Thursday, September 02, 2010

Quote of the day: Bears, scrapers and points, oh my!

I'm co-teaching a seminar on Neanderthals and the origins of modern humans at UCD this fall, and so far having a really good time. Today, I introduced the topic of Mousterian stone tool technology to my students, including this classic tip on how to distinguish convergent scrapers from Mousterian points...
"In fact, the major problem in classifying Mousterian points is distinguishing them not from other point types but from convergent scrapers... Bordes (1961) himself offered a light-hearted "functional" criterion, writing that the best way to decide is to haft the piece and try to kill a bear with it. If the result is successful, then it is a point; if not, then it should be considered a convergent scraper. One of the problems with this approach is that it can quickly exhaust the available supply of bears or typologists, depending on the nature of the assemblage." (Debénath and Dibble 1994: 62).

Reference

Debénath, A. and H.L. Dibble. 1994. Handbook of Paleolithic Typology Volume One: Lower and Middle Paleolithic of Europe. University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

4 comments:

stratguy said...

That was a great quote too! But the french accent sold it.

- ian

Millán Mozota said...

I've heard another "home-brew" criterion: Place the tool with the pointed end looking upside, and try to seat on it: If you injury yourself, it is a point. If not, it is a double sidescrapper.

Julien Riel-Salvatore said...

Ian -
whatever it takes to make you guys remember it! :)

Julien Riel-Salvatore said...

Millán -
on this, I might have to stick with a more traditional approach...