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2022-01-06 12:21:27   •   ID: 2294

Artifacts from early Yomon (Japan)

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These are characteristic stone tools from the Kyōto Province / Japan, dated to the Moroiso phase of the so called Jomon Period. This early prehistoric entity began around 14,5 k.a.BCE. Anyhow the Moroiso phase of early Yomon is dated around 5 k.a. BCE. About models of the complex genetic history of the Yomon period- see the paper by Schmidt and the publication of Cooke in the attached files.

Figure 1-4 show typical tanged scraper from chert and greenish Jaspis. Note that the tangs are almost identical to the corresponding characteristics of the North African Aterian. This is a typical convergence phenomenon, both in terms of temporal and geographic aspects.

It would be interesting to know the chaîne opératoire that led to these pedunculated instruments, but unfortunately I don't know any publication in a language I can read that addressed the issue.

Jomon was not the first archeological complex on the Archipelago. According to newer data first people (H. Sapiens) crossed to Japan from Asia at about 38 k.a. Cal BP-For older Cultures / Technocomplexes see 2127

Jomon began during the Oldest Dryas that followed the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). During 20-15 k.a. ago, the insularization of Japan through rising sea levels took place. Jomon subsistence strategies varied and population densities fluctuated through space and time, with trends toward sedentism.

Jomon culture continued until the beginning of the Yayoi period (~300 BCE), when the arrival of paddy field rice cultivation led to an agricultural revolution in the archipelago.

Since its very beginning, Jomon groups produced handmade pottery on a regular basis- the oldest Pottery in the World. The different phases of the Jomon culture were defined by Japanese Archeologists mainly on Pottery styles, which show a great beauty and original features.

The seriation of pottery resulted in a division of the Jomon culture into an Incipient Phase (14,5-5,0 k.a. BCE), Early Jomon (5,0-3,0 k.a. BCE), Middle Jomon (3-1 k.a. BCE), and Late Jomon (1-0,3 k.a. BCE.

Subsistence and Settlement Systems: From an Eurocentric point of view, the Jomon culture would compare well with the Late Mesolithic Ertebölle in Northern Europe.

Jomon people utilized complex hunting and gathering to fulfill their needs. Their diet has been found to consist of bears, boars, fish, shellfish, yams, wild grapes, walnuts, chestnuts, and acorns. Evidence of their diet was found inside middens, domestic waste disposal piles, and shell mounds that were found near villages.

Starting around 5 k.a.BCE, the Jomon developed a more sedentary lifestyle settling into villages; the largest one at the time covered around ca 0,4 km² and had about 500 people. Villages near the sea would have relied heavily on fishing while settlements further inland adopted a primarily hunting lifestyle.

In many villages, what are assumed to be ceremonial stone platforms and storage pits have been found. Anyhow they did not necessarily remain in the same settlement throughout the year as suggested by Habu (2004).

The initial simple shelters of the villages would soon develop into pithouses built around a central fireplace, with a structure supported by pillars, accommodating around five people each. The Jomon people would settle in different areas depending on the changing climate; colder periods would require proximity to the sea as evidenced by much larger mounds of shells and fish bones found compared to warmer periods when the settlement pattern shows a shift to further inland sites in order to take advantage of the flourishing flora and fauna.

Along with the change in habitation, the total population underwent significant fluctuation: by 5k.a.BCE, it is estimated that the population would grow from 20000 to 100,000 only to grow further to 200000 by 3,0 BCE before falling back to 100000 by the end of the period.

Suggested Reading / Note:

J Habu: Ancient Jomon of Japan; 2004

This post strongly relies on an overview written by Tony Hoang, published on 02 March 2016 under the following license: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike. This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon this content non-commercially, as long as they credit the author and license their new creations under the identical terms.

Provenience: B. Callaway Collection / US

2021-12-28 16:20:08   •   ID: 2292

Keilmesser of the Klausennische and Balve Type from the Creuse Valley / Central France

Figure 1 ; Copyright: User:Ls67- and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license
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Figure 1 shows the Klausennische a rock shelter in the Altmühl Valley (Bavaria; Germany), where Birkner excavated in 1912/13 the so called Middle Paleolithic "Klausennischen - Kultur", later recognized as a subgroup of the Central European Micoquian.

However the two Keilmesser of this post were found in the Gravels of the Creuse Valley (France) immediately south of Abilly, in the Indre et Loire region in France and about 1000 km West from the Altmühl Valley.

The first item on Figure 2-5 shows a characteristic Keilmesser type, called "Klausennischen - Messer", first recognized from the basal layers of the Klausennische (Bosinski 1967).

A similar Keilmesser, called "Balver - Keilmesser" in the German Research Tradition is from the same find spot and displayed in Figures 6-8. Both pieces may be from the last Glacial, but also considerably older and part of the local Acheulian in the Creuse area, known from old collections and already introduced into the Blog- here: 1096

Note that elongated flakes and backed bifaces are also part of the middle Pleistocene Acheulian from the „Grand Vallee“ site in the Creuse Valley at ca 500 k.a.

In the Central European Research Tradition, asymmetric bifacial backed knifes are generally called "Keilmesser" defined by a natural and/or retouched back opposite a bifacially retouched cutting edge (Bosinski 1967, Chmielewski 1969, Kozlowski 1989, Ruebens 2012, Soressi 2002).

The term "Micoquian" has acquired an almost inflationary meaning in recent decades. This is shown, for example, in the detailed description of its research history by Frick- See: Reflections on the term Micoquian .

In my blog, I have always tried to define the Micoquian phenomenon as a Central and Eastern European technocomplex, essentially limited to MIS5-3. In doing so, I often use the term Keilmesser complex (KMG) to avoid confusion with the Late North French Acheulian (Micoquian sensu Breuil and Bordes) in the Paris Basin around ca 100-90 k.a. -see 1532 and with the La Micoque site, which has an unresolved status-See: 2272 .

KMG-assemblages carry a variable amount of bifacial Middle Paleolithic artifacts alongside with unifacial tools which mostly outnumber the bifacial ones. It is suggested that the production of bifacial pieces, was one way to expand the Paleolithic toolbox by the production of reliable, versatile, reshapeable, robust, and very durable pieces.

J. Richter has shown the reality of this view convincingly on the basis of the finely stratified Sesselfels G-complex. Here, the bifacial pieces have been described as a site and situation-dependent possibility in Middle Paleolithic contexts, as a part of a common Neanderthal savor-faire.

Fokusing on Keilmesser, they are characterized by their:

  • plano-convex cross section


  • asymmetric bifacial appearance


  • straight, slightly convex or even concave cutting edge


  • convex, straight, or angled blunted back


The various combinations of the back and the cutting edge and their different ratio to each other result in a large number of subtypes, traditionally named after specific Type-sites (Bockstein, Königsaue, Volgograd, Buhlen, Ciemna, Prodnik, Lichtenberg, Klausennische, Tata....).

Re-sharpening by removal of tranchet blows is a technique , already known from the European Acheulian. This reshaping technique in an KMG-kontext is known as Prądnik technique.

Keilmesser subtypes are sometimes just snapshots of a reduction process, modifying the original tool design, as first noted by Dibble for Middle Paleolithic scrapers. In other cases the original design was preserved until the end of the reduction and transformation process.

The back of the first piece, which is shown here, is formed by a basal part running almost parallel to the contralateral cutting edge. Near the middle of the back, the back changes its orientation towards the slightly rounded tip at an angle of approximately 30 °.

The Back of the second piece has rather a triangular form and resembles another Keilmesser class- called "Balver Keilmesser" according to a German Cave-site in Westphalia- see here: 2221

Overall, the retouch is most carefully worked on the dorsal face of the tip section, while the base has been only sparsely modified. The bifacial cutting edges were somewhat crudely prepared over the entire length during the last reworking steps, before the discard of the artifacts (Figure 2,3 and 4).

The focus of several earlier posts was the Central European Micoquian / KMG-Komplex. More detailed information is to be found here: 2135 , here: 1735 , here: 1270 , here: 1726 , and here: 1631 .

Here I give a short overview of the few Western European MIS5-3 ensembles, which predominantly show typical Keilmesser outside Central-and East Europe.

It is hardly convincing that Keilmesser found in regions outside the KMG-Corelands represent a convergence phenomenon. Their design is just too specific in this respect. This is especially valid if they additionally exhibit a "coup de tranchet". It remains unclear how the savior-faire of Keilmesser spread to W-Europe during the last Glacial.

Early examples of Keilmesser, modified by a burin spall technique have been found in an Acheulan Context at Dakhleh Oasis (Egypt; [OIS7 or 9] and in an early Mousterian at la Cotte St. Brelade (Jersey) [OIS7/6 ]. Microware analysis revealed that such tools were most often used for butchery and that the tranchet blow technique was used for renovation of bifacial artifacts.

Personally, I would prefer a "Frog Leap" model of knowledge transfer, even over long distances. Migration movements of the Neanderthal populations could also play a role. However, one must consider the limited radius of such migrations in a diameter of usually 30-50 km - but we are talking here about long periods of time....

Ensembles which are different from the classic definition of F. Bordes for France and Ensembles that just don't fit the Central European Mousterian / KMG-Group Dichotomy like the Charentien à influence micoquienne, Mousterian with bifacial tools, Mousterian with Bifacial retouches, Mousterian of Micoquian influence and others will not discussed here, because they show, despite considerable scientific efforts in recent years, that it is still impossible to account for the great diversity of the European Middle Paleolithic.

Basically, one could give each ensemble its own name, regarding that the Middle Paleolithic is, contrary to earlier assumptions, almost as diverse as the Upper Paleolithic....

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Vinneuf N1 (Yonne, France), dated to MIS5d represents a late Last Interglacial “KMG” lithic assemblage. The assemblage of Vinneuf N1 is characterized by bifaces (n=27) and different other tools (n=148), which have clear affinities to the KMG, among them Faustkeilblätter and a classic Klausennischen - Messer.

The Abri du Musée at Les Eyzies (Dordogne, France) is characterized by an ensemble both showing typical Keilmesser with or without the tranchet blows. It was noted "that the Keilmesser with tranchet blow, were manufactured exclusively on products (like flakes), regardless of whether they were worked unifacially or bifacially." (Frick 2020)- a trait that has already noted for some Middle European KMG-Ensembles. It is hard to imagine that the Abri du Musée-site should be qualified as an independent complex with no connection with the Central European Micoquian.

