A 15,000 YEAR OLD SWISS ARMY KNIFE - REINDEERHUNTERS ON THE MOVE

Period: Stone Age - The Paleolithic (15.000 f.kr. ā€“ 8000 f.kr.)

 

Project title: Lateral retouch on Hamburgian scrapers ā€“ style vs. function & Is Hamburgian technology over-engineered

 

Researcher: Felix Riede, Tyskland/Danmark, Jan Apel & Peter Wiking, Sweden.

Email: f.riede(at)hum.au.dk

 

Year: 2009

 

Abstract:

 

15.000 years ago the first reindeer hunters came to Scandinavia. These nomadic hunters didnā€™t carry many things, as they lived a nomadic life trailing the reindeer across the northern plains. But one item, a tool kit for cutting, scarping and drilling, was essential to their way of life. Some hunters produced sophisticated and beautiful tool, while others made quickly made and purely functional tool kits. But was there a reason for these differences?

 

In this experiment Felix Riede, Jan Apel and Peter Wiking will produce tool kits in order to investigate how the use of time, the quantity of raw material and a varying successrate will influence the tool production of the reindeer hunters. Were these tools just functional reasons only or esthetics and prestige were important in the production and use of this early Swiss army knife.

 

The final question is concerned with the durability of the toolkits, which will be tested by using and transporting the tools as they most likely would have been 15.000 years ago.

 

 

The Researcher's Conclusions for 13/09:

 

The so-called Hamburgian culture represents the pioneer human re-occupation of Southern Scandinavia after the Last ice Age. One of the most distinctive material culture features of Hamburgian technology is many scrapers, almost always manufactured on slender blades, show a very fine retouch along or both lateral margins. In this experiment we tried to test the hypothesis that this lateral retouch serves the function of making the tools more resistant to breakage during transport. We replicated ten sets of ten Hamburgian-type scrapers each with and without lateral retouch respectively, using Danish flint nodules. In order to control potential raw material differences each set contained a mix of tools from most of the flint nodules used at the production stage. The scraper sets were then placed in simple leather string pouches. Each pouch containing scrapers without lateral retouch was paired with a corresponding pouch containing scrapers with lateral retouch, and each pair was handed over to members of staff or visiting prehistoric family at the Land of Legends, who carried the pouches for a measured period of time. The pairing of pouches ensured that we can control differences in subsequent activity and mobility patters of those who carried the pouches, i.e. young, or old, active, or inactive. At weekly intervals, the scrapers were removed from the pouches and documented photographically. This data will be used to analyse and compare the breakage patterns of the 20 sets. Preliminary results indicate that there is no statistically significant difference between retouched and non-retouched scrapers.

 

 

The Researcher's Conclusions for 14/09:

 

It has been said that Hamburgian technology is best suited to regions with scarce flint raw materials. In the Southern Scandinavian context, where flint is abundant, this is a paradox. Our experiment investigated the costs and benefits of Hamburgian technology by approaching it from a behavioural ecological standpoint. Our aim was to record how much raw flint was used in Hamburgian technology in relation to other manufacturing technologies. Costs can be expressed in raw material volume or weight and in the time it takes to manufacture a given set of tools. We also wanted to investigate the differences in manufacturing methods by the level of manufacturing difficulty, i.e. the breakage frequency and how many unsuitable end products were produced. Finally, we wanted to quantify the benefits of different manufacturing methods by measuring the resulting total cutting edge obtained per raw material unit. Unfortunately time did not allow for this experiment to be carried out.

 

Reference numbers 13/09 & 14/09