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2024-05-31 07:33:15   •   ID: 2382

Blattspitzen in Central Europe –Sink the Fossille Directeur concept!

Plate 1
Plate 1: Bifacial Foliate from Lake Turkana (MIS 7-3); Figure 1: Bifacial Foliate from Thebes Nord (MIS 5-3); Figure 2: Uni- and Bifacial Points from Namibia (MIS 5-3); Figure 3: flat bifacial Tool ("Faustkeilblatt") from Lichtenberg , Lower Saxony (early MIS 3); Figure 4: "Blattspitze" (Leafpoint) from Lenderscheid probably MIS 3; Figure 5: "Blattspitze (Leafpoint) from Moravany Dlah (late MIS3).

Figure 1
While in Africa the Presence of Bifacial Foliates in the MSA was recognized since the 1930s (Aterian, East and South African MSA), in Central Europe, Blattspitzen were for a long time seen as Ispecific Markers of the Solutrean (Obermaier 1912, Goodwin and van Riet Lowe 1929, Leakey 1936).

For Central Europe, it were Prošek (1953) and Freund (1952) who, in the 1950s, attempted a systematic survey of the „Blattspitzen Culture“. They were able to prove that this technocomplex was older than the Solutrean of W-Europe. Subsequently these ensembles were dated to an interstadial of the last glaciation (MIS 3).

The examples in Figures 2 & 3 show, that the „bifacial option“ was always present not only during the MSA but also during the European Middle Paleolithic since OIS 9-7.

A variety of influences had an impact on whether this option was used or not. I would really appreciate the introduction of multivariate analyses in the evaluation of good excavated sites in order to quantitatively evaluate how these influences affected individual layers of a site. Prehistory has a lot to learn from medical statistics!

Figure 2
G. de Mortillet in the 1870s, as well as Francois Bordes in the 1960s, assumed that a certain artifact was actually an intentionally produced end product, but these hypotheses have been completely deconstructed in the last 80 years, especially by Harold Dibble.

For example, the series of MSA points in Figure 3 shows that the blanks were produced from rather thick flakes that were first transformed into unifacial points and in some cases subsequently into bifacial points. The series therefore only shows the transformation process at the time of detection.

The phenomenon was described in detail by M. Kot on the basis of findings in Weimar Ehrigsdorf (MIS7) (Kot 2017).

What we call leaf points were functionally very different instruments, that could be used as spear points or as knives, which have some similarities with other tools from the Keilmesser /Middle European Micoquian entity (Rots et al. 2022; Kot and Richter 2012).

All of these stories show that prehistorians believed that a single artifact - in this case the leaf point - was sufficient to define an entire “culture” and a particular period in glacial chronology. Behind all this, explicit or not, was the influential concept of the “Fossille Directeur".

Figure 3
Fossile directeurs (en: Index fossils), are used by geologists to define and identify geological periods (or faunal stages). Index fossils must have a short vertical range, a wide geographical distribution and rapid evolutionary trends.

The principle was introduced by William Smith at the beginning of the 19th century, who described the chronostratigraphic sequence of geological units by their faunal succession for the United Kingdom in 1815 (Harries 2015).

Gabriel de Mortillet during the 1860s developed the idea to define time-periods by their typical stone tools which acted like the fossile directeurs of the geologists and seemingly the idea is still present in the minds of Prehistorians (Nemergut et al. 2019).

However, Mortillet did two important things. Firstly, he standardized the typological approach, a concept that was borrowed from Classical Archaeology, and Secondly, he linked typology with the chronological informations that were available at his time.

Figure 4
In this tradition, researchers assumed a linear and global evolution of artifacts from the simple to the sophisticated and suggested, that one can safely deduce the absolute age of a tool by its appearance, if the geological and relative age of a similar tool in a dateable context had already been established.

Dating methods of course are much further ahead today, and as result of a better chronological control the concept of Fossile Diecteurs, can only be used to a very limited extent although prehistorians sometimes seem to forget this fact.

A positive example of the validity of the concept is, for example, the Noailles Burin, which is rarely found outside the “Gravettian“.

However, in the case of handaxes, these iconographic artifacts that were once used to define the early and middle Pleistocene „Acheulean“, are now known from the early Pleistocene into the Holocene from a global perspective.
Figure 5

If a Fossile directeur is a tool that can be tracked within defined temporal and spatial boundaries, then bifacial foliates/ Blattspitzen / Leaf points are not an example of proof of such a concept.

In central Europe almost identical tools can be found from OIS 7 (Ehringsdorf), MIS 4 (Hohle Fels), early MIS3 (Sesselfels Grotto, Mauern, Ranis), late MIS 3 (Moravany-Dlhah), MIS2 (upper strata of Szeleta, Trenčianske Bohuslavice).

Leafpoints were part of very different cultural entities like the Middle European Micoquian / KMG-Group, the Lincombian-Ranisian-Jerzmanowician (LRJ), the so called early and late Szeletian, which by the way the may not represent the same cultural tradition and technocompexes of a Gravettian / post- Pavlovian age- mainly in Western Slovakia and Hungary.

A look at South East Europe (for example Muselievo and Samuilitsa MIS4) and Africa shows the same phenomenon but probably with a greater temporal depth.

In this respect, it would be time to finally abandon the concept of the „Blattspitzengruppen“ and recognize that this term is rather an artefact of research tradition than a phenomenon of real prehistoric life.

Sugested Readings:

Goodwin, AJH; van Riet Lowe, C (1929): "The Stone Age cultures of South Africa". Ann. S. Afr. Mus. 27: 1–289.

Leakey, LSB (1936): Stone Age Africa - An Outline of Prehistory; Oxford University Press.

Nemergut, A et al. (eds.; 1919) 16th SKAM Lithic Workshop “Fossil directeur” - A phenomenon over time and space 21–23 of October 2019, Nitra, Slovak Republic.

