Grand-Pressigny blades: Daggers, Scrapers, Lighters, Harvesting tools

grand pressigny dagger aggsbach

This is a 23 cm long dagger from the late Neolithic of Abbily, found during the early 20th century by a lokal teacher. The Grand-Pressigny (France, Indre-et-Loire) area, located south west of the Parisian Basin, holds the largest collection of flint artifacts known today in Western Europe. There during the late Neolithic, highly specialized craftsmen have flaked very long flint blades.

Large blade production repeatedly occurred  during prehistoric times, but the Grand Pressigny production system is the most spectacular and widespread example  (http://www.aggsbach.de/2012/09/large-blade-production-during-the-paleolithic-and-neolithic/). The longest one measures 382 mm. The apogee of this daggers production is dated between 2850 and 2400 B.C. To a larger scale, this phenomenon began one thousand years earlier at the end of the fourth millennium with the production of smaller flint daggers less sophisticated. These elder daggers were already transported, but in a lower number and smaller scope.

The long-distance export of state-of-the-art lithic products from specialized workshops characterizes the end of the Neolithic in Western Europe.  Most of these blades were produced during 450 years, much more than local population needed, and these blades were exported on vast distances in Western Europe. Long blades were plausibly equalized, transported and finally retouched in dagger. These blades compose the major part of exported flint products from the Grand-Pressigny handicrafts. Their handle was probably put locally by the acquirers.

We do not know how the transport of these blades was organized and Grand Pressigny daggers appeared in the context of different late Neolithic “cultures”. In N/W-Europe Grand Pressigny daggers are associated with male graves during the later part of the Single Grave Culture, between c. 2650-2400 BC. There is every reason to assume that during the following Bell Beaker Culture period (c. 2400-1900 BC) copper daggers replaced these flint daggers (http://www.aggsbach.de/2012/08/the-bell-beaker-phenomenon/). Discoveries of flint daggers from Grand Pressigny (Touraine), particularly in Switzerland but also in the Netherlands, Brittany, the Saône Valley or Aquitaine, are a good illustration of this phenomenon. The distribution these long flint blades among communities who had not yet mastered the new metal industry, and their discovery in funerary contexts, led prehistorians to consider them as prestige goods, an idea supported by their exceptional craftsmanship.

However, this interpretation is limited by the fact that they have also been found in villages, discarded in various conditions. Microwear analysis of Grand Pressigny artefacts found in the lake settlements show that, in their initial form, the daggers were used to harvest plants and more particularly cereals, sometimes up to the exhaustion of their cutting edges, before being reshaped into other tools of various types and functions. Consequently, a functional reason could justify their importation, as their length and straight edges were without equivalent in the locally made assemblages.

In South France and Nederland’s’ tombs, flint daggers are often polished and seem transformed in a local way. In South France, after they broke or became blunt, some of these daggers were transformed in smaller objects in the same shape of copper daggers well known in this area. Frequent in late Neolithic tombs, Grand-Pressigny flint daggers are also found in domestic settlements. In this archaeological context, they are discovered broken or highly blunt and often retouched and used as scrapers or lighters, in particular in western Switzerland, Jura and Alps (http://www.aggsbach.de/2012/09/grand-pressigny-dagger-from-the-lac-de-neuchatel/)

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