Periodic Reporting for period 1 - TIP-N-POINT (Middle Palaeolithic projectile weapon TIPs: a regional and assemblage scale perspective on Neanderthal POINT technologies across Europe)
Reporting period: 2017-11-01 to 2019-10-31
Neanderthals occupied large parts of Europe and western Asia from ca. 300,000 to 40,000 years ago (a period known as the Middle Palaeolithic (MP)). Across this large spatio-temporal range thousands of find spots with stone tools and animal bones have been recovered. Recent zooarchaeological studies and isotope analyses continue to demonstrate that Neanderthals were skilled hunters, with a hunting strategy targeted on prime aged large and medium sized animals. Due to unfavourable preservation conditions remains of organic spears and hafts from Palaeolithic contexts are sparse. Hence, recognising Neanderthal hunting technologies is reliant upon the identification of lithic weapon tips in the archaeological record. So far the predominant focus has been on in-depth analyses of individual points to assess their specific use as a weapon tip. Conversely, TIP-N-POINT aims to contextualise pointed elements within the framework of the entire stone tool assemblage, assessing characteristics used to imply projectile use or hafting across both pointed and non-pointed blanks. TIP-N-POINT further aimed to integrate datasets from various disciplines (zooarchaeology, lithic analysis, dating methods, biomolecular approaches) to provide an enhanced perspective on Neanderthal hunting practices.
The results of this project are detailed in a series of papers in open-access peer-reviewed journals (published, in press, in preparation) and have also been presented at various international conferences. The researcher also ran a virtual seminar series on Neanderthal hunting, which was targeted at both academics and the general public. All talks are available online (https://neanderthalseminars.wixsite.com/home). On this website an activity pack for kids on the topic of Neanderthal hunting which was created as part of this project is also freely available for download.
TIP-N-POINT is just a first step in comparing modifications linked with hafting or projectile use across entire stone tool assemblages. This assemblage level methodology can be applied to other Middle Palaeolithic assemblages to assess if the pointed blanks were produced and treated differently than the rest of the stone tools. Even though Neanderthal assemblages rich in points are sparse in western Europe there is scope for further applications to other Neanderthal sites and for further methodological development (including geometric morphometrics and GIS based assessments of edge damage distributions). Moreover the multidisciplinary approach, integrating lithic, faunal and chronological analyses, which was applied in TIP-N-POINT to the site of Abri du Maras
demonstrated the potential of such an integrated multi-methodological approach to maximise the behavioural information that can still be recovered from existing museum collections.