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2022-11-26 17:36:43   •   ID: 2360

The Last Acheulean: or what happened to NATURE?

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Figure 1 shows a very regular discoidal Handaxe from a surface site in the Menashe Hills near Haifa in Israel -already introduced into the blog-see: 1460 . Figures 2-4 display Handaxes from Swanscombe (MIS 11), Algeria (Middle Pleistocene) and the Northern European Plain (MIS 3).

In "Springer Nature", Alastair J. M. Key et al. recently published their view about the interesting issue of the ending of the Acheulean over the old world as a distinct technocomplex.

Although the authors took every effort to avoid data bias and used some impressive statistical methodology, they stumble over even the most significant methodological problem: the definition of the Acheulian. This issue virtually invites multiple data bias.

The Acheulian technocomplex in the publication is defined by the authors as follows:

"We defined a site as belonging to the Acheulean cultural tradition based on two factors: (1) the presence of large bifacially flaked cutting tools (handaxes and cleavers) and an absence of Levallois technologies, and (2) the original authors describing a site also assigning it to the Acheulean. We are aware that not all individuals will be happy with this definition." .........

First, Handaxes are not always made from LTCs.

Secondly: Why should the Levallois-technique not be an integral part of the late Acheulian?

In Key’s view, most of the classic Handaxe ensembles of Northern France, would have to be excluded from the Acheulian tradition…

Maybe we should ask other questions?

We could ask about the persistence of the faconage technique in the Paleolithic. In doing so, we would get locally different answers:

In the Levant, the Acheulo-Yabrudian ends around 250 k.a. and is replaced by a purely unifacial Levallois Mousterian, followed by Upper Palaeolithic technocomplexes without a bifacial component.

From West-Europe to the Caucasian mountains we notice that the bifacial option was always present until the end of MIS 3 (MTA, bifacial Mousterian, KMG / Micoquian options). Bifaces only disappeared with the onset of the Aurignacian sensu lato.

Easy to recognize that a particular definition has a great influence on the particular answer. The answers differ according to the questions, which are themselves biased.- see: 2336 . The reviewers of "Nature" could also have noticed these simple facts. Hopefully this publication remains an exception...

A fragmented Archaeological record still needs some kind of periodization. Perhaps it would make more sense to develop periodization of the Paleolithic according to cognitive competences of its makers, that can be derived from stone tools, instead of using again old typological or technological concepts ?

PS: For decades I read the Archäologisches Korrespondenzblatt, a great journal of best quality both of the articles and of the paper on which the contributions were printed. It was so cheap that everyone could afford it.

Unfortunately, this is now over but as a great comfort: All these contributions have been digitized and the journal is now available in open access!- see here: Korrespondenzblatt

2022-11-25 10:21:02   •   ID: 2359

A Handaxe used as a core from Angers (France-Central/West)

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Angers is a city in the west of France, with approx. 160000 inhabitants today. It is the capital of the historical province called Anjou. Today, the name of Anjou is Maine-et-Loire.

Originally, the biface of the post (12x5x1,1 cm) was designed as a biconvex and very flat piece. However, it was subsequently re-used as a core and on the dorsal side and we still recognize the negative of a rather large flake. A nice example of the diversified use of Paleolithic Handaxes.

If such a handaxe is found without further context in the North European Plain, it is usually assigned to either a Late Acheulian or a MTA.

The same could be said for this biface. The typological chronology therefore covers a period between MIS9 and MIS3.

The artifact is a 19th century find from one of the old Gravel pits along the River Maine that flows through Angers. The Maine is a tributary of the Loire and is formed by the confluence of the Mayenne and Sarthe rivers north of Angers. It flows through the city and joins the Loire southwest of the city.

Early and Middle Paleolithic remains from or near Angers come from different terraces of the Maine. For the Lower Paleolithic, the oldest tools were found in a 42-meter terrace on the rue de Frémur.

The more recent 35 to 25 m terraces have yielded a series of Acheulean bifaces coming from Ecouflant (at La Chévère, already reported by G. de Mortillet in 1895) and from the banks of the Sarthe, mainly from Port-Launay. Another site with large lanceolated handaxes is La Mare.

