacian is not know at the site.

During the Gravettian of S/W-France and western Central Europe, lithic technology was centered on the production of blades and bladelets. Blank production was executed mostly in a unipolar fashion, and bladelets were produced in continuity of the blade production. At some sites, bladelet production began independly from blade production with the selection of small blocks of the raw material. In addition some burins (for example polyhedral burins) were rather bladelet cores rather than tools.

The aim of lithic production during the Gravettian was the detachment of straight rectangular blades and bladelets with a triangular or quadrangular cross section. In blanks with a triangular cross section, the thicker edge was used to create a straight continuous back by abrupt retouche following mainly the outline of the blank. In blanks with a quadrangular cross section, the backed edge had to be more invasive to create a back. Of course the thickness of the blank plays also a role in sharpening a backed tool. If the blade / bladelet are very flat, the creation of a back may become impossible.

Although marginal retouche is rare during the Gravettian, it nevertheless occurs as demonstrated in this small projectile point from middle Gravettian context in the Vezere valley. Publications about Gravettian sites usually do not discuss such artifacts or ascribe their origin to a “Aurignacian contamination”. Another strategy to deal with the “problem” of non-backed artifacts during the Gravettian is their simple attribution to the category of backed implements at some sites (for example: publications about the Vigne Brun site). Marginally retouched bladelets from the Gravettian have never been systematically reviewed to my knowledge.

Certainly the bladelet shown here was too thin for backing, but nevertheless attractive for the knapper due to its raw material (coming from Bergeracois 40 km away from this specific site) and symmetry. The “Gravettians” were surely more creative than only frantically trying to give every single implement a “back” for several thousand years. It would be worthwhile to take a closer look on such artifacts!

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