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Two Bone Hafts From Northern Iraq
Antiquity Volume XXXVII (March 1963)
Ralph Solecki (Columbia University)

Pre-History and Archaeology Glossary

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Two unique well made bone hafts were recovered from excavations in Shanidar Valley. One haft with its single flint blade insert still in place was found in Shanidar Cave and the other came from the nearby village site of Zawi Chemi Shanidar. Both were found in contemporary cultural horizons dated at nearly 9000 BC. This cultural horizon has been identified as Proto-Neolithic or belonging to that stage of human development which witnessed the beginnings of village life and a shift away from a subsistence based entirely on hunting and gathering in favour of one over which man exercised more control. The implements found here reflect these great change in human prehistory.

The Shanidar Cave specimen is a rather flat triangular shaped polished bone haft. A flint blade is fixed into a depression or incision on the straight edge of the haft near the broad blunt end. The blade is held in place by a dark substance (bitumen) which is well preserved. The specimen is derived from the rib from a large mammal. The single blade for which the haft was made was inserted into a groove which was incised or cut into the edge. The blade is made of grey chert. This implement was undoubtedly a knife which could have been used for many purposes around the primitive camp. The perforated hole was probably meant for suspension perhaps on the owner's person for ready use. This artifact accompanied one of the 26 Proto-Neolithic age burials found in the 1960 season at Shanidar Cave.

The Zawi Chemi Shanidar specimen is a flat, roughly crescent-shaped bone haft. It is well made and smooth all over and was fashioned to shape from the rib bone of a large animal. There is a shallow wedge-shaped groove along the entire inner or concave edge of the haft. We believe that microlithic flint blades were once fitted into this groove. The same sort of bitumen substance as above was probably used as a binding material. This artifact, presumably equipped with a row of cutting teeth of flint, was either a kind of composite knife or possibly a sickle ...

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