Małgorzata Anna Kot (2013): The Earliest Middle Palaeolithic Bifacial Leafpoints in Central and Southern Europe. Technological Approach, PhD Thesis, Warsaw.

2024-05-26 11:33:58   •   ID: 2381

Men the Hunter or Gender Equality?

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Figures 1-4: These are possible projectile points from the IUP (Carmel Region / Israel), the EUP (Ahmarian from Kebara / Israel), the Gravettian (Flechette from Fourneau du Diable), the "Willendorf-Kostenkian" (Morvavany in W-Slovakia) and the Solutrean (Shouldered point from Fourneau de Diable) -all from my personal Collection.

The "Men the Hunter" hypothesis, named after an influential symposium in Chicago in 1966,- see: 1261 held that throughout human evolution, men hunted and women gathered - and that they rarely switched these gender roles.

Some, particularly female researchers (e.g. Linda Owen, Olga Soffer), challenged this notion early on, but for a long time there was only scant evidence for hunting women.

Of course the "Men the Hunter" hypothesis is older than the mentioned conference.

For a long time, the Western countries' model for the division of labor, which was essentially based on the idea that men were "naturally" best suited to hard physical labor, was uncritically applied to prehistoric hunter-gatherers.

In fact, the anatomy of men is usually stronger than that of a woman.

But in addition to pure strength, other factors in successful hunting, such as patience, endurance, individual skills and the ability for long-distance running play an important role.

There is growing evidence that women are physiologically better suited to endurance events such as long distance running than men. This advantage has some implications for hunting, as one well-known hypothesis is that early humans pursued their prey on foot over long distances until the animals were exhausted (Lacy and Ocobock 2023).

The cumulative ethnographic record seems to be clear: In a recently published analysis on published data of 63 different foraging societies on different continents, 50 (79%) of them had documentation on women hunting.

Of the remaining 50 societies, 41 had sufficient data on whether women’s hunting was intentional or opportunistic.

36 (87%) of the foraging societies described women’s hunting as intentional, while only 5 (12%) societies assumed woman’s hunting as opportunistic. This record is in clear contradiction to what is commonly thought (Anderson et al. 2023).

A recent meta-analysis looked at the published records of burials from the late Pleistocene and early Holocene across the Americas, using data where sufficient information on division of labour was available (Lacy and Ocobock 2023).

The circumstances of 429 individuals from 107 sites were analyzed. 27 individuals could be linked to big game hunting tools -, mainly projectile-points-, 11 individuals were female and 15 male. The sample was sufficient to justify the conclusion that women's involvement in early big-game hunting was likely "non-trivial," the researchers finally stated.

However, the discovery of projectile points in graves does not automatically mean that the equipment was used by the buried person, so some uncertainty still remains. There could be some bias in the data.

Ideally, the association of projectiles with an individual of unequivocal female sex (anatomical and if possible determined by DNA) in a grave is not always the proof of a femal hunter.

Burial-associated projectile points can result from homicide, hunting accident, or stratigraphic mixing.

Therefore excavation techniques have to demonstrate the integrity of the site and have to exclude that the individual had been killed by the projectiles that were found.

Happily, and as a proof of principle, in 2018 a burial of an femal individual was excavated in the Andes Mountains of Peru (9 k.a. Cal. BP). The body had been buried with an extensive kit of stone tools and the stratigraphic integrity of the grave was beyond any doubt.

The toolkit found in the burial, according to the report, was most possibly once stored in a perishable container such as a leather bag, and included projectile points and other tools that may have served for scraping and cutting together with nodules of red ocher maybe used to preserve hides (Haas et al. 2020).

Why am I focusing on this excavation in particular?

After more than 150 years of research, the possibilities of finding new, untouched Palaeolithic graves in Europe have probably been largely exhausted.

Future research using more sophisticated techniques will certainly take place on other continents and will probably be able to confirm or reject the hypothesis of Gender equality in hunting strategies during the Stone Age.

Suggested Reading:

Cirotteau;T et al. Lady Sapiens: Breaking Stereotypes About Prehistoric Women; Hero (2023).

Devore; I (Ed.), Lee, RB (Ed.) Man the Hunter; Aldine Pub (1968).

2024-05-15 11:17:13   •   ID: 2379

Vale Comprido Point from Laugerie haute

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This is a rare, 5 cm long, broad Vale Comprido point from Laugerie Haute.

It was made on a broad blank and shows lateral retouching together with some careless basal thinning (Figure 1-4).

The Proto -Solutrean with Vale Comprido Points was already described earlier in the Blog- see here: 1607 and seems to be the earliest manifestation of the Protosolutrean across the entire early Solutrean interaction sphere in Iberia and at a limited number of sites in S/W France, especially at Laugerie Haute.

The lithic technology of the Protosolutrean with Vale Comprido Points has been used to support the idea of an autochtoneous evolution of the Solutrean from the preceding late Gravettian in S/W Europe. Therefore it is possible that Solutrean technology is not a „sudden“ break in the succession of Technocomplexes in Franco-Iberia, as long suggested but an evolutionary process.

Based on archaeological and experimental evidence, Vale Comprido point production was in detail described first by T. Aubry some years ago.

The lithic production was oriented towards the detachment of naturally pointed flakes and blades, most often from unidirectional cores. Subsequently the blanks were transformed into points.

The points are usually directly uni- or bilateral retouched at their convergent edges (Figure 1),

Although we know points without further basal modifications, Vale Comprido points normally shown some basal thinning- best seen in Figure 4. Sometimes the technique of thinning resembles the fluting of Clovis projectiles, certainly a convergence phenomenon.

Based on observations on macrofractures, at least some Vale Comprido points were indeed used as projectiles. Both TCSA and TCSP of the point show a direct correlation with the width and thickness of the projectile.

