This chert fan scraper is from Jordan. Fan scrapers (also known as ‘tabular scrapers’) are found in large numbers in the Levant, first appearing in the late Pottery Neolithic, ca. 8000 BP, and used continuously through the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age, to ca. 4300 BP. This fan scraper is from the Chalcolithic site of Teleilat el Ghassul, and dates to 5500-6400 BP. It was excavated by the Australian archaeologist Basil Hennessy.
The fan scraper in this model exemplifies the type, with a relatively large bulb of percussion, thin profile, and carefully retouched edge. The sharp, acute edge-angle suggests that it was used for butchering animals. The tool does not appear to have been heavily used or resharpened.
The fan scraper is curated in the UNE Museum of Antiquities, catalogue number MA1976.4.4.
Fan scrapers are relatively thin tools made by striking a flake from the cortical surface of large flint nodules. The cortex covers all or most of the scraper’s dorsal surface. To prepare the tool for use, the edge was retouched towards the dorsal surface of the flake by hammerstone blows delivered to the ventral surface. The flake blanks for these tools were often wider than they were long, and the bulb of percussion tended to be quite pronounced, particularly when struck from relatively flat cortical surfaces. The combination of cortex and pronounced bulb may have been to make these tools easier to hold (there is no evidence that they were hafted onto handles). Fan scrapers in the Levant were usually resharpened by percussion flaking. A study of a fan scraper quarry sites in the el-Jafr Basin, southeastern Jordan, concluded that ‘many millions’ of fan scraper blanks were exported from there in the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age.
Some archaeologists view fan scrapers as ‘secondary products of domestication’ linked to the processing of sheep and goats. Use-wear analysis indicates that steeply retouched fan scrapers tended to be used for scraping hides and bone, and tools with sharper, more acute edges were used in butchering. Some archaeologists have have successfully shown that fan scrapers can be used to shear the wool from sheep. Many used-up and discarded fan scrapers have both steep and acute edges on different parts of the tool. Fan scrapers and resharpening flakes have been recovered in large numbers in ritual contexts, as well as interred with burials, and some are incised or ground on the cortical surface. This contextual evidence suggests that in addition to being an effective functional tool, fan scrapers were imbued with symbolism or used in ritual acts.