Middle Paleolithic artifacts come from Angers (Mousterian, rue La Fontaine), from Ecouflant and from Empiré, in Sainte-Gemmes. The Upper Paleolithic (mainly Azian) is represented in Angers (Pond Saint-Nicolas, in Ecouflant and Empiré) and finally the Mesolithic in La Chévère d'Ecouflant.

Most of these sites are not dated by modern methods and have been excavated long time ago. The only multi stratified site near Angers at the moment is Roc-en-Pail already discovered in 1870. The early excavations yielded more than 30000 objects, fauna and industry. Limited excavations took place between 1943-1949 and again since 2014.

According to Soriano (2016) , the configuration during the occupations should be quite similar to the site of Jonzac (Charente). At the present state of knowledge, the chronology of the deposits remains entirely hypothetical, but certain archaeological layers have been related to Mousterian facies (including the Mousterian of the Ferrassie and Quina type) whose chronology is known in southwestern France.

The bulk of the occupations possibly took therefore place between the early Wurm and the Upper Pleniglacial. With faunas and microfaunas preserved in all the archaeological layers, and a stratigraphy that develops over almost 5 meters in thickness, Roc-en-Pail presents a major potential for the knowledge of the Middle Paleolithic in this region of France. We will certainly here more from this "forgotten site"

2022-11-10 12:06:52   •   ID: 2358

The Late Acheulian in Northern France

This is a 22 cm long lanceolated / Micoquian Handaxe from Hardivilliers / Oise- a site known for its abundant high quality Flint and already introduced in the Blog-see: 2328 . The sophisticated Biface is certainly an example of fine workmanship, manufactured by Neanderthals.

The Oise is a river of Belgium and France, flowing for 341 km from its source in what is now the Belgian province of Hainaut, south of Chimay.

It crosses the border with France after about 20 km. Subsequently it flows into the Seine at Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a north-western suburb of Paris. Its main tributary is the Aisne and finally gave its name to the French departments of Oise and Val-d'Oise.

The Oise Valley is rich in Lower and Middle Paleolithic findings, mainly collected during the 19 and 20th century in brickyards, like the famous late Acheulian / ("Micoquian") locality of Allonne- see: 1532 , 2028 , 1661 and 1615 .

Interesting historical ensembles were collected since Mortillets times from Montguillain / Goincourt- see: 1650 a Middle Paleolithic with sophisticated bifacial scrapers, Villeneuve-sur-Verberie- a very interesting collection with flat asymmetrical handaxes and Keilmesser and Catigny - see: 1456 an MTA / MAT.

Collections characterized by symmetrical Micoquian bifaces have been particularly numerous in loess quarries of the Paris Basin since the end of the 19th century , allowing Breuil (1932) and Bordes (1954) to define a “Province micoquienne de la Seine”.

Stratigraphic observations allowed Bordes to date the ensembles into the beginning of the last glaciation. Modern excavations at Saint-Illiers-la-Ville (Yvelines) have brought to light a "Micoquian" ensemble sensu Bordes, absolutely dated to ca 100-90k.a. BP and therefore confirming the earlier geo-chronological observations from the 1950ies - see here: 1532

In the vicinity of Saint-Illiers-la- Ville, such handaxes had been already found in the quarries of Mantes-la-Ville, Rosny sur- Seine as well as that of Saint-Pierre-les-Elbeufs, Oissel, and Villejuif.

Allonne in the Oise Valley remains a reference site for the example in this post. Another nearby location with a more abundant lithic ensemble is known from Villeneuve-les- Sablons (red patinated Series), where the Handaxes are combined with linear and recurrent approach (Tuffreau 1989).

Resources and images in full resolution:

2022-11-07 08:32:47   •   ID: 2357

Abbeville Menchecourt: An important historical Prehistoric site.

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This is thin, twisted, elongated and ovalaire, 17-cm long Biface from Menchencourt / Abbeville in the Somme valley- see here: 2275 , here: 2107 , here: 1306 , here: 2059 , here: 1627 , here: 2335 and here: 1201 . According to F. Bordes this Handaxe may be called a Limande by its rounded ends at both sides and a certain elongation.

