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From west to east: Lower and Middle Palaeolithic bone retouchers in Northern France

Abstract : At the end of the Lower Palaeolithic and into the Middle Palaeolithic, Neanderthals inhabited northern France, and many archaeological sites preserve accumulations of various lithic industries, sometimes associated with bones. From a few sites, the faunal remains show traditional marks of anthropic activities linked with butchery, including skinning, dismembering, meat fi lleting and marrow extraction. Some bones also present surface modifi cations characteristic of utilisation as tools; these are called retouchers or retouchoirs. The oldest site, the Acheulean occupation at Cagny-l'Épinette (Somme), yielded only six retouchers. In comparison , the main collection of the Middle Palaeolithic site of Biache-Saint-Vaast (Pas-de-Calais) contained 333 of these objects. Here, we also present new data on the retouchers from two more recent Middle Palaeo lithic sites: Le Rozel (Manche) and Mutzig (Bas-Rhin). A regional synthesis of previously published and un published archaeological materials allows for new insights into the functionality of bone retouchers from northern France. This study suggests a relative homogeneity and standardization in Neanderthal behaviour and bone tool utilization for tens of thousands of years, with some differences from site to site. Most re-touchers were made from herbivore limb bone diaphyses, but also on brown bear at Biache-Saint-Vaast. At le Rozel, a red deer mandible was used as retoucher. The pattern of utilization of the bones is variable, ranging from only a few clustered scores to a huge loss of cortical bone material linked to intense activity, and sometimes with up to four use areas on the same bone. In this study, we explore the many factors that may account for these differences.
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Noémie Sévêque, Patrick Auguste. From west to east: Lower and Middle Palaeolithic bone retouchers in Northern France. The Origins of Bone Tool Technologies, 2018. ⟨hal-02341471⟩

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