Identification and methodology

Bone retouchers were first identified at the turn of the 20th century, and have been since recognized in a wide array of Palaeolithic faunal assemblages. Overall, bone retouchers are relatively rare artefacts. The absence of these implements in the archaeological record of many regions and time periods may be related to the economic decisions of Palaeolithic humans. Equally possible is the failure of zooarchaeologists and other specialist to recognize bone retouchers among the many thousands of bone often recovered from archaeological sites. In 2002, the Commission de Nomenclature sur l’Industrie de l’os Préhistorique (Société Préhistorique Française) published an influential volume entitled Retouchoirs, Compresseurs, Percuteurs. Os à Impressions et Éraillures, which standardized the definitions and descriptions of these artefacts. Building on that effort, we seek to add to the existing definitions of retouching (action), retoucher (object) and retouch damage (modification). Moreover, as identifying these artefacts is the first step in formulating ideas about their broader significance, we must be certain that the current standards of identification are adequate to differentiate retouch damage from other types of bone surface modifications (i.e., cut marks, hammerstone impact marks, carnivore marks). This may seem a foregone conclusion, but is fundamental to the interpretation of Palaeolithic human behaviours.