Menchecourt is located north of the town of Abbeville, at the confluence of the Somme and one of its right bank tributaries, the Scardon. It is located on a terrace of the Somme that was exploited as a source of sand, silt and gravel in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Menchecourt sand pit has been scientifically known since the end of the 18th century for its paleontological remains collected by researchers from the Abbeville society of Emulation.

Menchecourt became one of the major prehistoric sites in Abbeville in the mid-nineteenth century and was successively studied for its archaeological finds by Jacques Boucher de Perthes from 1837 and by Joseph Preswitch in 1859 , the site playing a fundamental role in the recognition of the coexistence of Man and extinct animal species and the Prehistoric period.

After the death of Boucher de Perthes in 1868, Geoffroy d'Ault du Mesnil ensured the archaeological follow-up until the end of the 19th century. In 1889, during the Paris World's Fair, he made Menchecourt one of the eponymous sites that allowed him to define the cultures of the prehistoric classification that he was proposing at the time, for a period, the Menchecourian, that d'Ault placed chronologically between the Mousterian and Magdalenian and that was characterized by the presence of "blades, points, scrapers and knives" (Bahain et al. 2019).

In the last quarter of the 19th century, the exploitation of the sand pit, which was no longer economically profitable, was abandoned and the plots concerned were used for the construction of a sugar factory and forgotten for a long time.

The Menchecourt historical survey, published in 2021, demonstrated that Pleistocene deposits, both were still preserved and more important confirmed the presence of several archaeological and paleontological levels within this sequence. The Menchecourt site is located on the +15 m nappe III of Antoine's system (1990).The ESR-Ti-Li ages obtained gave mean age of 245 ± 21 k.a. , in good aggrement with its chrono-climatic attribution (Bahain et al. 2019). Although new archaeological material was not found during the new soundings, the site still offers excellent conditions for future research.

The Handaxe shown here has almost exact counterparts in the Collection of Geoffroy d'Ault du Mesnil (Bahain et al. 2019, Figure 3).

Both on geo-chronological grounds and results of an advanced dating program, the locality has a high affinity to other sites in Northern France such as Montières. Here, Commont in 1912 described a Middle Paleolithic assemblage, produced from Levallois flakes, which included numerous elongated blades and (pointed) handaxes- see: 1627

Suggested Reading:

Mark J. White: A Global History of The Earlier Palaeolithic- Assembling the Acheulean World, 1673–2020s; 2022.


Meller Family Collection

Resources and images in full resolution:

2022-11-06 07:54:00   •   ID: 2356

Acheulian at the Pas de Calais

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This is thick and elongated Biface from Dury in the Pas de Calais. According to Debenath and Dibble thick Handaxes may be classified into: Lanceolates, Amygdaloids (with a cordiform aspect) and those pointed at both sides (fusiform Biface).

The aspect of the 17 cm long example in this post resembles a subgroup of the Lanceolate group with a concave edge-called Micoquian Bifaces. Regarding the possibility of multiple re-working and re-sharping actions, this typology has only a descriptive, but no explanatory power.

Intact Acheulean "living floors" were multi-activity places and included different classes of tools with all possible transitions in typology resulting from the manufacturing practice and strategies of use.

Handaxes of the quality seen in this post need optimal raw material resources, accessible during the Middle Pleistocene in Europe. This was the case in Northern France and central West-France, while the aspect of Acheulian Handaxes from S/W-France was rather characterized by a lack of traditional morphologies, a triangular faconnage, cortical remnants, backing and an irregular appearance ("Meridional Acheulian")- see 1345

The idea of a "Classical Acheulean" in the North of France and an "Atypical Acheulean" in the South-West (for example in the Bergeracois) has not been confirmed by the excavations of the last decades.

Depending on raw material resources, "classical typologies" were also found in the south-west and "atypical Acheulean" ensembles also occurred in the north as recently demonstrated by the open-air site of Revelles, west to Amiens (Somme).

However, due to the quality of the raw material and the huge selective collections of the past, which resulted in a heavy bias, we are primed to suggest classical ensembles to be more frequent in the north.