TCSA and TCSP do not allow to proof, that a tool was used as projectile, but they allow to suggest what kind of launching system (spear, dart, arrow) fits to the presumed projectile. Regarding the point in this post, a dart or spear are the most probable launching systems, that were used.


Ex Champagne and Espitalié collection


Alcaraz-Castaño, M. (2015) Central Iberia around the Last Glacial Maximum. Journal of Anthropological Research,71, p.565-578.

Almeida, F. (2000) The terminal Gravettian of Portuguese Estremadura. (PhD Southern Methodist University)

Zilhão, J.; Trinkaus, E. (eds) Portrait of the Artist as a child. The Gravettian Human skeleton from the Abrigo do Lagar Velho and its Archaeological Context, Trabalhos de Arqueologia, vol.22, Instituto Português de Arqueologia.

Zilhão, J. & Aubry, T. (1995) -La pointe de Vale Comprido et les origines du Solutrén. L’ Anthropologie 99 (1), p.125-142.

Zilhão, J. ; Aubry, T. ; Almeida, F. (1997) – L’utilisation du quartz pendant la transition Gravettien-Solutréen au Portugal. Préhistoire et Anthropologie Méditerranéennes 6, p.289-303.

Zilhão, J. ; Aubry, T. ; Almeida, F. (1999) - Un modèle technologique pour le passage du Gravettien au Solutréen dans le Sud-Ouest de l’Europe. XXIVème Congrès Préhistorique de France. p.165-183.

Resources and images in full resolution:

2024-04-28 14:50:35   •   ID: 2378

Homo Ludens

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Figure 1 and 2: Unusual MSA (Fig. 1) and Neolithic (Fig. 2) lithics from the Sahara, possible objects of children play.

Figure 3: The famous Magdalenian spear thrower, called „faon aux oiseaux“ from Le Mas-d’Azil (from Dons Map), an almost identical specimen is known from Bédeilhac (Ariege).

Figure 4: Hand stencils from Sulawesi; older than 45 k.a. BP.

Figure 5: Panel of Horses from Grotte Chauvet; putatively from the Aurignacian.

In this Neoliberal world the play has become widely an issue of profit and competition - but the play is essentially much more…

"People only play where they are human in the full sense of the word, and they are only fully human where they play."(Friedrich Schiller).

„Homo Ludens“ („man as player") is an important work on cultural studies, first published in 1938 by the late Dutch Historian Johan Huizinga (Holder of the Chair of General History at Leiden University since 1915). It places a cultural-historical definition of man as „Homo ludens“ alongside the older anthropological concept of „Homo sapiens“ and the historical concept of „Homo faber“.

Huizinga had already hinted at the conviction "that human culture arises and unfolds in play - as play" in his inaugural lecture (1903) and had outlined it in more detail in lectures since 1933.

In this late work, he proposed a "the very independent and very primary character of play", which is "older than culture", and seeks to establish that ultimately "in the function of play, which is an independent quality [...], the feeling of man's embeddedness in the cosmos finds its first, highest and most sacred expression".

He emphasised that he was not concerned with viewing play in its significance as a product and component of culture, but rather with revealing the playful as a constitutive element of any cultural activity.

According to him, human play is characterised, among others by following issues:

-The game is free - in this respect it opens the mind to the realms of Freedom (sensu: Schiller)

-The game takes place within certain limits of space and time

-The game is not connected with any material interest and no profit can be made from it

- For Huizinga, play is the opposite of seriousness and is loosely associated with "a group of ideas - play, laughter, folly, joke, jest, comedy, art, etc."(Huizinga 1938).

Using cross-cultural examples from the humanities, economics and politics, Huizinga examined play in all its diverse manifestations - as it relates to language, law, war, knowledge, poetry, myth, philosophy, art and more.

Starting from Platon, Huizinga traces the contribution of "man as player" through the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the early modern period.

Although Huizinga used ethnographic literature as proxy to prehistoric times, something we would certainly consider highly problematic today, the idea about the significance of play in Paleolithic culture seems to be a fruitful hypothesis for further discussion and research.

So far, only works dealing with the role of play among children in the Paleolithic have been published (Nowell 2021). Indeed the diminutive stone tools in Figs. 1 and 2 were always discussed as children's play since their first discovery.

But play does not end in childhood, and cave paintings and portable art in particular may provide further insights into the role of play.

Far from providing systematic review, I mention here the scatological humor of the Bouquetin from Le Mas-d’Azil, shown in Figure 3, or the playful element of the multiple handstencils left behind by Homo Sapiens in parietal art since at least 45 k.a, (Figure 4) in which children were demonstrably also involved, as well as the animals on cave walls that appear to be in motion by their repetitive pattern -for example at Lascaux or Chauvet (Figure 5).

To summarize, I really believe that it would be worthwhile for prehistorians to take a closer look at Huizinga's theses....


M. Eigen and R. Winkler: Das Spiel Naturgesetze steuern den Zufall Piper, 1990

J. Huizinga Andreas Flitner (Hrsg.): Homo ludens. Vom Ursprung der Kultur im Spiel. Reinbek 2009

Hüther and Quarch: Rettet das Spiel! Hanser 2019

A. Nowell: Growing Up in the Ice Age; Oxbow Books, 2021

Resources and images in full resolution:

2024-04-16 10:29:55   •   ID: 2376

Ideology instead of Science: Researchers that are right but for the wrong reasons

Plate 1

Plate 1: A Lincombian-Ranisian-Jerzmanowician (LRJ) Leaf Point with incomplete dorsal retouch together with an endscraper on blade, made with the same characteristics, from Kleinheppach, Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany, already introduced in the blog- see here: 1603 and 2366 .

Subsequent Figures in this Blog-entry show further Paleolithic Leaf Points / Blattspitzen / Bifacial Foliates from Europe and the Near East. Figure 1: Late Middle Paleolithic from Goldberg and Mauern in Southern Germany (MIS 3 around 50 k.a. BC); Figure 2: Early Middle Paleolithic from Weimar Ehringsdorf (MIS 7 around 220 k.a.BC), Figure 3: Solutrean from Solutré (around 20 k.a.), Figure 4: Fayum A Neolithic around 5,5 k.a.BC.

