Hand-held or Hafted?


nubian scraper msa 2 nubian scraper

This is a bifacial cortical „scraper” from the MSA of Upper Egypt, made from a flat chert pebble most probably made for a hand-held use.

Bifacial Tools act as blanks for different kinds of working. The tool thus acts as a “matrix”, which requires functional technical traits for its transformative (prepared area) and prehensile parts. The active edges are arranged on this matrix according to the intended function. We know variable prehensile modes like the hand-held mode, hand-held with a wrapping, or various hafting arrangements.

For long time it was suggested that it would it impossible to detect repetitive micro traces of a hand-held use and in many studies the identifications of hand-held use were based solely on the absence of convincing evidence for hafting. Anyhow prehension wear creates an extremely recurrent pattern, as  demonstrated by Rots during the last years. Compared to hafting, prehension scarring is more limited and scars are smaller and more evenly sized. (http://upers.kuleuven.be/en/book/9789058678010.  ).

It is important to know, that cortical regions on a tool are areas, where no potential wear can form. Cortical regions are usually impossible to analyse by a microtraceological approach, although their prehensile qualities may be obvious, as shown by the artifact in this post or cortical scrapers from a Quina or Yabrudian context. Some researchers even see the boundary between the Acheulo-Yabrudian and the Levallois-Mousterian in the Levant as a shift from hand-held to hafted tools.

On the other hand  an “intuitive” approach without microtraceology can be misleading. Keilmesser, which in our imagination would be optimal for a  hand-held use were often hafted as shown from the Micoquian ( KMG) strata of the  Sesselfelsgrotte (Bavaria/Germany).

Now let’s take a further step: Is there any certainty that the scraper of this post is a scraper?

Adhesives for composite Tools during the Acheulian?

The invention of Hafting and Backing


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About Katzman

During my whole life I was fascinated by stone age artefacts. Not only the aesthetic qualities of these findings, but also the stories around them and the considerations arising from their discovery, are a part of my blog. Comments and contributions are allways welcome!

About me: J.L. Katzman (Pseudonym). Born in Vienna. Left Austria in 1974 and did not regret. Studied Medicine and Prehistory at a German University. Member of a Medical Department at a German University.

Copyright 2010-2017 by JLK. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to use material in these posts so long as you cite the work.

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2 Responses to Hand-held or Hafted?

  1. Craig Riedl says:

    I notice in many of the posts that an item is refered to as a scraper. I would think that certanly many items with a steep edge such as thumb scrapers are indeed scrapers as well as other larger items. Use wear would certainly show the items to be scrapers. The above item could certainly be a scraper but it could function as cutting tool on it’s distal end.
    Hand axes have been shown by testing to be very effective for cutting through the hide of an animal as well as removing flesh from bones. Also cutting through connecting tussue at bone juntions. Of course smaller unretouched flakes work well to cul flesh also. I beleive a hand held larger tool even one dressed along one face is eiser to hold and manipulate during the dressing of animals. No hafting is necessary.

  2. Douglas Todd says:

    I’ve seen these tools on the desert floor in Western Sahara, exactly like this one pictured. I guess we need a definition of scraper/scraping and go from there. Many of the tools I analyze here in Canada that are deemed scrapers have that steep re touch along the working end Craig speaks of and then there are expedient scrapers formed along a margin of a flake/debitage that lacks a classic scraper work end but use wear analysis shows the rounding polish etc left my scraping an animal hide or vegetation. I am are a pebble/cobble scraper with a modified edge as the one pictured was used for not only scraping but cutting, hacking, scratching, chopping ….

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