2012-12-02

Re- use of flint material during the prehistory



Flint, the raw material used to make tools, not always was available in such quantities to make any desired  tool for the moment. During  the Palaeolithic,  the landscape was open, and during the relative cold periods  flint must have been  easy to find at exposed surfaces.
Neanderthal men made large tools, as the raw material was accessible both in limestone layers ( as banded  'banks') and at  the riverbanks, but they also transported the raw material into their camps over large distances, demonstrated by several  "manuports" in their local  campsite(s). 
The best quality flint was used in the base camps ( mostly in the caves more to the south). K. di Modica (1) placed the use of the cretaceous flint in the local use of raw material ranging up to 5 km. 
Further from this location, (> 5 – 15 km) the standardization of tool-production and material -use diminished, to locations up to 50 km and more where the raw material was not classified no more, so they used all kinds of ground stones/ flint. 
Middle -Palaeolithic tools and flint implements of such temporarly, 'distant' sites  show both the Levallois technique and superior quality flint, so in this raw material choice we might conclude (i.c.) the Middle Palaeolithic base-camp at Visé-Lanaye Caestert in Belgium was ( for temporarily reasons) very important.
During the ( later) Mesolithic, the landscape was dominated by large forests and bush, so useful flint was hard to find, except at the riverbanks and the former river terraces, where rolled flint was available. We might expect a careful use of the material. The use of microliths  in the standard assemblage was not only because of the lack of good quality  flint  for the production of very tiny tools, but  this was also the result of a different game hunting and an 'easy and light ' transport of their tools and weapons in a nomadic lifestyle. During the stone ages, flint tools were reduced all the time,e.g. when an artifact broke, was used up, or simply needed to be transformed into another tool with another purpose.This is illustrated by the short "chaine opératoire".
During the Neolithic, flint was available to make tools, by large scale, systematic  mining activities.  Recycled tools which are easy to determine as recycled tools are those tools that once were polished, broke and afterwards were transformed into another tool.
The examples in this article contain late Neolithic polished axes that were re- used by flaking them and use them as scrapers. 
The polished surface remained partially intact for contact with the hand. In this recycling idea we can even understand more about the use of ground stone tools, such as slate and quartz.


In the study of lithics it's always important to consider the stage in which an artifact was, when it was left in the landscape. Artifact size diminishes during the use, and artifacts were resharpened or reworked all the time. Blanks are artifacts that could be adapted into desired tools and only were shaped in a rough form.

Re-polished small axe from the Neolithic (Michelsberg-Culture) found near Eijs (Limb)
 Ventral view of a former polished axe, re-used for the production of flakes

Dorsal view of the polished axe fragment

 Image above: the left two scrapers on the image are made of former polished axes from the Neolithic period; the scrapers at the right belong to the same polished axe, ( same Ryckholt flint) but these fragments don't show polish; they were found together, so all 4 scrapers are made of recycled material and got a second life (comp. splintered pieces / "Ausgesplittertes Stück" pierres esquilées - Fiedler 1979)

References/ internet/ Litt.
(1) K. Di Modica & C. Jungels (ed.). Paleolithique moyen en Wallonie: la collection Louis Eloy (Collections du Patrimoine culturel 2).  . 2009. Namur: Service du Patrimoine culturel; p.52 (image)
Fiedler L, (1979) For­men und Tech­ni­ken neo­li­thi­scher Stein­ge­räte aus dem Rhein­land, in Rhei­ni­sche Aus­gra­bun­gen, Band 19, Bei­träge zur Urge­schichte des Rhein­lan­des III, Köln, 1979, S. 118



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