The LRJ-Technocomplex was first excavated in Germany by Werner Hülle during 1932-1937 at the Ilsenhöhle in Ranis (Thuringia). Until now this site remains the only place in Germany with a stratified LRJ.

Figure 1
At Ranis in Zone 2, an industry with numerous fine, leaf shaped points of different sizes appeared next to and slightly above Zone 1 with a poor Middle Paleolithic and below an typical Aurignacian in Zone 3. However, „Jerzmanowice points“ were only found in Zone 2 and were often accompanied by numerous end scrapers on blades.

Like our example in Plate 1, Endscrapers of Zone 2 in Ranis occasionally show flat dorsal retouches (Müller-Beck 1968).

Hülle placed the LRJ into a warmer period, according to him into the EEM- interglacial. This position seemed to be substantiated by some incomplete and biased paleoclimatic data. We will see below that this misclassification fitted perfectly into Hülles "Völkischen" view of Prehistory.

The complete excavation report was only published decades later by the excavator and published in 1977 after his death by Hansjürgen Müller-Beck and Joachim Hahn (Hülle 1977).

As far as political events were concerned, we find Werner Hülle as early as 1932 as a member of the "Kampfbund für deutsche Kultur" founded by Alfred Rosenberg, the Nationals Socialist chief Philosopher, in 1929. Hülle had been a member of the NSDAP since May 1, 1933 and had also been a member of the SA since May 2, 1933. During the "Third Reich" he was the "right hand" of his master Hans Reinerth, an eminent and influential Prehistorian under the Protection of Alfred Rosenberg.

Figure 2
Academic archaeological research during the Third Reich was divided into two rival groups, “Amt Rosenberg” and Himmlers “SS-Ahnenerbe”. Although the coexistence of two organisations, who both claimed to be the authentic curators of German prehistory, prevented a complete “Gleichschaltung” of the discipline, especially young and well trained archaeologists could not make their career without being connected with one of these organizations or alternatively preferred to stay under the personal protection of Himmler or Rosenberg.

The examples in Figure 1-4 show that Blattspitzen are neither suitable as fossil directeurs nor are they the specific products selectively made by certain hominins. They were produced for at least 250 k.a. and made both by (Archaic) Homo sapiens and Neanderthals.

In the 1930s, it was already known that Homo sapiens had succeeded Neanderthals in Europe. At that time, most anthropologists suggested that Homo Sapiens had evolved from the Neanderthal clade - and of course, according the their Eurocentric views, this should have happened on the European continent.

The European finds at this time constantly demonstrated an association of Neanderthals with the Middle Palaeolithic (for example at Le Moustier), while Homo sapiens was always associated with the Upper Palaeolithic (for example at Cro-Magnon).

Science is a dynamic process, and only during the last 40 years it became increasingly clear that Neanderthals were essentially an European/Eurasian species. Modern humans migrated to Europe from elsewhere, most likely Africa, and replaced the Neandertals. This hypothesis is strongly supported by genetics and Anthropological findings.

Figure 3
The view of Nationalsocialists like Hülle and Bohmers, an "Ahenerbe" scientist, who at the same time when Hülle worked at Ranis, excavated the late Middle Paleolithic Blattspitzen at Mauern- see here: 1157 and 1528 , was straight forward and completely in line with the wishes of Reichsführer - SS Himmler and the fanatic Antisemite Rosenberg.

1. Allthough the evidence was poor, they dated the strata with Blattspitzen at Ranis and Mauern to the last Interglacial (EEM) and therefore at 120 k.a.

2. The Blattspitzen-horizons at both sites were suggested to be too perfect to have been produced by Neanderthals - according to Hülle and Bohmer's reasoning they must have been produced by Homo sapiens at a time significantly earlier than the first evidence of Homo sapiens in southern/western Europe (120 k.a. vs. 40 k.a.)

3. The hypothetical makers of the Central European Blattspitzen were Arian / Nordic man from Germany.

We notice, that with the help of some minor rhetoric operations, the important scientific impact of the Mauern and Ranis excavations was contaminated by Nazi- ideology. We will never know whether these attempts were an expression of nationalistic conviction, complete opportunism, or only the desire to open up new sources of funding further excavations.

What is clear, however, is that the results fitted both Himmler's and Rosenberg's world view. We do not know for sure whether the young scientists had any doubts about their statements.

Figure 4
Bohmers in 1937 wrote:„Until now almost every German, and without exception every foreign investigator, has assumed that the race migrated to Europe from somewhere in the East. The excavations at Mauern and Ranis have revealed for the first time the key that proves that the Cro-Magnon race must have developed in greater Germany.” (Pringle 2014).

Renewed investigations at Ranis took place in recent years,- see attached files, and showed that:

1. the Blattspitzen / „Jerzmanowice points“ in Ranis came from a layer with a very cold climate, dating to MIS3 at ca. 45-43 k.a. BP, while the Blattspitzen at Mauern were not connected with any Human remains. Anyhow, because they were found within a complete Middle Paleolithic / KMG Context, they were probably made by Neanderthals.

2. it was indeed Homo Sapiens who made the artifacts in Stratum 2 at Ranis. This was clearly evidenced by multiple Paleogenetic findings

3. and of course Homo Sapiens had by no means its roots in Central Germany...

In contrast to what can still be read, the involved archaeologists during the 1930ies worked at an excellent methodical level. Scientific standards were kept high, and there are only few references in their publications to their underlying racist worldview. Nevertheless the conclusions they drawed were fundamentally biased.

Hülle was right about the authorship by Homo Sapiens for the Leafpoints at Ranis but for the wrong and multiple ideological reasons - an older view was shaped by everyday European racism and a more recent view by the much more radical National Socialist ideology.