The same hold true to the Keilmesser-Ensemble of the Mont de Beuvry à Béthune/ Pas de Calais) which has many affines to the Central European ensembles. The archaeological material comes from the collection of I. Dharvent and was collected at an open air site during the 19th century in the vicinity of Bethune, located in the northern lowland part of France in the Pas-De-Calais department. A techno-typological analysis was recently published by Mikołaj Urbanowski (see attached files).

The pieces are made on flakes or very flat blocks, of local flint. The retouch is covering and bifacial. The asymmetry is marked between straight or slightly concave cutting edges opposed to natural or abraded backs.

The cross section is usually plano-convex with the flat side shaped by large invasive removals, the convex side more finely retouched. The distal end is thinned, often by invasive retouch or modified by a coup de tranchet. The natural base is usually roughly trimmed. Overall both the production process and the Keilmesser resemble the pieces of Buhlen (Northern Hessen; Germany).

The Grotte de la Verpillière I and II in Southern Burgundy remain the best references for genuine KMG- sites outside the core area and were intensively re-evaluated and excavated by a German/French team during the last years.

Verpillière II showed a "prevalent Levallois reduction, Groszaki, a wide range of bifacial objects (including Keilmesser), and tranchet-blow modification of the assemblage of GH 3 at VP II which is very likely situated in the context of the early OIS 3" (Frick 2016).

Interestingly lithic studies of museum and private collections from the Côte chalonnaise (the area around Chalon-sur-Saône, Burgundy) show that patterns detected in the stratified layers of Verpillière I and II are present in other examples in the surrounding area (Herkert et al. 2015).

The results of this research show that perhaps individual Keilmesser clusters in France, identified so far, are embedded in wider contextual areas and are by no means as isolated as they appear at first sight.

This may of course also true for the seemingly isolated Keilmesser presented in this post and it seems probable that with more intensive re-evaluation of local old collections and new stratified finds in the Creuse Valley, an intact KMG site may one day be discovered.

Provenance-Ph. Cabey, Vienne




Resources and images in full resolution:

2021-12-23 13:00:33   •   ID: 2291

The earliest settlement of The UK at Happisburgh

Figure1 ; Copyright: Jim Whiteside and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license-Figure 1
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The coasts of eastern England are particularly affected by rising sea levels caused by global warming. For example, water temperature trends in northern regions have developed differently than in the Mediterranean.

In areas around Scotland, water temperatures have risen by about 1°C over the past 20 years; in the Mediterranean, the increase is closer to 0,5°C. Sea level changes also vary, from 0,8 mm annually to 3,0 mm annually. They interact with other critical processes, such as tides, the state of sea ice, evaporation, and various tectonic developments on land.

Happisburgh is located on the northeast coast of Norfolk, a rapidly eroding escarpment composed mainly of Early and Middle Pleistocene sediments.

Communities like the village of Happisburgh are at the forefront of coastal erosion in the UK - with up to about 4 meters of soil disappearing every year.

Climatic change becomes faster each year, and the UK Government's Committee on Climate Change says that areas at risk, with 100000 homes will simply disappear into the sea if nothing is done.

On the other hand these changes led to the exposure of Pleistocene strata with opportunities for the reconstruction of the earliest settlement of the UK, so far (Figure 1).

Figue 2-5: This is a 12 cm long, Pointed Handaxe from Happisburgh in slightly rolled condition, of black Flint, now patinated with pale orange mottles to one face, the other face is faintly brown. All scars were created by semi-soft hammer Modification, with no traces of the original blank for this piece survived.

Though damaged, the point appeared to have the edge further modified by a tranchet blow (Figure 3). Both lateral edges are straight and there is no natural cortex on the butt.

New excavation finds at Happisburgh indicate that our ancestors surprisingly advanced very far north at an unexpectedly early Pleistocene stage when England was connected to continental Europe.

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The archaeology of Britain during the early and initial Middle Pleistocene is represented by a number of sites in S / E- England.

The first locality, detected by increasing coastal erosion and characterized by a pure core and flake ensemble (Mode I) was Pakefield at ca 700 k.a. BP (MIS 17 or late MIS 19) during an episode of Mediterranean-type climate.

After the Pakefield excavations and prior the Happisburgh discoveries, the first emigrants from the African Continent were considered to be able to have crossed the 45th parallel only during warm periods, resembling the climate in their Area of origin.

However, this hypothesis was disproved by the finds of of the Happisburgh Site 3 (HSB3) now securely dated to ca. 850 k.a. (or possibly even ca. 950 k.a. BP), quite earlier than Pakefield (MIS17), High Lodge (MIS 13), Warren Hill (MIS 13)- see 1652 and Boxgrove (500 k.a. BP; MIS 13).

Environmental data show, that our ancestors coped, in contrast to Pakefield, even with cool to temperate climates at Happisburgh as well. Dating of the deposits by Lithostratigraphic and Magnetostratigraphic methods yielded reliable age estimates, which have been widely accepted.

The Happisburgh sediments testify a climate, which roughly corresponds to the climate of present-day Southern Scandinavia. The circumstances of the find at Happisburgh indicate that the first hominids were not discouraged from colonizing northern Europe even at Pleistocene times when the climate was significantly colder than today.

Note that this early core and flake ensemble was incorporated within the Early Pleistocene Cromer Forest-bed Formation. It consists of river gravels, estuary and floodplain sediments predominantly clays and muds as well as sands along the coast of northern Norfolk. It is the type locality for the Cromerian Stage of the Pleistocene between 0,8 and 0,5 mya. The deposit itself range varies in age from about 2 to 0,5 mya.

The small the core and flake ensemble of HSB3 is handaxe free. The artifacts look fresh and testify only minimal transport.

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"A characteristic of the assemblage is the predominance of large flakes (up to 145 mm) with sharp cutting edges and opposing cortex. The unusual size-range, together with the high proportion of flake tools, indicates that they have been selected and brought into the area for use and that knapping was undertaken elsewhere. The presence of artefacts at several levels in the succession indicates repeated visits to the site“ (Parfitt et al. 2014).

In May 2013, a series of early human footprints were discovered on the beach near the HSB3 site in Early Pleistocene estuarine muds possibly of five people, one adult male and some children and gave direct evidence of early human activity at the site, slightly younger than the findings from HSB3 (Ashton et al. 2014).

It remains unclear if the hominins, who left their traces at Happisburgh belonged to the Homo antecessor clade as speculated by several researchers.

The Middle Pleistocene HSB1 scatters: The next younger, already handaxe bearing, ensemble at Happisburgh date already to the Middle Pleistocene, the great time of Homo Heidelbergensis and are about 500-600 k.a. old (according to the skeletal remains from Mauer (Germany) and Boxgrove in the UK).

In the year 2000 a black, extraordinary fresh symmetric, in-situ handaxe, made from the same black flint, that was also used for the production of the artifact of this post, was found.

If you take a closer look at some chips of the Handaxe, especially on Figure 3, you will note the characteristic original black colour of the non patinated raw material.

This single find marked the starting point of scientific exploration of Happisburgh and has become the most emblematic piece for the AHOB project (The Ancient Human Occupation of Britain-project as evidenced by the story told here-see: Black Handaxe

Figure 5
The excavations at HSB1 detected a Lower Palaeolithic assemblage comprising flakes, flake tools (notches, denticulates and marginally retouched artifacts), cores and a handaxe. The lithostratigraphic and magnetostratigraphic evidence at HSB1 gave an early Middle Pleistocene age (780–478 k.a.) before the Anglian glaciation.

Technologically hard hammer methods were used on beach pebbles, preferably on the black flint mentioned above. Some refittings could been made and reflect in situ knapping. Reconstruction of the local environment showed a much colder climate that today.

Another assemblage ,not found in an in-situ context, including the handaxe, from this post showed very similar traits compared to the excavated artifacts.

In sum, not only the earliest traces of human settlement of N/W-Europe were found at Happisburgh, but the site also gives us the opportunity to explore the rare MIS-13 settlement of UK along with the famous sites of Warren Hill- see 1652 , High Lodge and Boxgrove.

Note that on the other side of the Channel according newer biostratigraphic and ESR data, even older Acheulian findings were present in the high terrace of the Somme at the Carpentier-quarry and at Moulin Quignon at Abbeville (Somme Valley).

These sites date to the second half of the Cromerian and therefore to MIS15. They represent together with the new discovered Rue du Manège site at Amiens the oldest Acheulian in continental N/W-Europe (ca. 600-550 k.a.) and bear a lot of Handaxes.

PS: The Handaxe shown here was scientifically evaluated, given back to its finder and and is accessible under the number NMS-7158DE in the Portable Antiquities Database.

Provenience: Donated by the Finder (N.N)

2021-12-15 21:35:45   •   ID: 2290

The Beginnings of the Quina Debitage in the Old World

Plate I
Plate I shows the first scientific depiction of Quina Scrapers from the groundbreaking Publikation: Reliquiae aquitanicae by E. Lartet and H. Christy about the Paleolithic archaeology and palaeontology of the Pèrigord and the adjoining provinces of Southern France.

These heavyweighted, large-sized two volumes, which appeared in 1875, remain for me one of the founding documents of a new science (photograph from my own Library).

Figure 1
Earlier Posts of Aggsbachs Blog described different Levallois-Systems and their beginning during the Middle Pleistocene.

The first appearance of Levallois, conservatively estimated, is dated around MIS9, but with a possible earlier onset in South Africa around 500 k.a. BP.-see: 1715 .

So far, I have not asked for the beginnings of the Quina technique in a strict sense. This shortcoming should therefore be corrected in this post. A short description of the Quina Chaîne opératoire in S/W-France can be found here: 2249 .

The description of the Quina system is deliberately kept simple - this overview is not intended to include the many variations and ramifications described in the literature, but simply provides a general overview.

Kuhn (2013) highlights two possibilities of describing the life cycle of lithic artifacts:

1. A strategy based on exerting control over blank forms (“predetermination”) with comparatively limited subsequent shaping (e.g., Levallois, blade production). Artifacts may be transported, resharpened, and reduced, but the main strategy for producing fresh edges is the manufacture of new blanks .