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The Acheulian of the Pas de Calais: All the sites mentioned below, such as Quievy, Bapaume, Beaumetz-les-Loges, Biache-Saint-Vaast, and Etricourt-Manancourt, are located within a 40 km radius of Dury. For this reason, it is feasible to make comparisons between our single piece and the known series. It has to be mentioned, that there are usually no absolute dates for excavations, that took place during the 1970/80ies, but stratigraphic observations place them into the "Saalian" loess.

There is an enormous variability in these ensembles, that have been excavated with modern methods, regarding the number of bifaces and the presence or absence of the Levallois technique. While the beginnings of the technocomplex remain unknown, the transition to the early Middle Paleolithic occurred around 250 k.a. (MIS 7e).

In the older literature, the undated site of Quievy was the only larger ensemble for comparison. The selective series consists of mainly elongated bifaces, made from large flint nodules by hard hammer technique, (Amygdaloids, Ficrons and Bifaces Miqoquian Bifaces; Tuffreau 1971). Unfortunately Flake tools were not collected.

Flake tools were present in the ensemble from the Vimy brick factory, where an Acheulian of Levalloisian facies was collected decennia ago (Tuffreau 1979). The varied flake tools include a high percentage of natural-backed knives. Bifaces are particularly numerous.

The yellow series from Beaumetz-les-Loges, which come from the "last Saalian" loess is stratigraphically more recent than that of Vimy. Its debitage is only weakly Levallois and Levallois flakes not transformed into tools are quite rare. The bifaces are of Acheulean type.

Tuffreau described several Upper Acheulean localities poor in bifaces, the most interesting remains the series from the Osiers deposit in Bapaume. Here a very advanced Levallois technique has been oberserved and includes, in addition to numerous Levallois flakes a group with varied scrapers and well-touched Mousterian points. Notches and and denticulates are common and clearly dominate the Upper Paleolithic type tools. The 1972 excavation series has only one biface of the amygdaloid type. Another Acheulean series poor in bifaces is known at Etaples.

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The excavations of the multilayered open-air site of Etricourt-Manancourt finally offer a clear evidence for the end of the Acheulean complex in north-western Europe. Five in situ Palaeolithic occupations dating from 330 to 70 k.a. were excavated.

The Lithic industry of the archaeological layer HUD, dated to MIS 9a – ca 288 k.a. is characterized by elongated Handaxes and a Clactonian method of flake production. Anyhow a Levallois chaine operatoire is also present. The next two layers already belong to the Early Middle Palaeolithic, between 190 and 240 k.a. (Herrison et al. 2016).

The early Middle Paleolithic at the Pas de Calais begann early during MIS7. MIS 7 was a long and complex interglacial phase (spanning more than 50,000 years). In Northern and Central continental Europe we observe the rise of the Levallois technology, although this technique was present in Europe for the first time around the OIS9/8 boundary.

The most famous site from this period is Biache-Saint-Vaast (Pas-de- Calais), where two Neanderthal skulls were unearthed. We should not forget very similar material from the excavations of V. Commont at Montiers at the Somme at the beginning of the last century.

The Biache-Saint-Vaast deposit, discovered in 1976, did not yield any bifaces associated with the series archaeologically preserved in place. The varied flake tools include scrapers in medium percentage, beautiful Mousterian points, and natural-backed knives in high percentage. (Tuffreau 1977).

In Summary: The Handaxe shown here fits well in the development of the final Lower Paleolithic in the Pas de Calais and is most probably around 300 k.a. old.


Kühnel Collection (GER)

Suggested Reading:

Mark J. White: A Global History of The Earlier Palaeolithic- Assembling the Acheulean World; 2022.

2022-11-05 16:04:04   •   ID: 2355

Along the tranquil River: A foliated Handaxe from Glisy at the Somme

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The Somme River in northern France rises in the hills at Fonsommes, near Saint-Quentin in the Aisne Département, and flows generally westward for 245 km to the English Channel, crossing the Somme Département and the ancient province of Picardy.

From Amiens, near which its headstreams (including the Ancre and Avre) converge, the Somme follows the floor of a trench across the chalk country.

Like a string of pearls, Early and Middle Paleolithic sites are found between Abbeville and Amiens.

