20 30 40 50 60 70 Mean length of racloirs (mm)

4. Finally, it should be emphasized that there are strong a priori reasons for assuming that in many contexts racloirs would have been produced as an essential and quite deliberate policy in general tool-making strategies. All studies of racloir morphology have recognized that two major objectives lie behind the production of typical racloir forms: first, to secure the maximum possible length of working edge from the available flake blanks, and second, to impose a regular, smooth form on this worked edge (Bordes 1961a; Mellars 1964; Dibble 1987a). A moment's reflection will show that the only way to achieve these objectives simultaneously on a high proportion of flake blanks is by applying systematic retouch to the edges of the tools (Fig. 4.6). In cases where primary flaking strategies produced elongated, regular flakes (for example in some of the Levallois strategies discussed earlier) then substantial numbers of flakes with naturally long, regular edges would have been readily available for use on the sites. But in most of the simpler flaking strategies (such as those in many Quina or disccore strategies) it was only by systematically modifying the edges of the original flakes that these two objectives could be effectively achieved (Turq 1988b, 1989b, 1992a). Direct illustrations of these strategies can be seen in the detailed patterns of retouch applied in the shaping of racloirs in several sites. At Biache-Saint-Vaast it can be seen that the retouch on the edges of many of the racloirs was applied in a very sparing, discontinuous way apparently intended either to remove some obvious irregularity on the original edge of the flake or to extend the effective length of the working edge down the maximum possible length of the tool (Tuffreau and Sommé 1988). In these and many other cases it seems that retouch was applied not merely to rejuvenate heavily worn and damaged edges but as a deliberate policy to maximize the inherent potential of the available flakes for the specific functions envisaged.

Figure 4.6 Schematic illustration to show how the application of retouch can substantially increase the effective length of the working edge in the production of a typical 'racloir' form.

None of this is meant to deny either the extensive use of totally unretouched flakes in many Middle Palaeolithic industries nor the reality of systematic resharpening of certain tools as a way of extending their natural use-lives. As noted above, both features can now be documented in the archaeological material from several sites. But to suggest that all the abundant and highly varied racloir forms encountered in Lower and Middle Palaeolithic industries can be dismissed as opportunistic end-products of these resharpening sequences would be not only in conflict with several specific features of the archaeological evidence but contrary to most reasonable expectations of tool production strategies.

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