Stone Tool Stories: Hafted scrapers

Early accounts of First Nations people in North America describe certain types of retouched flakes hafted for use in scraping the fat and connective tissue from animal hides.  The handles tended to be short to match the hide-worker’s scraping gesture.  The edge of the scraper was oriented at right-angles to the axis of the handle and the unifacially retouched surface faced up, away from the hide. 

Burren adze with resin 4

Hafted Retouched Flake

Burren adze with resin 3

Hafted Retouched Flake

Burren adze with resin 2

Hafted Retouched Flake

Burren adze with resin 1

Hafted Retouched Flake

Hafted scraper, Alaska

Hafted Scraper

Hide workers in North America bound the scrapers in place with hide strips or string, and the antler handles used on the Great Plains tended to be L-shaped with the stone bound into a recess on the short leg.  A similar design was used across the Arctic, but the stone part was often an edge-ground piece of slate rather than a retouched flake.

Stone scrapers continue to be used to process hides in Ethiopia.  They are considered superior to iron tools for this because the stone is less likely to cut the hide.  The stone scrapers are embedded into holes in opposite sides of the carved wood handle and secured with pitch.

Retouched flakes in Australia were often hafted for use.  As in most parts of the world, retouched flakes in Australia are informally called ‘scrapers’ by archaeologists, but historical observations of Aboriginal people using these tools show that they were used as both scraping tools and cutting knives.  The scraping and adzing tools were sometimes affixed with resin onto wood handles, but a blob of resin was often applied to the back edge of scraping and cutting tools.  These were called tjimari by people in Central Australia, and they were still being made and used in the 1960s.  As noted for hafted knives, this method of hafting dates to ca. 200,000 BP at the Campitello site in Italy.