The Somme basin occupies a privileged place in the history of prehistory with, in 1859, the demonstration of the antiquity of the human species when Joseph Prestwich and John Evans photographed a biface in situ in the gravels of Saint-Acheul, thus confirming the contemporaneity of Man and extinct animal species, as Jacques Boucher de Perthes had already stated in 1847 (Cohen & Hublin 1989).

The study of the stratigraphic context of flint tools found in the terraces of the Somme and their interpretation by Victor Commont, Henri Breuil and François Bordes according to a phylogenetic mode played a great role in the classification of the Lower and Middle Paleolithic (Tuffreau 2001).

Excavations carried out over the last thirty years in various deposits at Cagny, Saint-Acheul and Gentelles have renewed the existing documentation, which consisted until then of pieces collected during quarrying in the nineteenth century and the first part of the twentieth century.

These excavations led to a concise absolute stratigraphy of the terraces system of Somme and a better understanding of the technical evolution of the local Acheulian and Middle Paleolithic - further information can be found here: 2275 , here: 2107 , here: 1306 , here: 2059 , here: 1627 and here: 1201 .

Figure 1 shows a whitish patinated 14 cm long foliated Biface from Glisy near Amiens. Glisy is located in the Amiénois on the south bank of the Somme River, about eight kilometers east of Amiens and eight kilometers southwest of Corbie.

Like everywhere on the Somme, large gravel pit works took place in Glisy during the late 19th and early 20th century. The works led to the discovery of Early and Middle Paleolithic findings, which were, however, far from being as numerous as those at Amiens.

In N-France foliated Handaxes appear at classic Acheulian and early Middle Paleolithic sites like Presles-et-Boves (MIS 9-11; Aisne), within the Oise region, at Cagny (between MIS 9 and 11), at the Somme at Mareuil, Saint Acheul (MIS 7-9) and Montières (MIS 7), but are uncommon within the so called „Micoquian" sites during MIS 5 (c. 100 – 90 k.a. BP) within the Seine region-see here: 1532 .

The accumulation of foliated handaxes in the Aisne Valley may be due to the presence of platy raw material, while activity-specific causes should be present on the Somme.

However, these specific instruments are only found at times when the Acheulian was well established in the territory and never in very early inventories.


Collection Bigot (FR)

Suggested Reading:

Mark J. White: A Global History of The Earlier Palaeolithic- Assembling the Acheulean World, 1673–2020s; 2022.

2022-10-16 09:21:05   •   ID: 2354

The Jilatian: Big Arrowpoint before the PPNB

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Figure 1-3 show a seven cm long Jilat Point from the Levantine Middle Epipaleolic, found decennia ago on the Jordanian side of the Jordan River.

The Levantine Epipaleolithic is usually based on Microlithic tools. Therefore it comes not as a surprise, that Jilat Points initially only known from surface findings at the Jilat 22 site, located the Wadi el-Jilat (central Jordan), were suggested as a new variant of the PPNB Big Arrowhead phenomenon (Garrard et al. 1985).

In situ sites, excavated since the 1980ies revealed their Epipaleolithic age, substantiated by several consistent C-14 data and stratigraphies of multilayered sites.

Such artifacts are preferentially known from what is today Central Jordan but are, however, also known from the Sinai and from the el Kowm area in Syria (Cauvin 1998).

"Jilat Points" were indeed multifunctional and served both as Projectiles and Knifes. They were always large sized and manufactured on blades (Garrard and Byrd 1992). They are characterized by a distinct directly retouched and relatively long tang. Their tip was commonly retouched or backed along one lateral / oblique edge as shown in Figure 1 and 2.

Some of the Jilat knives have remnant microburin scars at the tip, indicating that this technique was used to help fashion the shape of the point tip. Jilat Points / Knifes are associated with single platform cores for the production of blade/bladelets, although opposed platform cores are also known.

Jilat Points / Knifes often make up 50% of the total lithic ensemble of carefully excavated in-situ sites. Beside the diagnostic "Fossile Directeur", burins, strangulated tools, some endscrapers and a poorly developed microlithic component consisting of non-geometric artifacts, mainly backed elements, are usually present in the Jilatian Ensembles (Byrd and Garrard 2019).

