The effectiveness of Neolithic sickles in the Middle East: an experimental approach

Astruc L., Ben Tkaya M., Torchy L., Bontemps C., Ducret S., Altinbilek C., ...More

BULLETIN DE LA SOCIETE PREHISTORIQUE FRANCAISE, vol.109, no.4, pp.671-687, 2012 (ESCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 109 Issue: 4
  • Publication Date: 2012
  • Doi Number: 10.3406/bspf.2012.14202
  • Journal Indexes: Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI), Scopus, FRANCIS, L'Année philologique, Anthropological Literature, DIALNET
  • Page Numbers: pp.671-687
  • Keywords: Sickle, Efficiency, Experiment, Flint, Obsidian, Near East, Agriculture
  • Istanbul University Affiliated: Yes


In the Near East "sickles" or "glossy pieces" occur for the first time during the Natufian period. These tools are either "sickle blades" or "sickle elements". "Sickle blades" are used hafted or hand-held as single cutting tools. "Sickle elements" are inserted in a haft in order to create a composite instrument. When sickles are made from flint, they are easily recognized since they usually bear a macroscopic gloss that covers a wide area on both sides of the tool. Experimental and microscopic studies have shown that the majority of these tools were used as sickles to harvest cereals or, less frequently, soft siliceous plants such as reeds and typha. Macroscopic glosses of different natures develop on various occasions, for example: on elements mounted on threshing sledges; when limestone is worked with the addition of water; when humid clay is scraped; etc. When sickle elements are made from obsidian, no macroscopic gloss develops and use wear is rarely observed with the naked eye. In this case, the worn area on the tool presents a mat aspect and abrasion features. Such tools are rarely recognized as such. Sometimes, abrasion features are erroneously interpreted as harvesting marks.