A study of fire-damaged artifacts found at the Molí del Salt site in Spain has revealed that hunter-gatherer humans of the Upper Paleolithic Age recycled stone tools.
Published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, the recent find indicates that recycling was an important component in the technological behavior of hunter-gatherers.
According to Sci-News, "In order to identify the recycling, it is necessary to differentiate the two stages of the manipulation sequence of an object: the moment before it is altered and the moment after,” stated Dr. Manuel Vaquero, a researcher at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili and lead author of the study. “The two are separated by an interval in which the artifact has undergone some form of alteration. This is the first time a systematic study of this type has been performed.”
The archaeological team gathered approximately 1,583 retouched artifacts, which included 199 tools that combined two tools into one. Gathered from the Molí del Salt site, Tarragona, the tools dated toward the end of the Upper Paleolithic Age, about 13,000 years ago. According to Dr. Vaquero, “We chose these burned artifacts because they can tell us in a very simple way whether they have been modified after being exposed to fire."
Four endscrapers retouched after fire damage, left, and four double tools retouched before and after fire damage (M. Vaquero et al)
The team found that double artifacts, used for more than one purpose, were recycled more often than the tools made for hunting --- such as projectile points --- never made from recycled artifacts. “The history of the artifacts and the sequence of changes that they have undergone over time are fundamental in understanding their final morphology," said Dr. Vaquero.
What was discovered by the team was that a large majority of the Stone Age tools were never developed from the outset as double artifacts, but as single tools to be used for one purpose. Later on, that same tool would be recycled for another tool.
The Stone Age inhabitants never moved beyond their camps to find new raw materials for their tools, but would take an artifact that had been previously abandoned by inhabitants of the site they had moved into and recycle it into one they needed. This increased the availability of resources during times of scarcity, bearing economic importance for the groups of ancestors.