2. A strategy involving minimal control over blank form but much subsequent shaping though retouch (Quina, Micoquian, etc). The main means for producing fresh edges is through re- sharpening, extending the useful lives of tools. Artifacts may be transported, but this is not always the case.

One can imagine, that a multitude of factors influenced the choice of Hominins in the preference of using one strategy over another.

Figure 1 shows three typical Quina scrapers from the Charente Region in France - the Quina "Heartland", characterized by the “Retouche écailleuse scalariforme” and a wealth of different scrapers.

It has to be mentioned that Quina ensembles were also found further North, for example in the Touraine - see: 1559 but become very rare north of the Loire valley.

Another "Outliner" from the Middle Pleniglacial, already on the margins of the Parisian Basin in the Sénonais is the Fond des Blanchards site, Stratum D, where an almost classic Quina system in the production of large Scrapers has been established.

Figure 2 displays a convergent scraper from Roc de Marsal (Dordogne), a small cave with several strata (Denticulated Mousterian, Quina Mousterian), dated by TL and OSL.

Here the Quina Mousterian layers were c 45 and 61 k.a old (Late MIS4 / early MIS3) and consistent with many other chronological data from Quina sites in the Perigord and Charente Region (Guerin et al. 2012).

For example TL and OSL methodologies at Chez-Pinaud Jonzac (Charente) places its Quina Mousterian into MIS 4, while the overlying Denticulate Mousterian which is followed by two layers with MTA were already of MIS3 age (Richter et al. 2013).

Figure 2
Figure 3 shows an excellent transversal Quina Scraper from the R. Daniel Collection, collected during the 1930ies at Pradelles at Marillac-le- Franc (Charente; near Angoulême), found during Daniels first excavations of the site, with a curved cutting edge ("Bogenschaber" in German). You may find very similar tools in the Sanndrine et al. Publication about the site (2006) in the attached files.

The Quina flaking system, produced thick large and often cortical blanks with an asymmetrical cross-section, or flakes with a dihedral asymmetric butt and with the typical "lisse à pans" (smooth faceted) butt. Quina Ensembles are characterized by a high number of reworked, transformed and recycled scrapers.

In this post, Sites with pure Quina debitage should be distinguished from those with the Quina concept appearing together with other concepts. The latter are clearly predominant, speaking for a high cognitive competence, versatility and flexible behavior of their producers - the Neanderthals.

Early Quina Sites: An important early Middle Paleolithic site in S/W-France, excavated and dated with modern Methods is Petit Bost. Level 2 of this multilayered open air site is dated to MIS 9/8 by TL, between 340 and 270 k.a. (Bourguignon et al. 2008).

This layer yielded evidence of bifacial shaping with "classical" Handaxes, but also Bifaces resembling those that were more similar to the “Acheulian Meridional” (sensu Bordes), Levallois and a fully fledged Quina system- not different from Quina sites in the Charente and Dordogne, dated much later to the last Glacial.

Quina Debitage at Petit Bost is characterized by some simple scrapers, sometimes with Quina Retouche and very convincing typical Quina core refittings.

So far it is unclear whether the different debitage modes are an expression of single or repeated visits of one group or have to be considered as a palimpsest left by different groups. It should be also mentioned, that solifluction processes affected and possibly mixed the layer.

An other early Quina system has been identified at the Baume Bonne site in S/E-France in the industries, now attributed to MIS 8 to 10 (Gagnepain and Gaillard 2005; Bourguignon et al. 2006).

During this first phase of site-use by humans, several operational sequences were present. Among them: "système par surface de débitage successif " (SSDS) , discoid and Quina systems were used.

The lithics mainly consist of scrapers (about 80%; simple scrapers, some double and convergent specimens) and about 5% of them are characterized by the “Retouche écailleuse scalariforme”.

These discoveries are essential because "these industries dating from the early Middle Paleolithic, where Quina debitage is attested, are still rare and should undoubtedly be the subject of revisions, both on the methods used and on the association with other debitage systems" (Bourguignon et al., 2008).

Figure 3
The Rhodanian, occasionally called Charentian oriental in earlier publications) superficially resembles the classic Charentian in the Aquitaine. The Rhodanian facies is found in the Rhone valley, Gorges du Verdon, Gardon and the Ardèche- see 1648 and 1649 .

Made on thick flakes, scrapers often show a retouche Quina or Demi-Quina. Anyhow, although the end products are similar to genuine Quina, the Chaîne opératoire is different, also calling for a different name- see 2245

Here i will only briefly discuss the Mousterian inventories of the Italian peninsula. While the Levallois technique is widespread throughout the entire peninsula and shows diversified modes of production, an orginal Quina Mousterian is less common.

Examples for northern Italy are the MIS4/MIS3 dated sites of Nadale Cave (Jéquier et al.2015) and at the reference site for the late Middle and early Upper Paleolithic in Northern Italy at Fumane.

Although the Pontinian is sometimes subsumed as a Quina-Mousterian, its Chaîne opératoire is quite different from the original French definition and deserves its own name- more on that entity- see here 1468

In Spain, the site of El Castillo is part of the emblematic cave system of Cantabria, with a Quina Mousterian in Stratum 20E, immediately before the advent of the Upper Paleolithic and dated to 49 k.a. Cal BP. A typical Quina Mousterian lithic assemblage is found at the Axlor site, in the Basque Country, dated at the OIS3 (44 k.a. Cal BP).

More than 20 sites with a classic Quina Mousterian have been identified over the Iberian Peninsula. However, many sites have not been evaluated by recent excavation and absolute dating programs. Therefore I can only refer to the work of Ignacio de la Torre et al. (2013) who shows the great potential of the Iberian Peninsula in this respect.

So far I don't know of any Quina site older than MIS4 in Spain or Portugal, but that could change quickly, considering the wide range of possibilities, present in these countries.

In Central Europe, the Quina Technique is sometimes implemented within the Central European Micoquian, mainly dating to MIS3 and therefore later than the classic Quina Mousterian in S-W- France.

Quina debitage was especially detected at the older strata of the Sesselfels Grotto G-Complex, at Kulna in Moravia and the Pradnik sites in Poland and are part of the "Altmühlgruppe" - certainly a late Middle Paleolithic rooted in the Micoquian.

Figure 4
The Hungarian site of Erd (MIS4) shows similarities with Pontinian, most likely due to its similar raw material, which consists of small pebbles.

Quina and Jabrudian Techniques. Interestingly, the Quina Technique from S/W-France and the technique used in the production of scrapers in Jabrudian ensembles are very similar. Figure 4 shows typical Dejete racloirs from Israel. More about the type station of Jabrud in Syria and the Jabrudian in the Levant see: 2256 . This entity is 250-400 k.a. old (MIS11-MIS7) and therefore clearly earlier than the Quina System in Continental Europe.

The “salami slice" technique was often used in typical Quina inventories in S/W- France, but this method seems to be more rare in Jabrudian ensembles. Unfortunately explicit studies do not exist on this topic..

However, another way of producing thick and cross-sectionally triangular flakes is found in both Quina and Jabrudian ensembles:

Here the flaking of long oval flint pebble started by removing one major preparatory flake from one end of the nodule, creating a striking platform. This striking platform was used during the next steps for the removal of one or more elongated thick flakes extending vertically down the face of the nodule.

Several of the flakes produced in this way could have been used directly as blanks for further knapping actions. Typically first generation blanks retain a substantial part of the cortex, while cortical remnants are missed on subsequent blanks.

Thick flakes of the Quina / Jabrudian system, in contrast to thin Levallois flakes, are suitable for the application of further retouches. The working edge was therefore heavily transformed before it was used. This transformation is usually performed by the “Retouche écailleuse scalariforme” as seen in Figure 4.

Beside simple scrapers, the typical Quina or Jabrudian racloir types are transverse, convergent, double and déjeté. Dejete racloirs form 1-5 % among Quina tools but may reach 30% among Jabrudian ensembles. The most typical Jabrudian artefact is a side-struck, cortical, thick racloir with three edges modified by invasive Quina retouch.

Once again, the question arises whether the Jabrudian and theWest European Quina systems are technical convergences or indicate cultural transfers.

As long as large parts of Turkey and the Balkans are poorly studied, it will be difficult to answer this question.....

Suggested Reading:

J. Enzel and O. Bar-Yosef: Quaternary of the Levant: Environments, Climate Change, and Humans; 2017

L. Bourguignon: Le Moustérien de type Quina : nouvelle définition d’une entité technique, thèse de doctorat, université Paris X, Nanterre, 3 vol.

V. Borgia and E. Cristiani (Eds): Paleolithic Italy-Advanced studies on early human adaptations in the Apennine peninsula; 2018

L.Slimak: Artisanats et territoires des chasseurs moustériens de Champ Grand; 2008

Provenience: Van der Keulen Collection / BE and the Levenstein Family / Israel

2021-12-07 13:08:07   •   ID: 2285

Geographic setting and spread of the LCT phenomenon over the Old World

Figure 1
This is a large triangular Flake (17x9,5x2,5 cm), made from extremely fine and dense, partially colored Quartzite, found together with similar large blanks, without any retouched artifacts from the Miño River basin in the Galicia Province in Spain.

It was found in a fine sandy layer of an ancient, probably Middle Pleistocene river terrace during the 1940ies. This geological characteristics certainly contributed to a rather fresh, the non rolled and only minimally patinated character of the large flakes that were detected. Some outcrops of the Raw material were available nearby.

Figure 1 shows the dorsal side, while the ventral side with all characteristics of hard hammer production is shown in Figure 2. Such flakes, detached from "Gigant Cores" are one hallmark of the ESA, especially in East Africa.

The production of Large Cutting Tools (LCTs; handaxes, picks and cleavers made from large flakes > 10 cm) was present in Africa from almost the beginnings of the Acheulian technocomplex at ca 1,7 Ma ago until the MSA. Early examples in Africa are known for example at West Turkana, Konso, Olduvai Bed II and Olorgesailie.

It were Goodwin and van Riet Lowe in 1929, who first drew the attention to the production on LCTs from the Vaal-Valley Acheulian in South Africa. Later Isaac described this Innovation as a major cognitive threshold in Human evolution.

