Rarer forms

The various forms of retouched tools described above represent the dominant morphological and typological categories within the Middle Palaeolithic industries of western Europe and account for the overwhelming majority of retouched tool forms. The basic type list compiled by Bordes (1961a) includes several other categories of minor types including such forms as piercers, planes (â– rabots), bees, truncated flakes, hachoirs etc. Assessment of the significance of these very rare tool forms is extremely difficult. As Dibble has documented (1988a: Figs 10.3, 10.4) most occur in a sporadic, patchy fashion in all the major variants of the Mousterian, almost invariably in frequencies of less than 1 percent and apparently without a clear pattern of association with other technological or typological features of the industries. Granted this, and in view of the very simple character of most of the forms in question, it is debatable how far any of these forms can be recognized as discrete, deliberate types. Many of these pieces could represent accidental products, as a result of unfinished or unsuccessful attempts at manufacturing other, well defined tool forms. For example, some truncated flakes could represent unfinished or partially retouched attempts at backed knives; other forms such as bees, per-coirs or rabots might represent similarly incomplete or unsuccessful attempts at notches, denticulates or Tayac points. Above all as Bordes emphasized (e.g. 1963: 48) it is likely that some of these pieces were simply the products of purely taphonomic processes such as the effects of human trampling on the sites, or the effects of cryoturbation or other geological crushing processes (see also Dibble & Rolland 1992: 5). To accord any of these forms the status of discrete, conceptually defined types would certainly be premature from the present evidence.

Possibly more significant is the existence of end scrapers and burins as discrete, intentional types in Middle Palaeolithic industries. Occasional examples of both types have been reported from many Middle Palaeolithic contexts in western Europe, and in some cases the appearance of these pieces (especially in illustrations) appears convincing (Fig. 4.20). The problem is that these pieces normally occur in such low frequencies in individual tool assemblages that their status as intentional products requires careful scrutiny. Again there is the question whether these are deliberate products or whether they could represent unfinished or discarded attempts at some of the commoner types. Patricia Anderson-Gerfaud (1990) has claimed that almost all the examples of end-scrapers examined in her micro-wear analyses of MTA industries in southwestern France would be classified as 'atypical' in a morphological sense. More significantly, she

Figure 4.20 Examples of 'end scrapers' and yburins' recorded in French Middle Palaeolithic industries. While some of the end-scraper forms could represent atypical or unfinished examples of other tool types (such as backed knives), the series of burins recorded from the early last-glacial site of Riencourt-les-Bapaume in northern France (nos 6-9) is highly typical, and remarkably similar to Upper Palaeolithic forms. After Bordes 1961a, and Ameloot-van der Heijden 1993a.

argues that from a functional standpoint almost all these pieces seem to group with the other Mousterian forms of woodworking tools, rather than with skin-working tools. In this sense at least there seems to be a fundamental distinction between the morphologically 'end-scraper' forms documented in Middle Palaeolithic assemblages and the typical end-scraper forms encountered in the majority of Upper Palaeolithic industries (Anderson-Gerfaud 1990).

The status of supposedly 'burin' forms identified in many Middle Palaeolithic industries in Europe is equally debatable. As several workers have pointed out, apparently typical burin-spall removals can be produced either deliberately or accidentally in many stages of tool manufacture, and sometimes as a simple by-product of producing other tool forms. Again it is significant that burins of either typical or atypical form rarely account for more than 1-2 percent of the total tool inventories in well documented assemblages from European sites. Interestingly, this is in sharp contrast to the situation in the Middle East where typical burin forms have been recorded in frequencies of up to 10-20 percent in some Middle Palaeolithic contexts (for example at Rosh ein Mor in Israel: Crew 1976: 99-105). By far the most impressive burins from west European contexts are those reported recently from the early last-glacial site of Riencourt-les-Bapaume in northern France, some of which are remarkably similar to Upper Palaeolithic types (Fig. 4.20: Ameloot-van der Heijden 1993a, 1993b).

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