At the type site (Jilat 22 Middle and Lower) the Jilatian is securely dated towards the end of the local Middle Epipaleolithic between 16,3 and 14,9 cal BP.

The presence of a non-microlithic, blade dominated assemblage from the Epipalaeolithic is neither unprecedented nor „exotic“.

The phenomenon has been mainly explained by functional factors like the development of new hunting strategies and changes in settlement patterns during the advent of the late Levantine Epipaleolithic.

Surf the Blog:

About the PPNB and Levantine Epipaleolithic -see here: 1147 , here: 2159 , and here: 1508

Suggested Reading:

Ezel and Bar-Yosef (Ed’s): Quaternary of the Levant: Environments, Climate Change, and Humans; 2017.


Levenstein Collection (ISR)

2022-10-07 16:48:04   •   ID: 2352

The Solutrean People- An Outdated Fiction

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Figure 1 shows a Point a Face plane from Laugerie Haute at Les Eyzies in the Perigord, made of fine grained Bergeracois Flint.

While the Point in Figure 1 only shows a very limited retouch on the tip, Figure 2 shows a "classical" Pointe a Face Plane (Subtype A according to Smith), also from Laugerie haute, exhibiting an unifacial covering retouch.

One might ask if the two examples really belong to the same class of artifacts and if Smith has incorrectly lumped different tools into the same category.

In favor of Smith's classification stands the reality that in the Southwest French Upper Paleolithic, leaf like points with minimally invasive retouch as shown in Figure 1, occur exclusively in the Solutrean and that there are versatile transitions between all subtypes (A-E). Comparable pieces are known only from the Early Ahmarian in the Levant and the Early Epigravettian of the Ligurian coast and the Gargano- a clear convergence.

The high diversity among Pointes a face Plane may be explained by differnt functions: armature point, knife or both (F. Bordes, 1974-b).

Figure 3
Pointes a face Plane subtype E are typical for Laugerie Haute Est Layer 31, excavated by F. Bordes (F. Bordes et P. E. L. Smith; 1957-1959) which is part of Peyrony's Stratum H′ (lower Solutrean; Solutréen à Pointes à face plane).

A Point a face Plane Type E is essentially a pointed blade, single or double tipped, with flat retouch concentrated around the tip. More about these points-see: 1607 and 1268

It is important to mention that, since the point types do not replace one another but are instead added on to existing types, the occurrence of a Pointe à face Plan does not automatically indicate a Lower Solutrean.

At Laugerie this artifact is not restricted to the initial Solutrean but also present in layer Ha″ (middle Solutrean; Solutréen à Feuilles de Laurier) as well and even co-occurs with shouldered points in the Upper Solutrean occupations. The same holds true for the Solutrean layers at Badegoule and Fourneau du Diable.

The French Solutrean is first known from P. Smith's great synthesis, published in 1966, which takes up Peyrony's typological classification into Protosolutrean, Lower Solutrean, Middle Solutrean and Upper Solutrean, to which P. Smith added a Final Solutrean.

Later, François Djindjian provided a statistical analysis of the Solutrean lithic industry, which shows a break between, on the one hand, a Protosolutean and an early Solutrean (ex-lower) in a very cold and dry environment, limited to Aquitaine and Ardèche and, on the other hand a recent Solutrean with covering retouch (ex-middle and upper) in the very cold and humid environment of the Laugerie episode. The recent Solutrean is not only found in S/W-France but also in the more Northern areas (Poitou, Ile-de-France, Saône) (Djindjian et al. 2019).

The question increasingly arises whether historical taxonomy has any meaning at all. Does the affiliation of an ensemble to the Early or Late Solutrean say anything about the subsidence strategies and the behavioural repertoire of our ancestors or provide any contribution to Local Population Genetics?

Bifacial foliates have been appearing and disappearing from time to time since the MSA at various locations in Eurasia and Africa.

Their production may testify the need to achieve a maximum thinning of the artifacts, presumably to achieve a better hafting - but even this assumption is tentative. However, no meaningful cultural history can be practiced with such an approach.

