Enigmatic Object from the Central Sahara


This is an isolated Y-shaped flint object (51 x 46 mm) from the central Sahara, part of a Belgian Collection assembled during the 1930 ies. H. Breuil described these instruments as a special form of a double, or more often triple notch-more or less in the form of a T or Y made on flint or quartzite. He suggested that they were part of the local “Mostero-Aterien”. Breuil liked such analogies-the piece reminded him on peculates from the local MSA.

It has been suggested, that the functional important parts of such artifacts, if interpreted as utilitarian objects, are undoubtedly constituted by the the deep notches which are carefully retouched. Therefore their functional classification as scrapers, first proposed by M. Nougier, seems plausible. It is very likely that we are dealing with a combined tool, a sort of a trifacial scraper for various purposes  which in no way precludes  their use for other purposes.

Some rare observations indicate that “pieces en forme de “T”  from the Sahara belong to an MSA context.  They have indeed found as isolated pieces in Aterian contextes, but others researchers argue, that they were found in much larger quantities among Neolithic surface material of the central and northern Sahara. In the valley of the Guir for example, Paul Fitte discovered a large quantity of T or Y artifacts owning an extraordinary freshness. Fitte suggested, that they  could be relatively recent, neolithic, or post-Neolithic. In addition, to my knowledge, T or Y forms are totally absent in stratigraphic intact MSA / Aterian deposits of the Maghreb and the pre-Saharan zone. Anyhow, pieces with similar morphology sometimes appeared during the late Neolithic of M/W- France (Fig. 4).

It can even not be excluded that such artifacts were reworked Aterian tools, produced during late prehistoric or early historic times. Even  the speculation about their use as “jouets chameau” , which referres to the observation, that similar pieces, made from flint, were used as toys by Tuareg children is not wholly impossible.

Suggested Reading:

P. Fitte: Etude d’une station d’objets en forme de T de la vallée moyenne de l’oued Guir (Sahara occidental). La Station 458. (via Persee).

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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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One Response to Enigmatic Object from the Central Sahara

  1. WL says:

    Ihr “Enigmatic Object” erinnerte mich sehr an manches Flint-Gerät, das ich hier in Bremen aus dem Weser-Schlick gezogen habe – ich hänge Ihnen Bilder des markantesten Objektes an… Neben dem ästhetischen Reiz, der Idealität einer Spiegel- bzw. Rotationssymmetrie, schienen mir die Dinger immer einen sehr praktischen Zweck gehabt zu haben: Die konkaven Grate sind wunderbar über Holzstecken oder Knochen zu ziehen…

    Schöne Grüße mit Dank für Ihren wunderbaren Blog,


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