HA Pringle: The Master Plan: Himmler's Scholars and the Holocaust, Harper Perennial 2014.

A. Bohmers, “Die Mauerner Höhlen und ihre Bedeutung für die Einteilung der Altsteinzeit,” in Ahnenerbe Jahrestagungen. Bericht über die Kieler Tagung 1939, ed. Herbert Jankuhn , 1944.

R. Höhne, Die Ausgrabungen der Schutzstaffeln, possibly 1938

G.Freund: Die Blattspitzen des Paläolithikums in Europa, 1952

G. Freund. Das Paläolithikum der Oberneder-Höhle - Ldkr. Kelheim-Donau; 1987

G. Bosinski: mittelpaläolithischen Funde im westlichen Mitteleuropa, 1967

K. Günter: Alt- und mittelsteinzeitliche Fundplätze in Westfalen, Teil 1 + Teil 2; 1986, 1988

K. Günther: Die altsteinzeitlichen Funde der Balver Höhle. Bodenaltertümer Westfalens 8. Münster; 1964

Baales M et al. : Westfalen in der Alt- und Mittelsteinzeit; 2014

Richter J: Sesselfelsgrotte III. Der G-Schichten-Komplex der Sesselfelsgrotte; 1997

2023-11-29 14:31:58   •   ID: 2367

Better too much once than too little once: Redundancy in the Paleolithic

Mauretanian Sahara (Adrar-Wikimedia Commons)
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Several Localities especially in East Africa and the Sahara are characterized by large quantities of techno-typologically almost identical artifacts.

Examples of this development are shown in Figures 1-5 (Aterian Points (Figure 1-3 from the Mauretanien Sahara) or LCTs (Figure 4-5 from Olorgesailie / Kenya).

However, we are usually unable to distinguish whether such accumulations are the result of a short-term occupation with intensive lithic production or palimpsests that have been produced over a longer period of time. However, reports on well-studied sites suggests both scenaria may be possible.

If we assume that larger quantities of artifacts were produced in a limited time frame, it could be a case of provisioning specific place in anticipation of future needs (sensu Kuhn). Such behavior implies future planning, which, to the best of our knowledge, can already be assumed even for archaic Homo sp.

While palimpsest formation played a major role in Olorgesaillie, the Aterian artifacts, which by the way have a very specific "style", were found together on a surface location as if ordered and not collected.

"Better too much once than too little once" are common sayings that describe quite well what is hidden behind the term redundancy. Namely, identical or comparable things are available at least twice in parallel.

In the context of living in the Paleolithic, this ensured that the necessary lithics and the knowledge about their production remained available even in the event of loss.

Figure 4
Copies of a tool do not necessarily have to be identical. Deviations in the design can enable a flexible and rapid response to specific problems, when needed. Parallel pathways and variability in lithic production may therfore better described as safety mechanisms that may be used in some circumstances and not others.

However, "redundancy" is sometimes used in everyday language as unnecessary process or tasks that can be removed without affect the output.

Drawing analogies with biological systems is sometimes dangerous, but in this case quite appropriate. In Biology, Redundancy is fundamental for all organisms to cope with environmental stress and harmful mutations. It plays a vital role in all key processes from genetics to development, immunity, nervous systems, musculoskeletal systems and visual processing.

On a deeper level, Genetic redundancy means that two or more genes are performing the same function and that inactivation of one of these genes has little or no effect on the biological phenotype. Such a genetic backup seems to be of major importance, otherwise it would have disappeared during evolution.

In many ways, the survival of organisms is ensured by the presence of large reserve capacities. The back-up / redundancy in lithic production may have been little different in the effects on survival of early hunter-gatherers....

2023-11-21 11:17:54   •   ID: 2366

Lincombian-Ranisian-Jerzmanowician (LRJ) in 2023: It was Homo sapiens stupid!

In my limited family collection, I hold only one 6 cm long artifact from the Lincombian-Ranisian-Jerzmanowician (LRJ) industry (Figure 1 and 2), already introduced in the blog- see here: 1603

Figure 1
It has to be stressed, that the definition of the LRJ is unfortunately solely based on one “fossile directeur” -the so called blade point-, manufactured on substantial, triangular cross sectioned blades.

On average, these Blade Points have a length around 9–10 cm, width of 3 cm, and thickness of 1 cm, often struck from opposed platforms cores. However, significantly smaller specimen, similar to the artifact shown here, are also known from several localities (for example at the Jerzmanowice type site and in Moravia).

The secondary retouch on blade points is regularly present on both dorsal (flat / semi-steep retouch) and ventral (flat retouch) surfaces. It was most possibly aimed at straightening and thinning the pieces, presumably for hafting as projectile points. No use-wear study has ever been made on Jerzmanowice points.

All evidence suggests that the Lincombran-Ranisian-Jerzmanovician points were primarily used as hunting weapons. At least there are many indications in a micro-morphological examination such as: "spin-off" detachments and pronounced bending fractures.

Although often referred to as "transitional" in the literature, technologically the LRJ is a purely Upper Paleolithic industry characterized by volumetric cores, cresting, uni- or bipolar technique and the use of soft hammer and and the presence of facetted butts.

Because the majority of the LRJ-sites represent short-term hunting camps or isolated stray findings, we hardly know any other artifact classes. However, at least some Upper Paleolithic burins and end scrapers have been discovered in Beedings near Pulborough in West Sussex / UK, while Middle Paleolithic tools are completely missing. The same observation has been made at Nietoperzowa Cave and Ranis and recently at some larger Moravian sites (See below).

In addition to Jerzmanowice points, LRJ assemblages may also contain bifacial Leafpoints (at Nietoperzowa Cave and Ranis). Until now, it was assumed that such mixing represents the evolution from completely Middle Paleolithic retouched leaf points to partially retouched Upper Paleolithic points, thus underpinning a "transitional" character of the industry. But it was most certainly just the other way round: At some sites, initial incompletely retouched points were transformed into completely retouched ones within a full upper Paleolithic system.