As for the population genetics issue, I agree with Natasha Reynolds: "Given the known problems with the cultural taxonomic framework as it currently exists, it is clearly inappropriate to equate cultural taxonomic units with past populations. In some cases, there may have been population continuity between chronologically or geographically distinct taxonomic units; in others, taxonomic units may subsume multiple distinct prehistoric populations. Cultural taxonomic units, at whatever scale, should not be treated as representing discrete, monolithic cultural phases; nor should they be correlated with discrete, distinctive past populations" (Reynolds 2020).

Resources and images in full resolution:

2022-09-29 12:07:33   •   ID: 2351

Handaxes from Croisilles – Les Fours à Chaux in the Normandie

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These are two representative Handaxes from the surface, found in 1974 at Croisilles in the Orne Valley (Normandie / France)- a small town with about 200 inhabitants today.

When I visited the north of France for the first time in 1974 I visited a lot of historical and prehistoric landmarks in the area.

Not only did I learn a lot about the liberation of West Europe by the Western Allied Forces in 1944, but had also the opportunity to visit some of the rich Palaeolithic surface sites.

Such sites were not interesting for archeologists at that time. Their value was only recognised during the last decennia.

Abundant prehistoric lithic material on the surface near the old lime kilns in the commune of Croisilles was known to local collectors since the 1940s. The kilns in this part of the countryside were built since the beginning of the Second Empire to produce lime for the amendment of agricultural land.

The deposit at Croisilles is located at the upstream end of a valley tributary of the right bank of the Orne, a coastal river that is deeply embedded in the Precambrian shale and sandstone bedrock.

Beside predominant Neolithic material, Handaxes and Middle Paleolithic debitage is known from the locality.

The Paleolithic artefacts are characterized by medium sized Handaxes (10-17 cm long in my small collection), made from local bluish Flint with a thick white Patina. Many of the Handaxes have a globular ("massifom") appearance.

Typologically and from a French perspective, the Bifaces are more reminiscent of the Acheulian than the Middle Paleolithic but in my opinion they are also very similar to the Handaxes of the German Micoquian of the North European Plain (Salzgitter and Lichtenberg for example) -see: 1599

The cores illustrate different concepts of raw material processing, with surface management debitage, often centripetal, conducted according to Discoid and Levallois Methods. The tools on the flakes include a few simple scrapers.

Collectors drew the attention of professional archaeologists to the locality, a few years ago, and a survey of the site, was carried out. On geological grounds the Middle Paleolithic at Croisilles was quite securely placed around 50-55 k.a., at the end of the Lower Pleniglacial, MIS 4, and the beginning of the Middle Pleniglacial, MIS 3, before the arrival of the great cold (Cliquet et al. 2015).

The artifacts shown in this post are clearly different from other Middle Paleolithic findings from the area, which predominantly belong to the Bifacial Mousterian of N/W-France- see here: 1179 , 1501 , here 1665 , here: 1250 , 1585 , and here: 1077

Provenance: Collection Perez

Resources and images in full resolution:

2022-09-17 18:12:45   •   ID: 2350

The Early Upper Paleolithic at Shanidar / Iraqi Kurdistan

Figure1 ; Shanidar Cave Wikimedia Commons - Public Domain
Figure 2
The Zagros mountains in Kurdistan are a complex chain of mountains and ridges dividing the region between the fertile plains of Mesopotamia and the Persian Gulf lowlands to the west and Iran's dry inland plateau to the east. Today the Zagros begins in what is now northwestern Iran and roughly follows Iran's western border while covering much of southeastern Turkey and northeastern Iraq.

The highest point in the range is Mount Dena, elevation (4409 meters), located in the middle Zagros. Important Passes through the mountains are used for reaching the fertile intermontane plains, which lie at elevations above 1500 meters. The rivers draining the range’s western face are strong and perennial, flowing through enclosed plains or ravines.

Kurdistan is home to some of the most important archaeological sites in the world, ranging from the Stone Age to the most recent past. Shanidar Cave is one of the most impressive localities for Paleolithic Archaeology in the Region, mainly known for its Neanderthal remains and the discussions around their social significance - see here: Flower People and their Graves?

