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Middle Palaeolithic Scraper Morphology, Flaking Mechanics and Imposed Form: Revisitng Bisson's ‘Interview with a Neanderthal’

  • Gilliane F. Monnier (a1)


Bisson (2001) proposes that imposition of form in Middle Palaeolithic scrapers can be recognized when the rules for scraper manufacture, which are based upon functional considerations, are known. He derives these ‘scraper production rules’ on the basis of experiments with novice flintknappers, and finds that they apply to Neanderthal-manufactured Mousterian scrapers. He interprets the violation of these rules in scrapers from Skhul Cave as evidence that anatomically modern humans imposed form on their stone tools, and therefore had mental templates. This study provides evidence that the ‘scraper production rules’ are not, in fact, the rules according to which Neanderthals made their tools. Instead, they reflect flaking mechanics and elements of Bisson's experimental design rather than any functional considerations taken into account during scraper manufacture. Furthermore, methodological flaws in Bisson's analysis of Middle Palaeolithic artefacts undermine his arguments that archaeological scrapers either follow or violate the rules. These problems render untenable his conclusion that Neanderthals did not have mental templates and that they lacked flexibility and innovation in stone-tool making.


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Cambridge Archaeological Journal
  • ISSN: 0959-7743
  • EISSN: 1474-0540
  • URL: /core/journals/cambridge-archaeological-journal
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