Figure 2
Although scientific studies on the LCT phenomenon have never stopped after that, it was the thesis of Gonen Sharon that gave new impulses to the research of such assemblages, by bringing this subject back into the discussion on the basis of more systematic data collection and a Chaîne opératoire approach (see attached files).

Subsequently, a large number of studies on the role of LCTs during the ESA have emerged that have addressed the issue more in depth. Giant Core Technology and the production of LCTs were described from East, South and North Africa; the Levant including Anatolia; the Arabian Peninsula and India, from the Acheulian of the Hunsgi and Baichbal Valleys in China, as well as from Spain and Southern France.

Occasionally LCTs occurred in Central Europe, if appropriate raw material is present -for example on several workshop sites around my Hometown, Kassel (Hessen; German): see: 2051 , where I introduced a 13 cm long Middle Paleolithic Multifunctional LCT-tool from the Lenderscheid site with Scraper and Cleaver features, displayed also in Figure 3 in this post.

This tool is a late appearance of giant core technology, which is also known from other nearby sites like the Reuthersruh site (Luttropp and Bosinski 1970). It would be important to evaluate other inventories of this technology in the Northern Hessen area. From the rich material that exists in various Museum collections in northern Hessen, I know many similar examples.

All Giant core methods were designed to determine the shape of a intended blank by forming a specific scar pattern on the core and/or determining the direction and location of the initial and further blows.

The flakes produced by these methods allowed the knapper to produce a wide range of LCT blanks that were suitable in terms of both morphology and size.

Figure 3
Gonen Sharon described in detail the production of large flakes and characterized in total seven modes of LCT production: bifacial, sliced slab, cobble-opening flake ( éclat entame), Kombewa, Victoria West, Tabelbala-Tachenghit, and Levallois (Sharon 2007, 2009). Some modes of the Giant Core technique were fixed in time and place, such as the Victoria West or Tabelbala-Tachenghit technique in South and North Africa, respectively. Anyhow, I wonder, why Shanon did not take large discoid techniques into account.

Others are ubiquitous like the Levallois technique. All of these have in common that the production of a more or less standardized and often predetermined flake was the main objective.

About the "sliced slab technique", which was used in the production of the artifact shown in this post ,Shanon (2009; Figure 2b) wrote:

In this study, the term “sliced-slab cores” groups together cores that were made from large, flat slabs of raw material by a slicing method that resembles the slicing of a wedge of cheese. Note that the flake shown here at least a third generation flake.

Another example of the end product of the “sliced-slab cores” method from the Acheulian of South Africa has already shown here- 2224 ; (Figure 4 in the post)

All giant core methods indicate advanced cognitive planning. This started with the selection of the appropriate forms and characteristics of the raw material, which allowed the application of a particular technique mentioned above. It continued in the skilled and hierarchically organized execution of the corresponding preparation blows to end in the shaping of the desired final product (simple or retouched flake, cleaver, pick, biface).

Surf the Blog About the very different Variants of Giant Core Technology -see here: 2017 , here: 2016 , here: 2257 , here: 2187 , here: 1003 , and here 1715

Provenience: Diaz Alvarez Collection / Spain and J. Meller Collection / Germany

2021-12-05 13:51:46   •   ID: 2284

A Bifacial MSA from Ma'rib (Yemen)

Figure 1
In this blog, bifacial artifacts from Central Yemen have already been presented - See: 1659 as well as the hypothesis of a connection between the South Arabian Peninsula and East Africa during MIS5.

In the meantime, research has continued, particularly in Oman and on a smaller scale in civil war-stricken Yemen.

Figure 1-3 shows a bifacial 5,6 cm long endscraper of Middle Paleolithic / MSA origin. Such artifacts are rare in the Context of the MSA, nevertheless they are known from several East African Sites, for example from the Middle Pleistocene Site of Gadometta, Site ETH-72-1, dated by isotopic techniques to >279 k.a. (Wendorf and Schild 1974; page 222).

Figure 4 and 5 display a flat small biface, 6 cm long, also a typical artifact for the East African and Arabian MSA. Both artifacts were found at -Shabua-Ma'rib. Ma'rib was the capital of the Empire of Sheba in ancient times from the 8th century B.C. It is located about 100 km east of Sanaa in Yemen. Today's Ma'rib has about 21000 inhabitants and is the capital of Ma'rib governorate.

Until recently, the Arabian Peninsula was a terra incognita for Paleolithic Archeology. Since the turn of the millennium, several International interdisciplinary teams have changed the situation fundamentally, by geomorphological guided prospection of habitable zones, especially focused on ancient freshwater Lakes and Valleys in Arabia during the Pleistocene.

Figure 2
This leap in scientific evaluation was made possible by political modernization tendencies in the Arab countries (especially in Oman) and by the interest in "Out-of-Africa 3 events" via the "Southern Route".

The Middle Paleolithic / MSA- Areas: It was noted very early that in the Arabian Peninsula there are a number of Middle Paleolithic / MSA surface concentrations characterized by different modes of Levallois technology. In addition, there are a number of sites with a significant bifacial component.

The background for current research is therefore to define lithic signatures that could evidence early connections to the Nile Valley, the coasts of the Red Sea at the Horn of Africa and the Levant.

In short, Nubian-technology and Bifacial tools are suggested to represent a connection to North Africa, while Levallois techniques, similar to the so called Tabun B/C Ensembles could point to connections to the Levant.

The fate of the early human communities, their extinction, especially during MIS4, their persistence in preferable habitats even during dry episodes, and possibly further ingressions to Arabia from different geographically sources will be one of the main challenge of future research.

Several regions, especially in the South of the Arabian Peninsula have been extensively surveyed during the last years:

  • The Governorate of Dhofar in Oman, which is geological partitioned into six distinct ecological zones:1) coastal plain, 2) seaward slopes and southern draining wadis, 3) summit grasslands, 4) northern mountain slopes and rain shadow, 5) plateau and canyon lands, and 6) southern Rub Al-Khali basin (Rose et al. 2018; 2019).

    Figure 3
    The Nejd plateau was one focus of research and is characterized by deep canyons once flowed with perennial rivers at several Pleistocene times. Two OSL age estimates from the open-air site of Aybut Al Auwal in the Nejd plateau characterized by the Nubian Levallois technology gave a burial age 106k.a. (first Half of MIS5; Rose et al. 2011).


  • The Jebel Faya in the limestone hill near Al Madam in the Emirate of Sharjah, the UAE, located between the shoreline of the Gulf and Al Hajar Mountains (Armitage et al., 2011). Jebel Faya ensemble C has been dated to about 127–123 k.a. and therefore to early MIS5. The lithic assemblage is characterized by a bifacial component and the production of flakes using centripetal Levallois reduction (Pretzke 2005).


  • The Jubbah Basin in central Saudi Arabia, which lies on a paleolake that measures at least 20 km by 4 km. Large quantities of MSA lithic scatters in a paleolake environment have been detected, but absolute dates are still missing.

    Although completely surrounded by the vast Nefud Desert, Jubbah is today still known for its abundant agriculture and plentiful water supply. Recently a Middle Paleolithic scatter, without characteristic signatures was reported from the Nefud desert dated to 75k.a.


  • The Wadi Surdud in western Yemen, especially important by the Shi'bat Dihya 1 site dated to 55 k.a. Interestingly this site is a local lithic industry characterized by blades, pointed blades, pointed flakes and Levallois-like flakes with long unmodified cutting edges, made from locally available rhyolite (Bertrand 2012).

    Despite of the Lebvallois-like character of the mostly unretouched blanks, they were produced by a "semi-tournant" and a „frontal“ debitage strategy (Delagnes, 2000), while Levallois strategies were also present, but rarely used.

    It is of interest, that contemporaneous, similar EUP industries, regarding the end products, but using different chaine operatoires, were present at the Nil-Valley (Taramsa) and in the Negev (Boker Tachtit).

    This site could be the result of a local evolution of lithic technology, indepently from the source regions of the first settlement during MIS5.
  • - see also 1722


  • The Al- Kharj sites in Central Saudi Arabia revealed a total of 29 Middle / MSA Paleolithic surface scatters at the margins of Pleistocene lakes, focused on the Nubian Technology (Crassardet and Hilbert 2013). This is the first area in Central Saudia Arabia, that has been techno-typologically evaluated, unfortunately the sites are non-dated at the moment


  • Figure 4
    Connections between Arabia and East Africa?: Archaeological investigations over the past 20 years indicate that an essential initial phase of human expansion in Arabia took place during MIS 5. This is supported by ensembles, found at Jebel Faya in the United Arab Emirates, in the Dhofar region in Oman and in the Nefud Desert in Saudi Arabia.

    These sites may date to the beginning of MIS 5 (Jebel Faya ensemble C and the numerous sites of the "Nubian Complex" from the Dhofar region), as well as to MIS 5a (sites in the Jubbah Basin in the Nefud Desert). Both periods coincide with humid phases that favored the dispersal of fauna and humans .

    It has to be mentioned, that presently the dating of Nubian-Complex surface scatters at Dhofar is only supported by similar Industries at the Horn of Africa and the OSL age estimates from the open-air site of Aybut Al Auwal, which may place place this Complex at Dhofar at c 106 k.a. years ago, as described earlier.

    Assemblages mentioned above have been so far assigned to:

    - the Middle Stone Age (MSA)at Jebel Faya Assemblage C and at Bir Khasfa, a surface scatter of stone artifacts on the Nejd Plateau in Oman. Most of the artefacts found here were bifacial foliates and preforms. Bifacial preforms are also present at Jabal Ardif, 100 km southwest of Bir Khasfa.

    - the Nubian complex, especially in the Dhofar region.

    - or a poorly defined "Arabian Middle Paleolithic" in the Jubbah basin.

    The assemblages from the Dhofar region, as well as those from Jebel Faya (C), appear to represent links between Arabia and Africa during MIS 5 (120 and 80 k.a.)

    Figure 5
    Further incursions of populations into Arabia were probably temporally limited, mainly during wet-episodes as might be expected in a marginal and generally arid region.

    Anyhow even during arid times such as MIS4, people may have survived due to local favourable environmental conditions and may have developed innovative lithic inventories in many different ways. The sites at Wadi Surdud may be only one example for this process.