According to Varoujan (2019), the Shanidar Cave in the Zagros (Iraqi Kurdistan) is situated at an elevation of 737 m (a.s.l.), is capped by very rugged cliffs about 400 m in height, whereas the slope along which the entrance is located has a gradient of 44%. These topographic characters served as an excellent defense / observatory site for people living in the cave. The maximum height of the entrance of the cave is about 12 m, with one large chamber almost of a dome shape (Varoujan and Sissakian 2019; Figure 1).

At Shanidar Cave Solecki during the 1950ies uncovered a sequence that included Middle Paleolithic (Layer D), Upper Paleolithic (Layer C) and Epipaleolithic (Layer B) industries, as well as a recent to Neolithic deposit (Layer A) (Solecki 1958).

It was Dorothy Garrod who suggested the term: Baradostian for the Layer C-ensemble, after the Baradost Mountain overlooking the Shanidar Valley.

Figure 3
The tools shown in this post are from Shanidar / Level C and consist of a small sample on up to 9 cm long blades.

Among these tools we notice an endscraper with partial lateral retouch, a nearly geometric Aurignacian blade and a carinated blade (Figure 2,3 and 4) as well as a long blade with an inverse notch (Figure 5). These tools are characteristic for the Early Upper Paleolithic (Baradostian) at the site (Dibble and Olszewski 1989).

Kurdistan is rich in stratified Paleolithic sites, found mostly in caves and rock shelters, while many open air localities may have been destroyed by erosion. Cave and Rock-shelters were usually occupied over a considerable period of time, during the Middle Paleolithic, Early and Late Upper Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic.

Excavations started already during D.E.A. Garrod's times and were repeatedly and intermittent conducted at Shanidar, Warwasi, Wartain, Miaibvera, Bisotun, Ghar-e Khar,Ghār-e Boof, Yafteh, Pa Sangar, Kunji and Gar Arjeneh.

Assemblages that may broadly be assigned to the Early Baradostian technocomplex overlie (non-Levallois)- Mousterian deposits at Shanidar Cave and Warwasi Rock-shelter (Tsanova 2013).

At Shanidar Cave, Solecki noted relatively frequent Mousterian tools in the Early Upper Paleolithic, most probably the consequence of the excavation technique and due to secondary mixing from the Mousterian layers.

Figure 4
However, some authors still suggest, that the local development of the Zagros Aurignacian reflects the reality of a local autochthonous Middle- to Upper-Paleolithic transition.

The Baradostian of the Zagros has Affinities to both the Ahmarian of the Levant and the Aurignacian (sensu stricto). According to recent excavations, the main typological categories of the Baradostian show, together with a clear abundance of bladelet tools, the so called Arjeneh points. These are defined as bladelets with a nearly rectilinear section, with short direct retouch limited to the edges to produce a fusiform contour, very similar to the original Font-Yves points.

At Yafteh cave, bladelets were obtained in different ways: from bladelet cores, from flake edges and from the proximal ends of carinated burins. Classic Dufour bladelets are also present.

Beside the typical Points, the Baradostian toolkit also includes Aurignacian blades, sometimes pointed, numerous burins of different types, endscrapers on blades and splintered pieces. In addition to bladelet tools, tools unique to the Aurignacian sensu stricto – carinated endscrapers and burins - are also present.

Figure 5
The age of the Baradostian is still not well established. The calibrated C-14 dates, using pretreatment protocols and secondary modeling by Bayesian statistics, show chronological signals only after the H-4 event. Therefore the Baradostian is possibly more recent than the Ahmarian and (Proto)- (Aurignacian).

Suggested Readings:

E. Ghasidian. The Early Upper Paleolithic Occupation of Ghār-e Boof Cave. Kerns Verlag Tübingen 2019.

Shidrang, S., 2018. The middle to upper paleolithic in the Zagros. The appearance and evolution of the Baradostian. In: Nishisaki, Y., Akazawa, T. (Eds.), The middle and upper paleolithic of the levant and beyond. Springer, Singapore, pp. 133–156.

Solecki, R.S., 1958. The Baradostian industry and the upper palaeolithic in the near East. Columbia University, [Unpublished PhD thesis].


Henri-Martin Collection