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The World of Elephants - International Congress,Rome 2001
1. P
The use of mammoth tusks as a raw materialfor the production of weapons and mobile artsis one of the characteristics of UpperPaleolithic sites in the Central Russian Plain(25 – 12 ka). In the first stage of processing,thetusk was usually divided. This procedure wasmore effectively conducted during
.Knapping resulted in the formation of cracksinside the tusk,along which the tusk divided,amethod,which was recognized many years,ago (Gvozdover 1953,Semenov 1957,Abra-mova & Grigorieva 1997
et al.
).Studies of tusk processing during this periodare based on analytical method suggested byS.A. Semenov in the 1950’s. His method wasbased on studies of the traces of flint tools onbones artefacts which resulted from varioustechniques of bone processing,namely sawing,cutting,and chiselling transverse and longi-tudinal grooves (Semenov 1957:175-194).However,this system made it difficult to under-stand the association between the processes of production involved from the first splitting of the tusk until the final stages of working.Even when finds from a single site areanalysed it is very difficult to identify the meth-ods used to divide the tusk initially with thefinal shape of the objects (see for example,Hahn 1992:120-123).The special study of more than 2000 tusk-artefacts with traces of splitting in archaeologi-cal collections from the Upper Paleolithic sitesof Avdeevo,Kostenki 1,I,Khotylevo II,Gagarino,Kostenki 4,Yelisseyevichi 1 and 2,Timonovka 1,Yudinovo and Suponevo showed,that initial tusk splitting is the most difficultpart of the process and includes more stagesthan it was previously thought. It is the com-plexity of initial splitting techniques that makesit worthwhile to examine this part of tusk pro-cessing as a special technology.2. M
Our ideas about tusk splitting techniques arebased on the final form of the artefacts.Assemblages of artefacts from each of the sitesconsidered were analysed separately as wereartefacts from different levels at Avdeevo andKostenki 1 (layer 1). My special attention wasgiven to artefacts with a common archaeologi-cal context,in other words those that werefound in areas of occupation horizons where
Mammoth tusk processing using the knapping techniquein the Upper Paleolithic of the Central Russian Plain
G.A. Khlopatchev
 Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography “Peter the Great”(Kunstkamera) of the Russian Academy of Sciences,St-Peterburg,Russia -
SUMMARY:The utilization of mammoth tusks as a raw material for hunting weapons,tools,decoration andart,is one of the most characteristic features of Upper Paleolithic sites in the Central Russian Plain (25-12Ka BP). My study of 18 collections of bone and ivory artefacts (more than 2000 specimens) from Kostenki1,Avdeevo,Khotylevo 2,Gagarino,Eliseevichi 1,Suponevo,Timonovka 1,and Yudinovo suggests that expe-rienced craftmanship was required to carry out tusk processing. Suprisingly,sawing,cutting or choppingtechniques were not used (as previously interpreted),to break the tusk into smaller fragments,but employedto produce grooves which enabled subsequent splitting processes to be more carefully controlled. Proportionsand sizes of the final artefacts were predetermined by the products of the initial splitting of the tusk.
 Mammoth tusk processing using the knapping technique in the Upper Paleolithic of the Central Russian Plain
the initial processing of the tusk had been car-ried out. A comparative analysis of experimen-tally produced tusk artefacts,with artefactsfound at Timonovka 1,Yelissevitchi 1,Yudinovo,Suponevo and Gagarino,permittedus to postulate the presence of initial tusk split-ting areas at these sites. For example,I proposedthe presence of such an area at Yelisseyevitchi 1.This area corresponded to a pit reconstructed byL.V. Grehova (Grehova 1993).The description of the splitting methodsincluded:1) selection of tusk-fragments pro-duced during initial splitting located within ahalf-closed complex; 2) The definition of mor-
Fig.1 - Bone artefacts obtained from transverse flakes.
phological balance between the tusk-basis ver-sus knapping products (positive-negative) andthe intentional character of their splitting.Special attention was paid to negatives pro-duced by splitting along cracks. These nega-tives did not appear as a result of the naturalsplitting of the tusk. Traces connected with theformation of the striking platform and theedges of the knapping fragment were also con-sidered in detail.The reconstruction of the chain operatoire of the initial knapping stage was based on thestudy of tusk-cores - the fragments of the tuskswith negatives. The tusk-cores enabled us totrace connections between the knapping meth-ods,core preparation,shape of the preparationplatform and its position within the tusk.3. T
3.1 Defining the term
Breakage patterns in tusks are always consis-tent regardless of the agent of fracturation:human or natural conditions. Anthropogenicallyinduced fracturing is however characterised byits logical sequence of operations. There aremany indications for this:control of the cracksin the material,deliberate use of this method toobtain a preconceived shape and size of the finalproduct. Only when this is finally proven,canwe refer to a knapping technology. In my opin-ion knapping technology is a materializedthinking algorithm,which is based on one sideon knowledge of knapping possibilities and onthe other on the existing cultural requirementsto the shape of artifacts.
3.2 Specific features
The study of tusk knapping technology iscurrently less evolved than flint knapping stud-ies. This is connected with the special particu-lar attributes of of tusk-knapping technology.That is the reason why terminology common toflint knapping cannot be used. Tusk knappingtechnology differs in four aspects from flintknapping:1. Tusk-knapping is influenced not only bymechanical force,but also by the internal struc-ture of the tusk.Tusk-knapping causes the fracture of the tusk into separate cone-shaped structures,recog-nised by all archeologists. The transverse sec-tion of the fractured tusk consists of concentricrings and longitudinal sections – “sugar-loaf cones”. This structure is a repetition of themicrostructure of the dentine at macrolevel. Inbiology specific cone-shapes are referred to as“blades”,and result from the spontaneous strat-ification (= cleavage) of the tusk along theShreger lines.Stratification is the natural separation of thetusk into separate cone-shaped structures,dueto the internal structure of the tusk.2. Tusk-knapping could be carried out usingtwo different modes. The first mode employstraditional techniques of flaking.Flaking is a form of intentional knapping,where the crack inside the tusk was locatedclose to the exterior shift and the obliged termsfor its appearing were the outstanding core andthe sharp corner between the platform and theflaking surface.The second mode is referred to in this studyas “breaking”. Breaking utilises the naturallyoccurring resistance of the tusk,brought aboutby its morphology (the elongated form,differ-ences between the cement layer and the den-tine core,the microstructure (Shreger lines).Mechanical force creates tension. Fractureoccurs at the place where the tension is highest.Breaking is a form of intentional knapping,resulting in a crack penetrating deeply into thecore of the tusk produced by two blows per-formed simultaneously on the outer surface indifferent directions.3. The control over tusk-knapping wasreached not through total transformations of thematerial but through skilled correction of natu-ral tusk-shape. Such a correction was attainedthrough making cracks or grooves on tusk exte-rior surface. The form of the groove and its ori-entation were intentionally produced and werenot dependent on the structure of the raw mate-rial. Cut,sawed or gouged grooves functioned
The World of Elephants - International Congress,Rome 2001

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