Figure 2
The LRJ is an industry of Middle and Northern Europe (UK, Belgium, Netherlands, Middle and Northern Germany, Moravia and Kraków-Częstochowa Upland).

The LRJ begins just before HE-4 event and can be placed before the Campanian Ignimbrite (CI) super-eruption. New highly precise data come from from layer 6 in Nietoperzowa Cave: 44 –42 k.a. cal BP and the Ilsenhöhle near Ranis: 47,5-45,7 BP, while data from the Jerzmanowician occupation in Koziarnia Cave (39-36 k.a. cal. BP) may indicate a persistent chronological position also after the CI eruption.

The upper limit for the Jerzmanowician is still estimated to c.35 k.a. Cal BP according to earlier dating programs. In my opinion these dates need revision for methodological reasons.

The greatest surprise, however, was reported this year by Hublin et al. (oral presentation 2023). During new excavations in the Ilsenhöhle cave in Thuringia, DNA from Homo sapiens (haplogroup N) was identified in 11 in-situ bone samples from the LRJ layer, thus falsifying older ideas that Neanderthals were the makers of the technocomplex.

Interestingly, Demidenko and Skrdla in 2023 presented the excavation results of various Early Upper Palaeolithic Moravian sites (Líšeň/Podolí I, Želešice III/Želešice- Hoynerhügel, Líšeň I/Líšeň-Čtvrtě, and Tvarožná X/Tvarožná, “Za školou”), suggestive for a LRJ, in a detailed paper.

It seems for me that they have finally discovered several of the long-sought residential LRJ-campsites although I have some doubts about the LRJ- classification of the findings. But who really knows how an the actefactual spectrum of an intact LRJ site might look like…

Figure 3
Consistent with recent results from other regions, C-14 data of the Moravian sites scatter just before the CI eruption. Importantly, the authors argue for an evolution of the LRJ from the local IUP (Bohunician / Emiran; Figure 3 with examples from the Negev from my collection) rather than suggesting the now untenable evolution from a bifacial Micoquian (s.l), made by Neanderthals. The paper seems very innovative to me and opens up completely new avenues for further research. Anyhow we need more data to confirm or reject their Hypotheses.

Demidenko and Skrdla: "We further propose that LRJ assemblages were produced by Homo sapiens, and that its roots are in the Bohunician industry. The LRJ originated as a result of a gradual technological transition, centering on the development of Levallois points into Jerzmanowice-type blade-points. It is also suggested that the LRJ industry first appeared in Moravia, in central Europe, and spread along with its makers (Homo sapiens) across the northern latitudes of central and western Europe. Accordingly, the IUP “Bohunician package” did not disappear in Europe but gave rise to another IUP industry successfully adapted for the then steppe-tundra belts in northern Europe" (Demidenko and Skrdla 2023).

I think that this is a valid hypothesis for further research.

2023-01-29 17:18:35   •   ID: 2365

Some random reflections about Prehistoric Research of the last 25 years

Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 4
These are some random Lithics of my personal Collection-Figure 1 and 2 show a flat symetric Biface ("Faustkeil- Blatt") and a "Quina"-transversal Scraper from the Orne Region in Northern France.

Figure 3 displays a Mousterian Point transitional to a "Limace" from the central Sahara and an elongated Levallois Point from Burgundy / France.

Figure 4 displays a carinated scraper / core from the La Rochette Rockshelter in the Vezere Valley and Figure 5 a small Biface, most probably from the late Middle Paleolithic, from the Bergeracois Region in S/W-Fance.

Let's compare the knowledge around 1975 - the time when I started to seriously explore prehistoric archaeology - with the state of research in 2023:

It is evident that historical and political developments have a direct influence on our view on Prehistory.

During the last years, the bipolar system of the Cold War was replaced by a multipolar and probably even more dangerous world. In social sciences, there was a breakdown of the master narratives of the twentieth century and a questioning of previous theories.

Multidisciplinarity continued to develop and the combination of different disciplines yielded new insights. Examples are the combination of lithic studies with cognitive behavioral science or with evolutionary theoretical paradigms.

We observed the ongoing scientification and professionalization of the discipline, the development of postcolonial perspectives, and, more generally, a shift away from linear toward non-linear reasoning.

However, a counter-movement also developed, with the renewed attempt to establish unscientific narratives in research (here we are talking about the denomination of sponsored programs such as: "our way to Europe", or the re-ethnicization of views in some countries).

Cultural-historical interpretations were almost completely replaced by structural/functional, processual and post-processual, ecological and technological interpretations and a greater stringency in the interpretation of findings developed.

However, this was accompanied by a certain hyperskepticism that questioned almost all observations before the year 2000 (for example, the evidence of middle Paleolithic huts, the reference to Neanderthal burials by earlier serious scientists).

Absolute dating by physical science is still very successfully on the rise and often challenges older incomplete and patchy relative chronologies. Together with genetic data, finer chronologies are especially helpful in the formulation of improved theories, especially in the evaluation of "Transitions" in Prehistory.

Enormous advances in genetics and molecular archaeology had implications for our view of the planet's colonization history and can sometimes answer questions about migratory movements or autochthonous evolution. However, I think that the last question is overestimated - a late echo of outdated nationalist research agendas. I personally don't care what micro-genetic signature I might carry...

However, advances in genetics also created the danger of inappropriately linking genetic data with findings from other disciplines. A prominent example is the mixing of genetic data with assumptions about ethnogenesis and the mixing of such theorems with linguistic data (a particularly ugly example is the obsessive preoccupation with "Indo-European peoples"). Why on earth would one conflate genetic signatures with self-attributed identities and, moreover, with a hypothetical extinct language. Honni soit qui mal y pense....

