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Exploring the Possible Function of Paleolithic Open Rings as Spearthrower Finger Loops

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This paper offers a functional hypothesis for Upper Paleolithic open rings (a puzzling class of artifacts also known as objets arciformes) discovered at the French archaeological sites of Le Placard (Charente dept.), Petit Cloup Barrat, and “Cave à Endives” (Lot dept.). These open rings were manufactured from antler and have pointed tabs on either side of a gap, resulting in a shape reminiscent of the Greek letter Omega (Ω). All twelve known rings (including a preform) have been attributed to either the Magdalenian or the Badegoulian. To date, no consensus has been reached on what function they perform, and functional hypotheses vary widely. To address this conundrum, this research points out morphological similarities between ethnographic examples of spearthrower components for the first time and hypothesizes that open rings were part of such prehistoric weapon systems. The open rings were reproduced in a variety of materials, hafted as finger loops, and subjected to experimental throwing of darts. In that capacity, they were found to work efficiently with observed use-wear in support of the proposed functional hypothesis.

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We thank François-Xavier Chauvière and Valérie Feruglio for their assistance. We were also helped immensely by the input of our three reviewers, who gave excellent insights, additional references, and assistance in addressing the shortcomings of this work.

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Garnett and Sellet wrote the main manuscript text, and both Garnett and Sellet prepared the figures. Both authors reviewed the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Justin Garnett.

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Garnett, J., Sellet, F. Exploring the Possible Function of Paleolithic Open Rings as Spearthrower Finger Loops. J Paleo Arch 6, 9 (2023).

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