    Several sites from Jebel Faya were dated to MIS3 during an early MIS 3 wet phase between ca. 60 and 50 k.a. With the End of MIS3 human occupation may have come to an end with no evidence for human presence in the Arabian Peninsula, between 38 and 11 k.a. (Bretzke et al. 2013).

    Back to the two artifacts I introduced in this post. They have similarities to MSA inventories in the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa and may date to the early MIS5-wave of immigration via the "Southern Route" to what is now Yemen.

    Provenance: W.Hernus Collection (GER)

    2021-11-30 08:33:23   •   ID: 2283

    The Role of Blades in the French Mousterian

    Figure 1
    The small department of Deux-Sèvres is sandwiched between the departments of Charente and Charente Maritime in the south, the department of Vienne in the east and the Loire region in the north and east. All these regions are rich in Paleolithic finds, some with well-preserved stratigraphies.

    All the more is it surprising that from Deux-Sèvres only surface finds are known (Courtet 1963). They represent mostly single Quina scrapers and cordiform handaxes, artifacts that even a non-Archaeologist will easily recognize.

    It is all the more unfortunate that the only intact Middle Paleolithic site so far of Saint-Maixent-l’École in the Département was destroyed by construction activity in the 1950s, although the authorities were made aware of the rich finds by a local school teacher.

    This site would certainly have been all the more significant because it did not contain any Upper Paleolithic admixtures.

    This locality, about 50 km South-West from Poitiers, was already introduced into the Blog- see here: 1634 .

    Figure 1 shows a broad non-Levallois Middle Paleolithic, 9,5 cm long unretouched Blade from Saint- Maixent. Further Blades, which represent about 15% of all tools from the site are seen in Figure 2. Two of them are retouched, one has a natural back and one example shows a convergent Bohrer-like end.

    Figure 2
    These Blades are an integral part of an ensemble, following a genuine Quina Chaîne opératoire, characterized by a multitude of Quina scrapers (Figure 3 and 4), with all subtypes, already described by Bordes (1961)- single side- and transversal Scrapers and many convergent Scrapers / Points which were sometimes reworked into convergent denticulated artifacts. Heavy reworking by the “Retouche écailleuse scalariforme” is prevalent.

    In Addition even rarer lithics ,such as "Keilmesser" and "Chopping tool" like thick bifacial artifacts, from the same assemblage are known.

    Despite the noteworthy frequency of Blades for a classic Quina ensemble, the focus of lithic production was clearly focused on the production of flake-tools and the production of blades was a more rare but nevertheless conscious choice of their makers.

    In S/W-France Quina Ensembles date to MIS 4 and early MIS 3. The reason for this chronological position remains unclear.

    About the very different Variants of Quina Ensembles in Europe, which does not claim to be complete, please have a look on earlier posts: 1426 , here: 1648 , here: 2405 , here: 1649 , here: 1190 , and here: 2249 .

    Blade industries, made by Neanderthals, were more or less ignored for a long time. One example is the the early Middle Palaeolithic industry of Montiers, dated to MIS7 and already discovered by V. Commont at the beginning of the 20th century- see 1306

    This ignorance led via circular reasoning to the suggestion, that Neanderthals were considered to be incapable of producing blades. From Boule`s times to the armchair Archeology of Sir Mellars they were perceived as stupid and clumsy comrades who had not managed to follow "modern" Homo Sapiens, this crown of creation.

    On the contrary, Middle Paleolithic blades made by Neanderthals are known from the UK and Northern France since MIS8-6, produced either by a non-Levallois mode (e.g at Crayford, UK) or through Levallois débitage (e.g. Biache-Saint-Vaast.)

    Figure 3
    Even more and large ensembles are known from the last Interglacial (MIS5) and have been found to be common from numerous excavations during the last decennia. They were found in Northern France and adjacent regions in Germany and Belgium, made either by a laminar ("Upper Paleolithic") non-Levallois technology or by a recurrent Levallois approach

    Such inventories have been excavated for example in Belgium (Rocourt), Wallertheim D, Tönchesberg 2B (Germany), Germain-des-Vaux, Riencourt-lès-Bapaume, Seclin – D7, Riencourt-lès-Bapaume, Verrières and Vinneuf in France to name just a few. For a more detailed review see: 1522 .

    A legacy of the great H. Dibble is the systematic re-evaluation of the classical sites excavated by F. Bordes in the Perigord. This implies both a revision of the stratigraphy, and a reanalysis of lithic production from a techno-typological point of view.

    Initial results from Combe Grenal, for example, reveal multiple biases of the excavated material, especially concerning the faunal remains, which ultimately have contributed to some biased hypotheses of the past (e.g.: "Neanderthal man was a scavenger, was unable to structure his home base and build nests").

    In the context of a systematic Middle Paleolithic blade production (semi-prismatic, non-Levallois), Combe Grenal is particularly important. Faivre, who focused on stratum 29 and 30, showed, that Neanderthals clearly mastered both the production of Blades and Bladelets.

    However, as it can be observed at other Mousterian sites in the Perigord and Charente, this production was infrequent and never as dominant compared with later times in the (Proto) Aurignacian (Faivre 2012).

    In the same year in which Vaivre published his results, this phenomenon has been independently described by A. Pastoors for the Micoquian Site Salzgitter-Lebenstedt under the striking title: Blades ? – Thanks , no interest! (Pastoors 2012).

    Heading further South and to the lower Rhone Valley Region, it appears that systematic Middle Paleolithic Blade Production was also a constant, but in general rare element of the entire lithic production. This holds true both for the "Neronian" and the "Rhodanian".The first entity is Levallois-based- see 1134 , while the second has affinities to the classic Quina Facies of the greater Aquitaine- see 2245 , 1649 and 1455

    If we focus on convergent elongated blanks, the Neronian is indeed characterized by often elongated Levallois-Points with inverse retouches. Of great interest in this context is The Neronian level (ca 50 k.a.) of the Grotte Mandrin with an enormous sample of almost microlithic elongated Levallois points, many of them with impact fractures, suggesting their use as projectiles- see: 1648 .

    Figure 4
    Situated in the Lower Rhone Valley, the multilayered site of the Abri du Maras, a collapsed cave near the Ardeche River, gave early evidence for a "laminar Levallois industry",although even in strata with this designation only 5-10% of all tools are blades (Moncel 1994).

    All in all, the situation in the Abri Maras cannot be compared to the finds in northern France, where the production of blades was in the foreground; rather, the occasional blade production at Maras was embedded in an overall Levallois system.

    New results from the site show that advanced analytical techniques provide a much greater gain in knowledge, compared to the data of older excavations.

    New excavations from the oldest layers (Unit 5 and 4) dated these strata by ESR and U-Th to c 90 and 40-46 k.a. respectively. A systematic but marginal production of Blades and Bladelets was confirmed.

    Moreover, Microtraceology and Residue Analysis showed that Neanderthals used active hunting for a variety of large and small pray but were were also engaged into plant exploitation. Already this observations resulted in a revision of the paradigm, that all Neanderthal groups always hunted big game.

    By a lucky coincidence a small piece of cordage was discovered adhearing at a Levallois flake. This is the first direct evidence that Neanderthals produced twisted fibers - a technique that has so far only been demonstrated for Homo Sapiens during the Middle Upper Paleolithic in the Pavlovian Hills in Moravia (Hardy et al. 2013; 2020).

    Suggested Reading:

    Jean-Philippe Faivre: Organisation techno-économique des systèmes de production dans le Paléolithique moyen récent du Nord-est Aquitain : Combe-Grenal et les Fieux (Thesis 2008)

    Debénath, André. Néandertaliens et Cro-Magnons - les temps glaciaires dans le bassin de la Charente. Fundamental Overview about the Paleolithic in the Charente. For cheap money and indisputable the best!

    Provenance: P. Favre Collection

    2021-11-28 16:27:19   •   ID: 2282

    A Handaxe from the Lower Omo Valley

    Figure 1
    Figure 2
    This rather simple and 13 cm long lanceolated hand axe,made from ferruginous local volcanic rock, was found by the German prehistorian Günter Smolla (1919-2006) during an excursion in the lower Omo valley probably in the early 1970s.

    It is asymmetrical and bifacially shaped by only a few flakes that had been detached. Despite pronounced post-depositional degradation, the Handaxe shows clear signs of human agency.

    Smolla, although a specialist in the Neolithic and Bronze Age, already knew what he had found there....

    The Omo-Tukana Basin represents one of the best studied geological regions in East Africa, resulting in accurate dating of both Paleofauna and archaeological remains.

    Stratigraphic markers of the Omo region include volcanic ash layers, which form the primary basis for regional correlation within the Omo-Tukana Basin and with sequences of similar age in the surrounding basins.

    A correlation of the Omo Group sequence with deep-sea deposits in the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden has also now been established.

    Feldspars from volcanic eruptions included in pumices, which were incorporated into tuff layers, but also into intercalated basalt flows, provide an accurate radiometric age control for multiple levels in the Omo Group succession.

    Magnetostratigraphic studies and of well-preserved ancient faunal communities provide independent time estimation and allow reliable cross datings (overview in Gathogo 2017).

    From an archaeological and paleoanthropological point of view, especially two formations in the lower Omo Valley in Southern Etiopia are of particular significance.

    - For the occurrence of some of the oldest artifact-bearing accumulations in the world associated with the Shungura Formation, which is currently dated from 3,6 mya and ca. 1 mya associated with Oldowan sites at about 2,3 mya. These localities are technologically comparable with the Oldowan at Gona and Hadar (both in the Afar region) as well as findings at Lokalalei and Kanjera in Kenia, which are however several 100 thousand years older - see 1678 .

    Importantly Paranthropus bosei and Homo Habilis Skeletal remains were incorporated in the same strata.

    - For the rich MSA evidence of the Kibish Formation that occurs along with findings of early Homo sapiens specimens (Omo Kibish 1 and 2, dated radiometrically to 196 +/- 2 k.a. BP; Fleagle 2008)- see 1668 and Figure 3.

    From an aesthetic perspective these artifacts are of great beauty for a modern observer and bifacial tools such as Points and Scaper are made from precious materials, such as cryptocrystalline silicates, high quality chert and jasper (Figure 3).