The processing of large amounts of data (big data), which is becoming possible now, has brought new insights, but with the problem that, except for a few specialists, even professional observers can no longer verify the accuracy of the statements. Of course, this also applies to the interpretation of genetic data. However, it is still better to rely on scientific statements that can be verified or falsified than on counterfactual narratives from obscure sources.

2023-01-16 09:39:03   •   ID: 1622

Middle Paleolithic Points and the Principle of Elongation

Figure 1
These are elongated Mousterian Points on non-Levallois blades from the Calvados of unknown age. Non-Levallois and Levallois based Elongated Mousterian points, similar to those displayed her, were infrequent found during several Middle Paleolithic technocomplexes of France (mainly from OIS5-3  e.g. Goderville, Oissel, Bihoherel, Houppeville, Saint-Just-en-Chaussée; maybe older at Montguillain/Oise) and the Netherlands at the Maastricht Belvedere K-site some 250000 years old (OIS 7).

Note that the majority of the material from the sites mentioned above testify a Levallois chain operatoire.

In this context it is important, that the Levallois technique is more successful than the Clacton, Quina or discoid techniques in the production of elongated blanks as Soressi already demonstrated using the MTA layers from Le Moustier (Soressi 2007).

Angé is a Middle Paleolithic site, excavated with modern methods located in Central France and dated to the late MIS5.  

The retouched tools were rich in scrapers and elongated convergent points, very similar to the points shown here, which were in some cases used as projectile points and assigned to the Ferrassie Mousterian . The bifacial tools display similarities to those of the Keilmesser Group (KMG) of Central Europe.

Overall elongated points cannot be confined to a certain geographical place and period within a large time frame between OIS8-3 (the lower travertine at Weimar-Ehringsdorf is another good example, most probably from OIS7).

Figure 2
Gowlett recently published an interesting article about elongation as a principle of improving certain qualities of artifacts.

The principle of elongation was for several times and at several places established during prehistory by using elongated flakes/blades for the production of stone tools or by the production of leaf points.  

“In general, across Upper and Middle Palaeolithic industries, it stands out that the elongation in stone artefacts was desired for more than one purpose. In both projectile points and hand points, it appears to have a strong link with hafting, which obviously entails the cognitive abilities to combine materials, and probably knowledge of glue and/or twine, the latter clearly a prerequisite for bows. In the case of hand tools, elongation might relate to specific tasks, such as butchery or other cutting with need for a long edge. In the case of projectiles, the need for elongation is fundamental to their effective projection”

ELongated blanks with the most effective cutting edge in the Middle Paleolithic and MSA are definitely blades. Some early examples without completeness intended:

Africa / Asia: Five sites of the Kapthurin Formation in East Africa and the Kathu Pan 1 site in South Africa contained blade-like components that have been dated to about 500 k.a.

The Kapthurin group appears to be not related to the Levallois methods, since blades in series were manufactured using a unidirectional or centripetal method from a convex flaking surface. This surface was created by the intersection of two or more planes and appears to be similar to the Hummalian technique, as described by Boëda (1995). The first blade was detached from either the long natural edge or from an edge of a core that was only lightly prepared; the next few blades were then removed continuously.

On the Kathu Pan 1 site, blades were struck from a single platform, or more often two platforms; the cores appear to have been prepared and maintained by employing centripetal flaking. The assemblage seems to be related to Levallois, as defined by Boëda.

These descriptions indicate the diversity of early blade production in eastern and southern Africa. The various kinds seem to have been clearly distinct in a technological sense but related in their chronology.

Another African site showing blade elements, Haua Fteah in Libya, was characterized as “an archaic Leptolithic industry with virtual absence of Levalloisian traits’’ (McBurney 1967) and as belonging to the Pre-Aurignacian of the Near East.

Found under the Levallois-Mousterian levels and separated from the latter by a 0.5m sterile horizon, this set remains undated.

On the other hand, Grigoriev’s analysis of the published lithic materials displayed the possible use of the Levallois method and the Mousterian character of the tool-kit. Therefore the character of the industry remains uncertain.

The Early Middle Palaeolithic of S/W-Asia shows non-Levallois debitage and contains two industries: the Pre-Aurignacian and the Amudian.

The first was identified in levels 13 and 15 at Yabrud I in Syria and the second in a few sites: in Tabun, Abri Zumoffen/Adlun, Masloukh (Skinner 1970), Zuttiyeh (Gisis and Bar-Yosef 1974) and Qesem Cave. The Amudian from Tabun unit XI (Tabun E) has been dated to 264 +/-28 k.a and those from Qesem Cave may possibly have started more than 380 k.a and persisted to up to 200 k.a.

Both industries are often assembled together, although they differ in their core reduction strategies and tool-kits. While the tool-kit of the Pre-Aurignacian is characterized by burins and end scrapers, tha Amudian exhibits retouched backs opposite the long cutting of blades.

The more recent Early Middle Palaeolithic blade assemblages in the near East (“Tabun-D ensembles”) are positioned in the stratigraphy between the Acheulo-Yabrudian and the Middle Palaeolithic complex (e.g. Tabun IX, Hayonim lower E and F and Hummalian at El Kowm ) or above the Acheulo-Yabrudian (e.g. Abu Sif C-D), with other sites, such as Rosh ein Mor, Nahal Aqev and Ain Difla, Misliya cave, presenting full and short stratigraphical sequences.

These assemblages display the use of the Laminar and Levallois reduction strategies simultaneously and contain a high percentage of blades. They differ not only in the use of both reduction strategies, but also in the production of various tools; site type and site use; and chronology (between 260 to 160 k.a).

The goal was to produce elongated blanks, although not exclusively so. Short specimens are always recorded and seem to have been manufactured through a distinct core reduction strategy, generally Levallois in nature.

