30 September 2013

The Hide Scraper of la Roche-Cotard?

The recent discovery of Neanderthal exploitation of the pliability quality of bone to make tools to assist in leather working makes it possible the "Mask" of la Roche-Cotard is a remnant of a compound tool of stone and bone. The bone was inserted into the stone which may have served as a handle which brought leverage to the pliable bone in order to be a more effective tool. The bone broke during use and was left in the stone to be interpreted by some today as the "eyes" in an intentional face mask representation.

It is possible it was an intended mask figure or that it was recognized in prehistory as such but we have no way to know because no similar iconography has been identified. There is no macro context of formal art to support this object as an intended face figure. It could be an informal piece or an idiosyncratic artistic expression but it seems more unlikely now in light of Neanderthal use of bone tools.  

Illustration by Ken Johnston

The flint handle may have been the basis of a compound tool which was made to accommodate interchangeable bone scraper blades. The blades were secured by insertion of little pebble wedges, two of which are found in this artifact. The bone may have been too difficult to extract after this break and its functionality as a tool abandoned.


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