Serrated tool from the Fontmaure site: Authentic artifact or a hoax on a Mousterian Blade?




Serrated blades and bladelets first appeared during the Pavlovian and to a lesser exted during the Gravettian of France. Lartet in the 1860ies already noted that the tiny “Magdalenian saws” may have been used for the production of ivory needles at La Madeleine and Bruniquel. Serration is a common feature and one of the the “fossile directeurs” of the late Magdalenian, especially in S/W-France.

Serrated blades and bladelets also became a  part of artifact ensembles during the Upper Paleolithic and the Epipaleolithic of North Africa and the Levant. Serration is a common feature on Neolithic / Early Bronze Age stone sickles over the old world. It has been shown experimentally with modern sickles that the sharpness of serrated sickles is more stable than non-serrated ones and that serration of sickles significantly reduces the work load of the harvester.

This is a serrated blade from the Fontmaure site (13,5 x 2,6 cm). The margin opposite to the serrated working edge shows some crude backing, that may indicate a hand hold use of the artifact, while the back is too thick (up to 2, 5 cm) to be inserted into a hafting device. Similar pieces are known from the „neolithique de tradition campignienne” in France. Like many of the larger pieces from Fontmaure, this artifact is made from the homogenous yellow jasper variant, while multicolored jasper was only used for smaller tools, because of its unfavorable knapping properties.

The Campignian was named for the site at Campigny, Haute-Normandie, France during the late 19th century. Campignian ensembles are characterized by picks and tranchets and large scrapers and are sometimes associated with pottery.

It was suggested for a long time that the Campignian represented a widespread European crude stone toolmaking “culture”, beginning during the Mesolithic, but developing in the Neolithic,  spreading throughout most of northern and central Europe and the British Isles.

Nowadays it has been recognized that different ensembles with crude implements appeared and disappeared most probably independently during different times at different places over the old world  (The “heavy Neolithic” in the Orontes valley in Lebanon, the “Ertebölle” complex in Northern Europe , the “Asturian” in Span and Portugal, Middle and Late Neolithic ensembles in France). In this view, the Campignian refers rather to a technique than to a “cultural” unit.

I have to admit that the “Campignian-connection” of the tool is not very convincing. I did not find a really parallel in the Campignian ensembles. Therefore another possibility arises: the artifact could be a fake.  Neolithic pieces from Fontmaure are notorious rare. There is no parallel among the thousand artifact known from the site to the tool of this post. The ad-hoc probability to have a unique tool in my small collection is low. People who know the materials from the site better than me, told me that this  type of jasper, when newly retouched has almost the same  patination as the old surfaces.

The blade itself looks typical for the Mousterian of Fontmaure. Most of these blades are said to be considerable thick. Many of them have a triangular cross-section and are backed. People who studied such blanks insist that they never noticed any serration on such blades. They also insist that such a backed serrated piece would be easy to make by pressure flaking on the edge and secondary polishing by soft wood and grasses.

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