In Asia, Early Middle Palaeolithic blade industries had already been identified in Tajikistan and Georgia on both slopes of the Central Caucasus in the 1980s. For example, Weasel Cave in North Ossetia and Kudaro I, Kudaro III, Tsona, Djruchula, and Hviraty in South Ossetia.

These sites have been conglomerated under the name of the Kudaro-Djruchula group and are associated with the Tabun D-type industries, as they contain a large quantity of blades. The dating obtained from two occupation spans in Djruchula Cave, with assemblages presenting clear technological affinities with the blade industries of the Near East, has put their estimated age at between 260 k.a and 140 k.a.

The Khonako III site in Tajikistan is estimated to date from 200-240 k.a. In the Near East, the laminar phenomenon appears at the end of the Lower Palaeolithic immediately following the Acheulo-Yabrudian (Pre-Aurignacian and Amudian) and is then seen systematically in the early Middle Palaeolithic (Hayonim layers F and E, Abu Sif, Tabun D, Tabun E, Rosh Ein Mor, Ain Difla, Hummal layers 6 and 7, Nadaouyieh, Umm el Tlel) and later in the heart of the Middle Palaeolithic (Nahal Aqev, Douara IV, Jerf Ajla Unit E, and Hummal.

In Europe first blade-rich industies (Markkleeberg, Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme Baker’s Hole, Rheindahlen B1/B2 Biache-Saint-Vaast – niveau IIA ) can be dated to the Early or Middle Saalian s.l. (MIS 8 or 7).

During OIS 5 in Northern Europe, there are abundant evidence of a fully developed blade industry in France and adjacent parts of Germany (Wallertheim D, Saint-Germain-des-Vaux, Tönchesberg 2B, Riencourt-lès-Bapaume, Seclin – D7). Here again either Levallois and / or prismatic core techniques are present.

Shortly before the advent of the upper Paleolithic, the Neronian of the Mediterranean France and the MTA are examples of middle Paleolithic blade-rich industries during OIS3 . Elongated Levallois points are often the hallmark of these industries.

Provenience: P. Vabre Collection

2023-01-13 08:42:05   •   ID: 2364

The Origins of Levallois-Core Technology

Figure 1
Figure 1 shows a large Levallois Core (Diameter: 10.5 cm) from „Scorbé-Clairvaux" near Chatelerault (France).

Figure 2 displays a unipolar preferential Levallois core with a already detached target flake from central France.

Figure 3 illustrates two centripetal Levallois cores from the rich Middle Paleolithic of the Gargano region.

It is well known that Levallois cores differ from Discoid cores mainly by their hierarchisation of the volume.

The Levallois flakes may have, among other things, the advantage of a more predictable and predeterminated shape, although whether or not this was really intended by the knappes is still open to discussion and probably will remain open.

Figure 2 and 3
In any case, I can't think of any experimental setup, or retrospective evaluation of operational chains, that would prove one or the other....

Another important key advantage offered by Levallois Technology in comparison with Discoid techniques in general is the production of large thin elongate flakes. About the principle of elongated tools- see: 1622

As earlier described- see here: 1613 the oldest indications for a fully fledged Levallois technology so far were found in South Africa (Wonderwerk Cave MU4 , Kathu Pan 1). However, there are several doubts regarding the stratigraphic integrity at both sites.

Much more reliable are data from Kapthurin in the Rift Valley of east Africa, published in 2022. Here, large flake blank handaxes and cleavers were produced through Levallois knapping by the use of symmetrical centripetal core-preparation. The Acheulean Levallois technique is distinguished from MSA Levallois by the lack of recurrent flaking (Shipton et al. 2022).

In the East African MSA, tools are characterized by points with unifacial and bifacial retouch on non-Levallois and Levallois blanks, partially made from Nubian cores. This is the case at Gademotta (ETH-72-8B before 276±4 k.a BP; ETH-72-6 after 183±10 k.a BP) and at Kulkuletti (200–300 k.a BP) (Douze 2007).

In the Levant first "proto-Levallois" cores have been identified in the late Acheulian / Acheulean at about 400-200 k.a.. Levallois elements became common in “Tabun D-ensembles , which appear after 250 k.a BP in Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and the El Kowm region in Syria (Shea 2003, 2017, 2020).

Figure 4 and 5
The oldest MSA settlements in northeastern Africa are the “larged-sized MSA” unit from Dakhleh Oasis and the “lower Levallois” site from Kharga Oasis Locus IV, which are dated around 200 k.a. (Kleindienst et al. 2008).

The same may hold true for the sites of Bir Sahara East and Bir Tarfawi (Wendorf, Schild, and Close 1993); however, OSL dating results for Kharga point to a considerable younger age.

Recently Jebel Irhoud in Morocco was dated by several lines of evidence to 315 k.a. The rich site is characterized by Levallois and non-levallois debitage and by the occurrence of an early ("archaic" ) H. Sapiens (Richter et al. 2017).

The Levallois technology in W- Europe seems to be present as early as MIS 10 at Mesvin IV in Belgium and appeared at several sites during early OIS 8 (Orgnac 3, Baume Bonne, Bankers Hole, Crayford).

How should we imagine the development of Levallois Technology?

Some researchers have shown that bifaces were regularly used to produce flakes during the Middle Pleistocene. Figure 4 and 5 show a "Handaxe-Core" (dorsal and ventral view) from St. Meme in the Charente.

Another example is from Angers in France and was already shown here: 2359 .

Other scholars emphasize the possibility of an evolution from discoid cores to Levallois cores. In this case, the hierarchization of the volume could have been initially accidental, and the advantages for the knapper were evident.

Figure 6
Probably both possibilities should be considered to be equally likely. And, of course, one must assume multiple events and multiple regions of origin.

Finally, I show in Figure 6 several Discoid and Levallois cores from S/W France, simply because the image fits the theme so nicely.

Surf the Blog About Levallois in the old world -see here: 1156 , here: 1185 , here: 1564 , and here: 2257