    Compared with the late Pliocene / Early Pleistocene, the MSA at Lake Turkana is sparse-see: 2060 . Shea and Hildebrand (2010) reported details of a well stratified MSA-LSA site at from West Turkana at Nakechichok 1. This site is remarkable because its inventory bears no close resemblance to the Kibish findings. It is a small in-situ inventory that has a clear laminar Levallois aspect.

    Evaluation of MSA sites on the left side of the lower Omo has just began and may offer a great potential. These findings were found as part of the so called Mursiland Heritage Project.

    Levallois Flakes and Tools with some similarities with the sparse MSA evidence at Turkana West were reported scattered over the landscape and the Dirikoro Waterfall Site at the headwaters of a the River Elma, a tributary of the Omo River (Drapeau 2018).

    Figure 3
    As earlier reported in this Blog, the earliest known scattered evidence of the Acheulian dates back to c. 1,75 mya and is limited to a few African sites sites: Kokiselei (Kenya), Konso (Ethiopia), Olduvai Gorge (Tansania)-FLK West, and Sterkfontein (South Africa).

    From the regional view of this post the only early Acheulian in the Lower Omo / Turkana region is actually present at the Kokiselei 4 (KS4) site in West Turkana. So far, intact Acheulian sites have not been discovered in the Lower Omo Valley, possibly because the corresponding strata from this period are not as accessible as elsewhere.

    Today, over 13000 people live in the Lower Omo Valley home, divided into a network of around 12 pastoralist groups including for example the Mursi, Suri, and Bodi. Each community in the Lower Omo Valley has maintained its own, very distinctive traditions.

    For many reasons, these people are in danger of loosing the basis of their specific livelihood and future.

    A state-sponsored "eco-tourism" makes people and villages staffage for an "authentic Africa experience" for the tourists. Only a few, the least the inhabitants of the region themselves, profit from this development.

    To make things even worse, the entire ecosystem of the lower Omo and Lake Turkana is irreversibly at risk by the construction of a huge dam, named Gibe III, at the the Omo. The Gibe III dam is the third largest hydro-electric plant in Africa.

    The dam slows the flow of the Omo River and ends the semi-annual floods that supplied riverside farmland and pastures for livestock with alluvial sediment enriched with valuable nutrients.

    Since hundred of years, in the times before the dam was built, sophisticated mechanisms of risk minimisation and recovery strengthened the region's resilience to drought.

    Now, pastoralists have to migrate to other regions to find suitable areas for pasture, leading to conflicts with other groups.

    You will find more informations about this issue in the book you can download here: The River: Peoples and Histories of the Omo-Turkana Area .

    Two travel reports are important to critically complement the picture: Visiting Omo and Visiting Omo2

    Nothing about these events is unusual or unique. Similar interventions into the ecosystem are happening every day and all over the world - the genus Homo sapiens is almost certainly on the very edge of extinction, although it is the most common Mammal on Earth- and it once started so hopefully....

    Suggested Reading:

    Homo faber - 2 millions d'années d'histoire de la pierre taillée - De l'Afrique aux portes de l'Europe - Catalogue d'exposition MAN; 2021

    Provenance: G. Smolla (GER)

    2021-11-22 06:58:38   •   ID: 2281

    A Faustkeilblatt from S/W Germany - a Marginal Matter?

    Figure 1
    The concept of a Central and East European "Micoquian" has been repeatedly described in this Blog. The alternative term "Keilmesser-groups" is problematic because several Micoquian inventories do not include these tools at all- see here: 2016 , here 1726 , and here 1609 .

    The Micoquian entity of Central and East Europe is characterized by a combination of bifacially retouched tools with mostly plano-convex working edges, including Keilmesser (wedge knifes) with single and angled working edges, "Halbkeile": elongated unifaces with a D-shaped cross-section , Fäustel: small (< 6cm long) Handaxes, "Leaf-shaped Scrapers" and last but not least by flat Handaxes: Faustkeilblätter (FKBs), which are the issue of this post, because it has appeared that reviews that focus on this tool do not exist actually.

    By the way: Handaxes, including the well-known "Micoquian Handaxes" with an asymmetric and trifacial concept but also classic, mostly elongated and cordiform Bifaces, are rather rare and not a decisive characteristic of the Micoquian.

    Figure 1 and 2 show the dorsal side of a Faustkeilblatt from the Franconian Jura- see: 1609 and Figure 3 displays the ventral side of the 6,6 cm long artifact.

    FKBs of the Central and Eastern European Micoquian are small tools (between 6 to 7 cm long), characterized by their relatively thin and plan, occasionally minimally convex cross-section over the entire length of the tool. Most important remains their uniform flat profile (Tafelmaier 2011 ).

    The dorsal, side is covered by retouches while the retouching on the ventral side are often variable, covered with more incomplete and less invasive retouches..

    Figure 2
    Distally, on the dorsal side, they often have a carefully worked tip, which may occasionally more or less rounded as seen in our example. A tipped variant can be seen here: 1735 . The distal region on the ventral side is not or only coarsely retouched.

    The proximal end is usually blunt and unprocessed, sometimes produced by an intentional break, which also can be recognized in our example. Intentional breaking is a principle that has been widely used since the Mousterian and MSA- see here: 1734 .

    The shapes vary between large and elongated, broad and short, like the artifact of this post, as well as narrow handaxe like artifacts. Triangular shaped examples with oblique base ("Type X") shapes also occur. Both elongated specimens and broad and wide forms may be symmetric or may exhibit a certain asymmetry.

    At some sites in Central Europe, for example at the Bocksteinschmiede, (Baden Würtenberg, Germany) this artifact is very common, and supposed to be the desired end product, so that a separate name in typological systematics was early required.

    In fact, Late Pleistocene FKBs are taxonomically of a specific geographic and temporaral value, similar to Pointes a Quinson, for certain Middle Pleistocene Old World lithic inventories-see: 1554

    The name "Faustkeilblatt" was coined first by Obermaier 1912. Otto Meghin occasionally called this type of implement a "plate Handaxe" (Meghin 1914). In the French and Anglo - American literature, these artifacts are were recognised not before the 1990ies, when the Middle Paleolithic of Central and East Europe became better known in the Western Hemisphere. Currently the detailed Definition of G.Bosinski (1967) ist usually used.

    At first, it was assumed that the overall design of these artifacts was dictated by tabular source material. In the Franconian and Swabian Alb, formerly also known as the Swabian Jura, during the Middle Paleolithic, namely, the Plattenhornstein (tabular Flint), played a major role in the production of tools until the Bronze Age (Zotz 1951).

    Figure 3
    Here Plattenhornstein is found In limestone deposits, which were formed during the Jurassic and occur as siliceous horizons of only a few centimeters thickness.

    Anyhow, this possibility was subsequently falsified, since FKBs and other "Micoquian" tools (e.g Blattspitzen) were frequently produced from other raw materials.

    Moreover, and not uncommon in typological classifications, there is a wide transitional field between broad and wide FKBs and convergent Scrapers and Keilmessern.

    The same holds true between elongated examples and Leafpoints and Limaces.

    The most instructive illustrations, of the enormous variance of the pieces designated as FKBs, can be seen in the monograph by G. Bosinski and R. Wetzel on the Bocksteinschmiede site in particular on the pages following plate 60.

    As a matter of fact in prehistoric research, the terminology changes from country to country: At the Polish site Pietraszyn there are FKBs, but the Polish researchers call them "scraper" without further differentiation.

    The same perception had already been expressed 60 years ago by F. Bordes (1961) - However such artifacts are rare in S/W-France-the classic region for Mousterian terminology.

    However, this does not apply to the Normandie and neighboring regions. FKBs at the surface site Saint-Brice-sous-Rânes (Orne department; France) represent up to 10% of all bifacial tools, but are designated differently by French researchers as result of different terminologies.

    My observation of a small, biased example of ca 200 tools fits to the systematic evaluation of Karen Ruebens, that: a third entity, the Mousterian with bifacial tools (MBT), is located in between the MTA and KMG core areas and contains a wide variety of bifacial tools, including MTA and KMG types.

    Figure 4
    In Figure 4 we find two tools fromSaint-Brice-sous-Rânes, that meet all the preconditions for the Central European designation as FKBs.

    A systematic evaluation over the entire life cycle of FKBs in the context of a Chaîne opératoire approach is still missing.

    In eastern Central Europe FKB are often part of "Micoquian Ensembles" underpinning that they are an important part of this entity. They also occure in the Eastern European Plain and in some inventories of the Crimean Peninsula (e.g. Kabazi and Staroselje; again classified under a different name). (Marks and V.P. Chabaï 1998, Marks and Monigal 1999).

    However, the piece shown here, could theoretically show the negatives of Levallois preperation on the dorsal side, with an intentional breakage of the base and a rather careless retouching of the ventral side.

    The first example in Figure 4, on the other hand, was prepared from a large Pseudolevallois point that was originally struck from a Discoid core. The same technique is also conceivable for the second, more symmetrical specimen.

    Interestingly, FKB in the Central European sense have been described from the Acheulian-Jabrudian strata of Tabun Cave (Mt Carmel, Israel); (Matskevich et al. 2001).

    In my opinion this is certainly a convergence phenomenon, while the authors seem to prefer a cultural explanation, at least for the Levant.

    The Carmel finds are about 200 k.a. older than the artifacts from Central Europe. At Tabun, layer E is dated between 350±33 k.a. (unit XII) and 270±22 k.a. (unit X), (MIS 10 to MIS8) (Mercier et al. 1995).

    It should be mentioned that similar pieces were also present at the late Acheulian site of of Evron Zinat in the Western Galilee (Gilead and Ronen 1977), the Arzaq region in Jordan at the Late Acheulian of Lion Spring (Copeland 1989) and occasionally in the Algerian Sahara (own observations).

