The use of metal tools from the standpoint of the bone artefacts from 4th–2nd millennia BC North Greece and Southeast Albania
The area stretching from the North Greek coast to the southeast Albanian lowland lumps a certain amount of geographical and cultural variability but allows monitoring local aspects of the prehistoric technologies as well as broad trends. In this area, the use of metal tools for making bone artefacts from the 4th through 2nd millennia cal. BC cannot be perceived as a case of simple replacement of tools and techniques. The production of chipped stone dropped significantly as early as the late 4th millennium, in the Early Bronze Age, without noticeable effects on the bone industry. The latter continued well into the Bronze Age and artefacts and technology diversified. A compilation of data from different sites points to limited use of metal tools in bone working, particularly in percussion and engraving, since the late 4th millennium. Furthermore, it associates these tools with the manufacture of ornaments with novel designs or introduced to the bone artefact repertoire only few centuries ago. Such evidence indicates the existence of different spheres of production, emerging toward the end of the 5th millennium, in the Final Neolithic, and manifesting strategic modifications of products made from particular osseous materials alongside the introduction of new types of artefacts. This slow change continued in the subsequent centuries amalgamating old with new practices. Some of them indicate interregional interaction and transfer through simple borrowing or adaptation of technical and morphological attributes of the artefacts, which include forms made also from metal such as ornate pins and toothed edge tools. By the end of the 3rd millennium, different spheres of production seem to crystallise and the domestic toolkits become standardised in the most basic forms and raw materials of bone awls, cutting edge tools and smoothers, ensuring greater integration and independence of the households. After the mid 15th century, in the Late Bronze Age, the bone artefacts worked with metal tools are widely produced and used, with the exception of the projectile points and the cheekpieces, which are rare and represent imitations (if not actual imports) of objects and styles known from distant regions. Furthermore, there is evidence for use of metal tools for shaping bone for domestic purposes but is sporadic reinforcing the idea of functionally differentiated toolkits. Local and regional preferences and variations in osseous materials and ornament types are also observed. Overall, their production seems to have remained inscribed in the realm of local crafts. In the geographical area discussed here, much of the technical, economic and social activity revolved around the household and the domestic group, despite the existence of ephemeral hierarchical structures in the Late Bronze Age, which could perhaps be related to some long-distance contacts. This is quite a contrast with the South Aegean where the Mycenaean system of political and economic organisation dominated the area and various activities including bone working were performed on a large scale. Examples from palatial centres in the Greek mainland and Crete will be used during the presentation in order to illustrate this specific point.
Bone working with metal tools in the North Greek mainland and the immediate vicinity followed a long period of practice of metalworking, which began at the end of the 6th millennium. Production scales are difficult to assess, but the remains of metal processing regularly found in the excavated Bronze Age settlements as well as the hoarding of metal tools suggest that the local populations were not unfamiliar with metallurgy. The worked bones provide evidence on the metal tools employed for their manufacture, even when these tools are absent from the settlements because they were hoarded or recycled. Most importantly, they highlight the interdependence of metalworking with other crafts and the idea that the uptake and use of the metal tools was a rather long and selective process.