Why did hunting weapon design change at Abri Pataud? Lithic use-wear data on armature use and hafting around 24,000– 22,000 BP

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Noora Taipale, Laurent Chiotti, Veerle Rots

Taipale N, Chiotti L, Rots V (2022) Why did hunting weapon design change at Abri Pataud? Lithic use-wear data on armature use and hafting around 24,000–22,000 BP. PLoS ONE 17(1): e0262185. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0262185


Abstract : Projectile technology is commonly viewed as a significant contributor to past human subsistence and, consequently, to our evolution. Due to the allegedly central role of projectile weapons in the food-getting strategies of Upper Palaeolithic people, typo-technological changes in the European lithic record have often been linked to supposed developments in hunting weaponry. Yet, relatively little reliable functional data is currently available that would aid the detailed reconstruction of past weapon designs. In this paper, we take a usewear approach to the backed tool assemblages from the Recent and Final Gravettian layers (Levels 3 and 2) of Abri Pataud (Dordogne, France). Our use of strict projectile identification criteria relying on combinations of low and high magnification features and our critical view of the overlap between production and use-related fractures permitted us to confidently identify a large number of used armatures in both collections. By isolating lithic projectiles with the strongest evidence of impact and by recording wear attributes on them in detail, we could establish that the hunting equipment used during the Level 3 occupations involved both lithic weapon tips and composite points armed with lithic inserts. By contrast, the Level 2 assemblage reflects a heavy reliance on composite points in hunting reindeer and other game. Instead of an entirely new weapon design, the Level 2 collection therefore marks a shift in weapon preferences. Using recent faunal data, we discuss the significance of the observed diachronic change from the point of view of prey choice, seasonality, and social organisation of hunting activities. Our analysis shows that to understand their behavioural significance, typo-technological changes in the lithic record must be viewed in the light of functional data and detailed contextual information. 

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Plos One