The use of organic materials as both tools in themselves and as tools for the retouching and preparation of other stone artifacts has been identified throughout the Palaeolithic from early sites like Boxgrove through to more recent Middle Palaeolithic sites (Soressi et al 2013). New work by researchers from Spain and Israel have identified and discussed bone retouchers from two MIS 9 sites around the Mediterranean basin (Blasco et al, 2013).
The two sites in question are Bolomor Cave (Spain) and Qesem Cave (Israel) though only the former is radiometrically dated. Both sites have a relatively large, and varied faunal community but only one tool is described from each locale. Both tools are longbone shaft fragments. The authors have undertaken a clear and intensive taphonomic and microscopic study of these specimens identifying clear traces of use as retoucher. In one of the examples (Bolomor) the authors claim for intentional retouching of the edge, specifically shaping the object for use of as a retoucher. Whilst from the figures provided there is clear evidence for the removal of small flakes, in the form of preserved negatives on the edge, whether this relates to intentional shaping or the result of use or fracture of the bone remains unclear.
The authors present a clear case for the use of fresh or semi-fresh material for these tools though do not rule out the use of dry, already deposited remains. However, the authors argue that the increase in use of this form of technology from MIS 9 onwards reflects a new perception and use of these items by hominin groups that reflect chainging views and perceptions of discarded materials and recycling. This final point is, however, more difficult to discuss and prove considering not only the vast distance and varied ecotopes between both sites and the time frames. The work from these sites firstly needs to be contextualised within a broader framework of finds from before, during and after, before discussion of such changes in behaviour or new approaches can be more firmly established.
Full reference: Blasco, R., Rosell, J,. Cuartero, F,. Fernandez Peris, J,. Gopher, A., Barkai, R., 2013. Using Bones to Shape Stones: MIS 9 Bone Retouchers at Both Edges of the Mediterranean Sea. PLOS One, Vol 8: 10.