    It remains unclear for most pieces whether they were shafted and what function they served. At the Polish MIS3 site Pietraszyn 49a, use–wear traces from bifacial tools resulted mainly from bone and rarely from processing organic material (Wiśniewski et al 2019). At the Lichtenberg site microtraceology revealed cutting meat or hide, probably during butchering activities (Claud et al. 2009)

    Suggested Reading:

    J. Bárta: Slovensko v staršej a strednej dobe kamennej; 1996

    G. Bosinski: mittelpaläolithischen Funde im westlichen Mitteleuropa, 1967

    G. Bosinski und R Wetzel: Die Bocksteinschmiede im Lonetal; 1969

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

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

    K. Günther: Die altsteinzeitlichen Funde der Balver Höhle; 1964

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

    J. and S. Kozlowski, Le Paléolithique en Pologne, 1996S. Krukowski: Prehistoria ziem Polskich I. Kraków; 1939.

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

    S. Veil: Ein mittelpaläolithischer Fundplatz aus der Weichselkaltzeit bei Lichtenberg, Lkr. Lüchow-Danneberg.;1994

    2021-11-07 09:17:33   •   ID: 2278

    Olduvai / Oldupai Gorge: A Handaxe from lower Bed II

    Figure 1 Panorama
    Figure 2 Monolith
    Figure 1: Photographic panorama of Olduvai Gorge / Tanzania (Source: Photo: Noel Feans; Permission: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license); Figure 2: the famous "Monolith" with superimposed several beds of the Fossil and Artifact bearing layers. (Source and text: D. Gordon E. Robertson; Permission: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license).

    Currently and by (40)Ar/(39)Ar dating of tuffs and lavas of Pleistocene volcanic and sedimentary sequence of Olduvai Bed I is dated to 2,1- 1,8 mya, Bed II to 1,8 to 1,15 mya, Bed III to 1,15 mya-800 k.a., Bed IV is about 800-600 k.a.old and the the Masek Beds were dated from 600 to 400 k.a. The Ndutu Beds are about 400-32 k.a.old and the Naisiusiu Beds are younger than 15,k.a.

    Figure 3, 4 and 5: An Almond shaped, thick and biconvex hand axe (13x8x5 cm) from the Bed II / Olduvai from my own Collection: Made from Volcanic Rock this relatively small and massive core tool is completely bifacially flaked, with deep flake scars and slightly sinuous edges (Figure 5). Breuil and Bordes would have called such a Handaxe "Biface Abbevillien".

    Although relatively short, the Bifaces dimensions are still in the lower size range of the Upper Bed II bifaces. Almost identical pieces from this bed were recently described from the TK site in Bed II, dated to ca. 1,5 ± 0,035 Mya, (Santonja et al. 2016). This piece, together with an early Handaxe from South Africa- see 2227 is still one of the oldest Bifaces from my collection.

    The Olduvai Basin in northern Tanzania is part of the East African Rift System- see 1474 , and offers an unique, more than 2 mya long record of sediments, flora, fauna and artifacts over the stratigraphic succession. Moreover, many sites are in-situ and offer preferable opportunities for Archeological prospection.

    Figure 3 Olduvai
    Although the fluvial and lacustrine deposits are exposed in the basin over ca 250 km2, most of the archeological sites are found within in a relatively small area (about 7 km2) centered on the junction of the Main Gorge and Side Gorge.

    60 years ago Louis and Mary Leakey drew the attention to Olduvai Gorge, by discovering there hominin fossils of both Australopithecus boisei and Homo habilis in Bed I (Leakey 1959). The position of Homo habilis within human evolution initially remained highly controversial and it took more than a decade for the taxon to be generally accepted after more complete new skeletal finds. Although OH 7 is not the first fossil find of Homo habilis, it was selected as a typical representative of its species.

    Earlier, in 1959, Heslon Mukiri, an associate of the Leakeys, came across a molar and a premolar at another site in Bed I. But the two teeth were first put aside by Mary Leakey's skull find OH 5 (Zinjanthropus boisei) a few weeks later.

    Later cranial remains of Homo Erectus (s.l) (or Homo Ergaster) were found in Bed II (OH 9 and 12). Since then the attention was always directed towards the Record of Bed I and II (roughly dated to 2.1–1.1 Mya) while Bed III and IV, and the overlying Matakaba and Masek Beds were rather neglected.

    This can be explained by the fact, that Bed II ist the most complex formation from an Archeological standpoint, especially by the inter-stratification of "Olduvan" and "Acheulian" sites and the preservation of larger quantities of faunal remains.

    Definition of the Acheulian: While M. Leakey (1971) defined an Acheulian by the presence of at least 40% Handaxes in an ensemble, later investigators have emphasized more on technological aspects.

    Currently,an Acheulian is considered to exist by the evidence of LCT technology and mastery and use of three-dimensional (core) volumes.

    The Acheulian was the first standardized tradition of toolmaking, characterized by a volumetric bifacial concept, indicating a higher level of cognitive competence of their makers compared with their predecessors or contemporary Hominins.

    I have earlier reported about the dilemma of connecting stone tool techniques and typology with already known Hominins- see: 2232

    In addition, for a broader definition of the Acheulian, improved façonnage for biface, pic and cleaver manufacture and preference for discoid technology among small débitage methods should be added.

    Using an flexible and purely technological approach, in the final consequence, an Acheulian without a single Handaxe is thus possible (S.Y Policarpo et al. 2018). It remains to be proven whether this radical position is sustainable

    Figure 4 Olduvai
    Refinement of Handaxes over time? Originally, L.S.B. Leakey developed a 9-stage model of biface evolution that was intended to demonstrate an increasing sophistication of tool making between Bed II and the Masek Beds.

    Shipton recently showed, that Leakey's illustrations of the Olduvai material were not biased, but indeed relatively representative for the Succession at Olduvai. Therefore Leakey was not simply driven by the evolutionary concepts of his time but provided a solid foundation for the analysis of the local archaeological development of handaxe Cultures at Olduvai (Shipton 2018).

    However, we must keep in mind that the trend toward increasing refinement of the bifaces from lower to upper strata, refers to their totality. Of course, this does not apply to each individual case: There are relatively refined and symmetric Handaxes, similar to our example in Bed II, but of course they are in the minority.

    Further Examples of early Handaxe Sophistication come from FLK West and from TK, the latter located in the upper part of Olduvai Bed II, dating close to 1,5 mya (Domínguez-Rodrigo et al. 2013).

    In addition the trend of increasing Handaxe refinement, that Shipton found in Olduvai, was not confirmed at other large East African sites (Shipton 2018) - more about the issue- see: 2030

    Figure 6, shows an archaic looking hand axe from southern Italy, which is about only 300 k.a. old and looks just as archaic as the artifact presented in this post. The same holds true from a Middle Pleistocene LTC Handaxe from Isimila in Figure 7.

    Many of the bifaces from M. Leakey's monograph on Bed III-IV appear as "archaic" as if they originated from the lower levels of Bed II.

    On the other hand, we know other refined and symmetrical handaxe from Bed II in Olduvay . Some of them can be seen at the web-page of the British Museum in London- see here: BM-Handaxe .

    Remarks on Bed II: This post focuses on the early Acheulian of Bed II, the source of the single Handaxe of this post and the area of recent Archeological Activities in the Post-Leakey area.

    These new excavations may be characterized by the detection and evaluation of high resolution stratigraphies, the use of advanced sedimentary geology and the use of advanced isotope geochemistry resulting in high-resolution paleoenvironmental reconstruction.

    It should be mentioned, that lateral discontinuities and the reworking and alteration of volcanic glass makes makes dating of Bed II less precise than that of Bed I.

    Figure 5 Olduvai
    Geochemical “fingerprints” from 5 marker tuffs and the so called "Bird Print Tuff" plus several local tephra of Bed II have been evaluated recently, and have major implications for the Oldowan–Acheulean transition by improving the correlation of different stratigraphic sections (McHenry et al. 2018).

    When Bed II (2,17-1,2 mya) was formed, a large paleo lake (Paleolake Olduvai), that appeared during several Volcanic events of the late Pliocene, receded during the increasing aridity alongside the Lower-Middle Bed II in a now semiarid Environment, new raw materials became available at the lake shores.

    Instead of quartzite, quartz, volcanic rocks including basalt - chert / flint , with its well known properties became for the first time accessible for the Hominins but was still used in low quantities.

    Theoretically Chert is often suggested being a somewhat more optimal raw material by its homogeneity, ability to develop high quality conchoidal fracture, and the production of exceptionally sharp edges.

    Anyhow, compared to other raw materials, the flake edges are often less less durable. This may have necessitated more frequent retouching to strengthen the edges of chert flakes - see 1504 , which may one factor, that even in Bed IV, quartzite Handaxes are common.

    Maybe mentality change of later Hominins brought Flint Handaxes into the „Pool Position“ known from the Acheulian of continental West Europe and the UK.

    At ca 1,7-1,5 mya Hominins settled not only at the margins of shrinking Paleo Lake Olduvai but also at river channels and on permanent groundwater-fed springs associated with archaeological sites (Ashley et al. 2010).- see 1477 for the central role of water supply in Human Prehistory.

    Mercader et al. (2021) demonstrated that early Hominins created a "homogenous technology to utilize diverse, rapidly changing environments that ranged from fern meadows to woodland mosaics, naturally burned landscapes, to lakeside woodland/palm groves as well as hyperxeric steppes."

    In search of Early Acheulian in-situ sites: To evaluate hominin behavior during this evolutionary key time with respect to procuring food, water, and materials for stone tools, as well as hominin adaptation to climate and paleoenvironmental change it is extremely important to detect taphonomic intact in-situ sites with their faunal remains.

    Note that Core and Flake Industries-see here: 1663 , here 1678 , and here: 1176 -the (Olduvan) will not further discussed here -they have been detected from the base of Bed I until the Middle Bed II and are interstratified between the early Acheulian sites.

    As can be seen from the extensive literature about the East African Olduvan, the division into Early and Late Olduvan (Types A and B), coined by Mary Leakey, has now been abandoned by most of the researchers- for example by Gallotti at Melka Kunture, with good arguments.

    Currently, researchers prefer the model of a rather rapid transition from the Olduvan to the Early Acheulian, for example at At Gona, Ethiopia at 1,77 mya (Semaw at al. 2009).

    Figure 6 Venosa
    It seems that the start and dissemination of the Acheulian over the old world followed exactly Roger‘s „Diffusion of Inventions“ paradigm of 1962, which too often does not really fit to the Palaeolithic record.

