Hammer or crescent wrench? Stone-tool form and function in the Aurignacian of southwest Germany

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The early Upper Paleolithic of Europe is associated with the appearance of blade/bladelet technology (e.g., Aurignacian). These industriesinclude a wider range of formal tool types than seen in the Middle Paleolithic. Greater diversity in tool types is often interpreted as specializedtools created for specific tasks. This, in turn, is said to reflect dramatic behavioral shifts between Neandertals and modern humans. In order to testprevious interpretations, it is necessary to have a detailed understanding of early Upper Paleolithic stone-tool function. Toward this end, analysesof microscopic residue and use-wear were undertaken on 109 stone tools from three Aurignacian sites in southwest Germany (Hohle Fels, Gei-ßenklo¨sterle, and Vogelherd). These cave sites evidenced remarkable residue preservation, with approximately 82% of the sample showing someform of functional evidence. Residues observed included hair, feathers, bone/antler, wood, plant tissue, phytoliths, starch grains, and resin. Theresults suggest that tool typology is not strongly linked to the processing of specific materials. For example, endscrapers from the sample showevidence of processing wood, charred wood, plants, starchy plants, birds, bone/antler, and animals (hair). Hairs are found on tools typologicallyclassified as blades, flakes, borers, pointed blades, and combination tools (nosed endscraper-borer, burin-laterally-retouched blade). In the earlyUpper Paleolithic of southwest Germany, a wide range of tool types appears to have been used to process a diverse array of materials. Theseresults suggest that the interpretation of behavioral patterns from stone tools must consider more than tool typology.