Retouching the Palaeolithic: Becoming Human and the Origins of Bone Tool Technology

The Retouching the Palaeolithic International Workshop was held from 21-23 October 2015 at Hannover.


Compresseur, retouchoir, percuteur, billot, maillet, os-enclume…tous ces termes, qui regroupent un ensemble d’ossements portant une ou plusiers zones à impressions ou éraillures…

Marylène Pathou-Mathis



It is the use of tools, together with our unique biology, which makes us human. From the Stone Age to the Digital Revolution, the human narrative is written in the technologies we have developed to meet the challenges of everyday life. How we accomplished increasingly complex tasks reflected the skills, materials and methods available at the time. For over two million years of the human lineage, stone and bone tools preserve the only record of our technological heritage and struggle for survival. Studying the origins and development of these prehistoric tools plays a vital role in retracing our evolutionary footsteps toward becoming human.

Bone retouchers are particularly intriguing in this regard, as they combine elements of both bone and stone tool technology, and hold great research potential for understanding the origins and development of bone tool use during the Palaeolithic. At the core of this issue is where and when our human ancestors began to use bones to create and modify stone tools. More importantly, we seek to better understand how and why prehistoric humans ceased to consider bones as a sterile by-product of the hunting and butchery process and began to recognize bone’s technological utility for making stone tools.

With these goals in mind, we are pleased to announce the international symposium “Retouching the Palaeolithic: Becoming Human and the Origins of Bone Tool Technology”. Our intentions are to explore the circumstances under which these tools were integrated into the entire suite of emerging Palaeolithic technologies and how these cumulative innovations influenced human subsistence and other socio-economic adaptations across space and time. With this synthesis, we add an important dimension to the ways in which tool use defines what it means to be human.



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