Form and function

The terms compressor, retoucher, percussor, billet, mallet, bone anvil and others have been used to describe bones used to manufacture and resharpen lithic tools. While classic bone retouchers made from relatively small limb bone fragments are the most commonly recognized form, similar retouching damage has been identified across a variety of skeletal parts of various shapes and sizes. Antlers, ivory and teeth were also used in a comparable fashion as soft hammers to create and modify lithic flakes and tools. Similar damage to bone surfaces can be created using a slightly different method, wherein bone or other osseous materials is used in a passive manner, like pressure flaking, rather than in active, soft hammer percussion. Here we can explore the morphological variation among these types of tools together with the range of damage produced to better understand the chaîne opératoire involved in the production, use and discard of these tools. Do these variable forms equate to differences in function? Were bone retouchers used on a strictly ad hoc basis or was more effort involved in their production? Do bone retouchers serve the same function as stone hammers? Experimental studies with specific applications to the archaeological record are particularly suited to answer these and other important questions.