    Not only at Olduvai Gorge, but also at other early Acheulian sites in East Africa, there is usually a lack of association between lithics and faunal remains or they are even devoid of fauna.

    The very early Acheulian, dated to ca 1,7 mya, of Konso Gardula (Ethiopia), Kokiselei (West Turkana, Kenya) and later early Acheulian sites at Koobi Fora, Olorgesailie and Peninj are unfortunately no exception from this general rule.

    All the more important is the early 1.7 Million-Year-Old Site of FLK West, where simple and developed handaxes are simultaneously associated with well preserved fauna in the context of unambiguous butchering activities. The “Nature”-paper in the external link-section of the post will give you a rather good impression about the advanced handaxe technology

    FLK West as an Example of Acheulian / Olduvan Interstratification: FLK West consists of a sequence of sand, silt, conglomerates and tufa. The lowest Marker Tuff (Tuff FLKWa) is about 1,69 mya old.

    Six find horizons are incorporated into this sequence. At the base there are two layers of an early Acheulian based on LCTs and on top of them there are four strata with core and flake ensembles ("Olduvan"). This sequence ends with an Upper Tuff (FLKWb), dated to ca 1,66 mya.

    This results over a narrow time window, in terms of a geologic definition, with evidence of two contemporaneous archaeological entities at a high stratigraphic resolution is a true stroke of luck for Prehistory (Sánchez-Yustos Policarpo et al. 2018).

    The excavators stated that "The differences noted in the absence/presence and frequency of LCTs may be explained in occupational terms, while the similarities in raw material selection, core reduction and flake retouching patterns indicate homogeneous cultural decisions and cognitive skills. We conclude that these assemblages were likely formed by the same hominin group or taxon and, therefore, the assemblage variability registered would correspond to different expressions of the same economic structure.". This is a convincing good-by to cultural-historical approaches at the dawn of humanity.

    At the same geological level, but mainly more recent in Bed II, further early Acheulian sites are located between Tuff IIA and Tuff IID within a time frame between 1,66 and 1,44 mya.

    The most important and recently extensively studied Early Acheulian sites in this area besides FLK, were already first evaluated by the Leakey Family more than 60 years ago. These are: MNK main; SHK; SC West and EFHR (de la Torre 2016).

    Man the Butcher: Evidence for Early meat consumption: This issue requires evidence that changes on fossil bones are man-made and not caused by other taphonomic processes. Of course, the skeletal remains of most interest for Pleistocene hominins and Researchers are preferably the selective accumulation of meat and bone marrow rich parts.

    The most important issues are the identification of cut marks, tooth marks, percussion marks, and natural marks (biochemical and abrasion marks). The methodology is described in M. Domınguez-Rodrigo et al. (2009)

    Once the presence of cut-marks and percussion marks can be established, it must be proven by rigorous investigations that hominids were the first who had access to the carcass.

    Although Olduvai Gorge provided strong evidence of effective scavenging and hunting (?), paleoanthropologist assume that the hominids who inhabited the area between 2,1 and 1,8 mya spent most of their time gathering wild plants such as berries, tubers, and roots.

    Furthermore, taphonomic re-analyses of Olduvai Bed I sites, including the Archeofaunal remains and stone tools, and most of Olduvai Bed II localities evidenced that with the exception of FLK Zinj (Bed I), and the BK-site (Bed II) these areas were palimpsests with minimal hominin input, formed by multiple agencies - for example the SHK Main Site (Domınguez-Rodrigo et al. 2007).

    The oldest but sparse evidence for active meat consumption comes from the Olduvan Site El Kherba in Algeria see- 2111 ; (Sanhouni et al. 2013) from the upper parts of a 1,8-2,4 mya old succession and from the site of FLK North at Olduvai Gorge (Domínguez-Rodrigo et al. 2010) dated to 1,8mya.

    In the Afar Triangle in Ethiopia, both Acheulian and Oldowan artifacts, Homo erectus crania and signs of active defleshing and disarticulation on bones were associated ca. 1,6 to 1,5 Ma ago at Dana Aoule North (DAN5) archaeological site at Gona.

    Thus, around 1.8 mya, megafaunal meat consumption does not seem to have have played a major role in the diet of hominins.

    Another line of evidence comes from comparative studies of the closest relative of humans: the chimpanzee.

    The diet of the great apes consists of only about 5% meat. Even today's hunter-gatherers maintain a diet that is not characterized by large amounts of meat.

    The majority of the calories needed are of plant origin. Anyhow, one should be cautious with such analogies.

    A clear trend to butchering activities is detectable at Olduvai since ca 1,5 mya (after middle Bed II). Both cut-and percussion marks on bones, which indicate a primary access by hominins to meat, and a tight association of stone tools and butchered bones became much more common. Important butchering sites: BK, TK, FLK-West and SHK, are dated between 1.3 and 1.7 Ma. respectively.

    Butchering (and Hunt?) is most strikingly demonstrated by recent finds at Site BK; Upper Bed I: " the present study indicates that BK should be added to the small number of Plio-Pleistocene sites where hominins contributed to the faunal assemblage and where primary access to carcasses can be inferred through taphonomic analyses.

    The high frequencies of cut marks and percussion marks from such a small excavation suggest that BK could potentially contain the largest number of hominin-modified bones of all known Lower Pleistocene sites in Africa. If one 10 m x 3 m trench has produced a sample of hominin-modified bone that is comparable to the 300 m2 excavation at FLK Zinj, what could a similarly large excavation at BK produce?

    This calls for future research at the site in order to expand the excavation area. In addition, this would allow the collection of more information on site functionality, given its re-occupation over such a vast amount of time.
    (M. Domınguez-Rodrigo et al.2009).

    These results suggest that the the animals were actively hunted, but a direct proof for this theory, as for example for Schöningen / Northern Germany for the time period around 300 k.a., unfortunately does not exist so far for Olduvai around 1.5 mya.

    However, the BK-site cannot be interpreted simply as a "home camp," as proposed in the 1960s. In this case, there is a clear need to develop new hypotheses and models to interpret such central-place sites.

    Meat Consumption and Brain Size-a valid Master Narrative? The evolutionary success of Homo compared to Paranthropus is currently in part explained by their differences in food intake.

    Paranthropus was mainly a herbivore, while Homo sp. is suggested to be mainly a a carnivore.(Foley 2001). There is a broad consensus that the habitual consumption of large quantities of meat, especially by the killing of available Megafauna by hominins, was a significant evolutionary step (M. Domínguez-Rodrigoet a. 2013).

    Figure 7 Isimila
    It should be noted that numerous other hypotheses (e.g. the influence of environmental, demographic, social- especially cost-signaling mechanisms, and technological factors) have also tested (Will et al. 2021). I personally assume that, as always for complex biological processes, increasing Brain Volumes were the consequences of multifactorial process.

    The influence of Meat Consumption on increasing Brains appears as a conceivable narrative but has not yet been quantitatively verified in depth. At least there is some evidence in Bed II at Olduvai that could support the hypothesis, mainly at the BK-site (see above).

    The hypothesis assumes that nutrient rich meat made Homo grow taller and smarter. Meat consumption increased the rate of encephalization.

    The enlargement of the brain is something that makes us human, and for this it is necessary to provide substances that enable the body to build and operate the oversized brain of Homo sp. compared to his forerunners.

    During Brain maturation it was necessary to have the appropriate proteins and fatty acids that form the brain mass. And this must be have achieved rather quickly, because after birth our Neurons mature very fast and no significant number of brain cells is added during later lifetime.

    Stone and Bone tools improved a more rapid carcass dismemberment, whether the animals are killed by our species or succumbed by prey predators. In other words these craft skills transformed Homo into a more successful scavenger or even hunter.

    Figure 7 shows an impressive 20 cm long LCT-Handaxe from the Middle (?) Pleistocene site of Isimila, certainly very useful in the hard work of rapidly dissect large carcasses -further information about the Isimila site-see here: 1217 .

    Artifacts could have increase hunting success, but the timing of active Hunting remains a controversial issue during the early Pleistocene and may be rather a marginal issue in the context of successfully getting large quantities of meat-the decisive factor regardless of the methods that were used..

    These activities, in turn, required a better organization of the processing of meat, bones and skins, which in turn changed the social structure of our ancestors. The more specialized knowledge they acquired, the more effective tools they could invent, which in turn may have created resources that could feed larger communities.

    While Homo habilis, was barely able to compete with larger herbivores, his success depended on rapid detection of carcasses, their successful defense against other predators and their rapid removal to saver areas.

    On the other hand, Homo erectus could possibly successfully hunt a few hundred thousand years later Elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotami, zebras, giraffes of his African homeland (see below).

    Interestingly a manual proximal phalanx, > 1,84 mya old from an unknown Hominin (OH 86)- maybe from an early Homo Erectus- was recently described from Bed I at Olduvai, which led to the reconstruction of a quasi modern human-like hand, suggesting, that a third Hominin co-existed with Paranthropus boisei and Homo habilis at Olduvai during Bed I times.

    Since in the case of success of fresh carcasses, immediately enormous quantities of meat were available, which in the warm climate rotted fast, humans had to develop techniques for the further processing and preservation.

    The decisive step in this process may have been the mastery of fire. Fire made it possible to preserve large quantities of meat. At the same time, roasting or boiling facilitated the enzymatic digestion of food, which in turn provided the eaters with more nutrients for an expanding community. And around the campfires, the groups developed a skill that allowed them to further optimize their hunting success: language.

    Anyhow, the habitual use of fire is dated not earlier than 1 mya-see: 1692 , and this issue is actually far from being resolved.

    In this post I have just reported just a few results from the current excavations- think on what will be still detected during the next decenia- I am convinced that the new facts will be overwhelming for all lovers of the Palaeolithic…….

    Suggested Reading:

    R. Gallotti and M. Mussi (Ed): Emergence of the Acheulean in East Africa and Beyond. Contributions in Honor of Jean Chavaillon; 2008

    L. S. B. Leakey: Olduvai Gorge: Volume 1; 1965

    MD Leakey: Olduvai Gorge: Volume 3 ; 1973

    MD Leakey: Olduvai Gorge: Volume 5 ; 1985

    Proveniance: Collection Baronetti / Milano (IT) Donation: L.S.B Leakey




    Resources and images in full resolution: