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2022-09-29 12:07:33   •   ID: 2351

Handaxes from Croisilles – Les Fours à Chaux in the Normandie

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

When I visited the north of France for the first time, I met an enthusiastic collector in Caen who took me to several historical and prehistoric landmarks in the area.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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2022-09-17 18:12:45   •   ID: 2350

The Early Upper Paleolithic at Shanidar / Iraqi Kurdistan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggested Readings:

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

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

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

Provenance:

Henri-Martin Collection

2022-09-14 15:18:15   •   ID: 2349

Explaining Stone Tool Modifications

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Figure 1 and 2 show a 6 cm long Jerzmanowice point from Kleinheppach in Baden-Würtenberg / Germany with a typical dorsal and baso-ventral flat retouch.

Figure 3 displays two thick and partial cortical typical Quina scrapers from the classic Quina-Aval site.

Figure 4 and 5 show a 5 cm long MSA point from Eyden Ubari / Libya with secondary thinning in the apical and ventral / dorsal basal parts.

Conventionally, it is argued that the retouche of the Quina scraper is indicative of a re-sharpening process and that the thinning in the other artifacts was executed to facilitate hafting.

However such explanations are often based on shaky ground....

In Paleolithic Archaeology, tool maintenance involves secondary modification of a tool, mainly by retouch.

Functionally, a stone tool can be retouched for a variety of reasons, such as reshaping, resharpening, recycling and facilitation of prehension and hafting (Odell 1996, Inizan et al. 1999).

  • Reshaping is restoring the original design or redesigning an artifact with a different function


  • Resharpening describes the restoration of a sharp cutting or scraping edge by retouching, resulting in the aspect of a "retouch scalariform ecaleuse" as shown in Figure 3.

    It should be noted that the functional significance of such a retouch is usually assumed a priori in the literature but often not proven


  • Recycling, mainly defined by double patinas, is interestingly a common phenomenon starting during the late Acheulean and early MSA in Africa and the Middle Paleolithic in Europe and the Middle East, while it is nearly absent during early ESA and Upper Paleolithic times. This observation may have multiple causes including environmental conditions, cognitive competence, raw material characteristic and settlement patterns


  • An important secondary modification of flakes since the Middle Pleistocene consists of blank thinning, including the one used for by bulb removal, basal or apical thinning and medial thinning applied in fixing of the profile curvature, edge flattening and flattening of cross-sections of the angles between the working edges on déjeté-type artifacts (Derevianko 1992, 2009).

    Why does artifact thinning occur? The most common answer, which is also often claimed a priori, relates to facilitate hafting of the artifact.

    Microtraceology may allow a confirmation of this assumption in certain cases (Rots 2011). However the proof of a specific functional gain by morphology alone is not possible. Form does not always follow function.

    The earliest claims for hafting come from the Acheulean site of Gesher Benot Ya’aqov (GBY) in the Jordan valley, dated to ca. 800 k.a. at the boundary between the Lower and Middle Pleistocene. However this statement is not based on Microtraceology but on more speculative assumptions (Alperson-Afil & Goren-Inbar, 2016).


  • There is virtually no literature that proves that thinning Stone Tools really contributes to improved hafting or that Quina-retouch is due to a reshaping process. As in any science, one sometimes encounters fundamental problems that have never really been settled or even worked out.

    Suggested Readings:

    V. Rots: Prehension and Hafting Traces on Flint Tools. A methodology (2010)

    D.S Amick: The recycling of material culture today and during the Paleolithic.Quaternary International 361 (2015) 4-20

    Povenance: Collection Reinhard Family (1,2); Halm (3) and Wagner (4,5) GER




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    2022-09-10 17:14:50   •   ID: 2348

    An early Masterwork: Keilmesser from Murzuq / Lybia

    Figure1 ; Keilmesser
    Today the Erg Murzuk covers an area of 71000 km² and lies almost entirely in the southern Libyan municipality of Murzuk. The provincial capital of Murzuk lies on the northern edge of the erg. To the north, a small part extends into the municipality of Wadi al-Haya. In the southwest, individual small foothills of the sand desert extend into Algeria (Djanet province) and Niger (Agadez region).

    Figure 1 and 2 display a thin and partially backed 10 cm long classic Keilmesser / Prodnik from Murzuk/ Lybia, a highly sophisticated stone tool already introduced into the Blog- see here: 1270 , 1631 , 2016 and here: 1726 .

    According to the actual Nomenclature the tool is called: Keilmesser of the Königsaue Type, referring to the lower stratum of the Type-site in Central Germany - see here: Königsaue .

    Figure 2
    Such tools are highly curated artifacts used by mobile foragers for different tasks.

    According to microtraceological studies they were used for a variety of activities (cutting, sawing, draping..).

    After several cycles of rejuvenation (up to seven cycles), the tool shown here, is only 4 mm thick at the thinnest point. Whether it was hafted or used freehand can no longer be determined due to a thick „desert patina“. In any case, freehand use is possible without any problems.

    Such pieces are very rare in the African MSA but they do occur. In this context I would like to remind the site ET-72 (Dakleh Oasis; Figure 3) published by R. Schild and F. Wendorf in 1977, which belongs at a minimum age to MIS7 (or MIS9).

    During the 1960ies Schild and Wendorf conducted fieldwork in the Western Desert, especially at the Oasis of Dakhla, where a number of Late Acheulean spring vent localities were excavated and yielded a huge – far the largest in Egypt – assemblage of various bifaces, debitage, cores and light tools. Especially backed and double backed handaxes were clearly outside from the known typology, established by F. Bordes.

    The important Polish Archaeologist Schild immediately recognized such items being very similar to Prodniks (Keilmesser) from his Motherland, which he discussed in depth in the Monograph - still one publicatory highlight of the Combined Prehistoric Expedition in Egypt (Figure 3).

    Figure 3
    While "Keilmesser" are attested at Dakhla in large quantities, they are otherwise rare outside the sphere of the Central and Eastern European Micoquian (MIS5-3).

    In Europe they were found in intact stratigraphy at La Cotte de Saint Brelade (MIS 7/6) and Mesvin IV (MIS 8) within an early Middle Paleolithic context, and in Africa they are recognized from the Sahara - either within a late Acheulian or early MSA enviroment - for example from Kharga Oasis and Lybia. A famous published example is known from the Yabrud rock shelter in the Antilibanon in Syria.

    Apart from the spatial separation between North Africa and Europe, the rarity of such artifacts in Africa already shows that "Keilmesser" in the MSA are a classical convergence phenomenon regarding their later common appearance during the Micoquian in Central and East Europe.

    Suggested Reading:

    G. Caton-Thompson:The Kharga Oasis in Prehistory (London, 1952).

    R. Schild and F. Wendorf: The Prehistory of Dakhla Oasis and Adjacent Desert. (Wroclaw, 1977).

    F. Wendorf and R. Schild: Prehistory of the Nile Valley. (New York and London, 1976).

    F. Wendorf, Schild, A. Close, et al, Egypt during the Last Interglacial: The Middle Paleolithic of Bir Tafawi and Bir Sahara East . (New York, 1993).

    Proveniance: Collection Wagner (GER)




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    2022-09-09 09:27:37   •   ID: 2347

    MSA Large Blades from the Edeyen Ubari

    Figure1 ; Wikimedia Commons - Public Domain
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    Figure 1 displays the Mandara Lakes, located in Gaberoun, an oasis in the eastern zone of the Ubari Desert in Western Lybia.

    It is one of the oases that were already present, along with a network of habitable watercourses, during wet phases of the Middle Pleistocene - see: 2002

    The long pointed and bilaterally retouched blade in Figure 2-4 was found along with MSA / Aterian tools decennia ago. With 17 cm it is oversized, a rare but not uncommon phenomenon of the local MSA in this part of the Libyan Sahara.

    It is unlikely that it was selectively introduced from the Holocene surface into a pure MSA ensemble. In addition the Blade was made from quarzit, the most common material during the late Middle Pleistocene, while during the Epipalaeolithic and Neolithic such artifacts were usually made from Flint.

    Similar MSA implements were reported from Tit Mellil (Morocco) by Vaufrey in 1935. He called these tools: "Racloir double en Lame". Obviously he couldn't imagine an MSA with real blades....

    Breuil in 1956 showed several examples of large (> 10 cm) blades from the Bir el-Ater Type locality in Algeria and several other Maghrebinian sites, housed in the Bardo Museum in Tunis, with almost identical morphologies (Figure 5).

    Kleindienst et al. described such tools from the Kharga Aterian Unit in fresh condition, radiometrically dated around 100 k. BP (see attached files).

    In short, Aterian artifact assemblages have been described as having a strong Levallois component, bifacial and unifacial points, high frequency of blades, a high proportion of sidescrapers made on blades, and pieces typical of the (European) Upper Paleolithic (Tixier, 1959, 1967) - see here: 1273 , here 1052 , and here: 1272

    Even more interesting in terms of an Evolutionary and Cognitive approach is the non-lithic element of the Aterian which includes worked bone, shell beads, use of pigment and structured fireplaces (Scerri 2021).

    The blade phenomena of the Aterian has never been studied in depth. Especially we lack of any details about their technological characteristics. From the illustrations, that can be found in literature, both a Levallois and unipolar semitounant production seems to be demonstrable...

    However - regarding our example a Levallois Chaîne opératoire-approach in it’s production can be ruled out. The blank was detached from an unipolar prismatic core.

    Figure 5
    About Early Blades:

    Until very recently Blades were suggested to be one important hallmark of a "Modern Behavior", - part of the already outdated „Human Revolution“ - approach - but Blades appeared early in Human Evolution and already during the late African ESA / Early MSA transition- See here: 1522 , 1091 , 2334 , and here: 1622 .

    Suggested Reading:

    Musée d'éthnographie et de Préhistoire du Bardo. Collections préhistoriques. Planches. Album no 1. Préface de l'Abbé H. Breuil. Museum - Bardo (Tunis) 1956.

    Provenance:: Wagner Collection (GER)

    2022-09-08 12:47:05   •   ID: 2346

    Figure 1
    These are two remarkable symmetric Handaxes (22 and 16 cm long), found during the 1960ies by S. Wiegand (AUT) near Kartum.

    Since ancient times the Sudan region has been an arena for interaction between East Africa, Egypt and the Mediterranean world.

    The Nile is Sudan’s most prominent topographical feature and was at all historical and prehistorical times the country’s primary source of water. It has two major tributaries: the White Nile, which originates in the Great Lakes region of central Africa, and the Blue Nile, which begins in the Ethiopian Highlands. The two tributaries meet at Khartoum, from where the river is called the Nile as it continues northwards into Egypt.

    The White Nile gets its name from whitish clay that is suspended in its waters. When the Nile floods, deposits of silt act as a rich fertilizer for the soil.

    The Paleolithic of the region is only poorly known. After the hopeful first investigations by AJ. Arkell in 1949, the Paleolithic in Sudan was again forgotten for a long time.

    Only since the beginning of the 1960s, in the run-up to the construction of the Aswan Dam, intensive surveys and investigations were carried out in Lower Nubia on both sides of the Nile, from the Egyptian-Sudanese border to the 2nd cataract (Wendorf 1968).

    The cultural and chronological framework of the Palaeolithic in the Nile Valley has been fundamentally built upon this work, put forward by the UNESCO during the Nubian Campaign for salvaging the Nubian monuments and the cultural heritage of the area (Wendorf 1968)

    This led to the discovery of numerous rich sites in the vicinity of Wadi Halfa, several of which are of ESA age (Chmielewski 1965 and 1968. J. & G. Guichard 1965 and 1968). The publications mentioned here belong to the classics of the Paleolithic literature and should not be missing in any library

    Since the beginning of the 1980ies, a continuous project of the University of Cologne has carried out several expeditions to the western desert of northern Sudan. The main focus of this project is the investigation of sites of Holocene age. However, the surveys in several working areas also led to the discovery of numerous ESA and MSA artifact concentrations (Kuper 1981).

    All scientific investigations were limited to the north of Sudan and to the Nile Valley, since the political situation in the south did not allow any field research there.

    The dating of ESA / MSA finds in Sudan remains a challenge and there are only a few radiometric data from the north of the country and Egypt and some of them will be reported below. The region of Sudan appears to be a transit region rather than a source region in terms of ESA (Nassr 2014).

    Oldowan sites are missing actually. Choppers and Chopping tools are always part of Acheulian scatters. Acheulian artifacts seem to be stylistically rather late compared to the neighbors countries ( Ethiopia, Kenya).

    In this context, the Acheulian is estimated to date between 250 - 400 k.a., while the Sangoan / Lupeban is not attested before ca. 250 k.a. The early Nubian MSA begins according to van Peer during MIS6.

    The late Acheulian combined with an advanced prepared core technique from the EDAR 135 site in the Eastern Desert, Sudan was dated by OSL very late between 220 ± 12 and 145 ± 20 ka (MIS 7a/6). These dates indicate a mosaic structure of the ESA/MSA transition-also known from elsewhere in Africa (Michalec et al. 2021).

    Another site with absolute dates and overlapping ESA/MSA characteristics is present at San Island in the Northern Sudan. Surface scatters of Acheulian artifacts at at this site were first described by  AJ. Arkell  in 1949. 

    At site 8-B-11 the lowest stratified layer is a late Acheulian which features large lanceolate handaxes, which are very fresh, and have a maximum age of 223 k.a.+/-19k.a. BP (OSL dating). At Site 8-B-11, Acheulian and MSA (Sangoan) assemblages were actually contemporary, the differences being more behavioral than chronological.

    Acheulian material has been known from the Western Desert in Egypt since it was first discovered and analyzed by Gertrude Caton-Thompson in the 1920s. Assemblages from Kharga, Dakhla, Bir Tarfawi and Bir Sahara in the Western Desert are here of importance.

    Geochronometric dating of the Acheulean deposits in the oases of the western desert suggest a minimum age of 350-400 k.a. BP while recent work on the geochronology of the fossil-spring tufas of the Kharga Oasis have provided U-series minimum ages of 300 k.a. BP.

    Suggested Reading:

    AJ Arkell: The Old Stone Age in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan / by A.J. Arkell. (Sudan Antiquities Service occasional papers ; no. 1)

    G. Caton-Thompson:The Kharga Oasis in Prehistory (London, 1952).

    R. Schild and F. Wendorf: The Prehistory of Dakhla Oasis and Adjacent Desert. (Wroclaw, 1977).

    F. Wendorf and R. Schild: Prehistory of the Nile Valley. (New York and London, 1976).

    F. Wendorf, Schild, A. Close, et al, Egypt during the Last Interglacial: The Middle Paleolithic of Bir Tafawi and Bir Sahara East . (New York, 1993).

    Proveniance: Collection Weigand / Vienna (AUT)

    2022-08-27 16:44:55   •   ID: 2345

    Back to Melka Kunture: The MSA of Kella

    Figure 1
    Melka Kunture is a cluster of prehistoric sites in the upper Awash valley, 50 km south of Addis Ababa, and was already introduced into the Blog earlier- see here 1192 , here: 1233 and here 2026 .

    Compared to the Oldowan and the Acheulian, the MSA at Melka Kunture is poorly known. Garba III and the nearby Gondar locality are the most important locations for this issue.

    Remains of „Archaic Homo Sapiens“ have been detected at Garba III, incorporated within the slightly disturbed MSA strata and is currently suggested to belong to MIS 6.

    As described earlier, Homo Sapiens – as morphologically defined by the possession of a number of skeletal traits- appeared for the first time in Africa within the temporal span between MIS 9 and MIS 6. Skeletal remains are currently known from East / South and Northern Africa.

    At Godeti, incorporated within the "Sables Rouges" and at Kella from the surface, Bailloud in 1965 reported a non-Levallois MSA, made from high quality Obsidian, which exhibits sophisticated bifacial tools, comparable to the implements which are shown in this post.

    In his publication, Bailloud called bifacial crescent Obsidian tools, comparable to the first piece in Figure 1 as knifes (" Couteaux Renformes"). Anyhow these artifacts do not have a back, so that the designation: scraper seems to be more appropriate.

    In the East African MSA, tools are mainly characterized by „points“ with unifacial and bifacial retouch on non-Levallois and Levallois blanks, partially made from Nubian cores.

    This is for example the case at Gademotta (ETH-72-8B before 276±4 k.a BP; ETH-72-6 after 183±10 k.a BP) and at Kulkuletti (200–300 k.a BP) and Aduma ( ca 60-80 k.a. BP).

    It is possible that the good workmanship of the stone tools at Gademotta and Kulkuletti as well as at Godeti and Kella at Melka Kunture is best explained by the excellent quality of the raw material and in this respect, as already noted by Gérard Bailloud, is typological similar to the much later South African Stillbay and some "Fauresmith"- ensembles.

    Typologically, bifacial crescent scrapers are otherwise unknown from the East African MSA and have their next counterparts in the Crimean Micoquian of MIS 5-3- certainly a convergence phenomenon.

    Provenance: Museum Collection housed in Addis Abeba; photography with permission (1984)




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    2022-07-31 08:13:03   •   ID: 2343

    Single Component Sites and the late Mousterian in S/W-France

    Figure 1
    Figure 1: An early Middle Paleolithic Handaxe from the Bergerac Region, Figure 2: Cordiform MTA Handaxe from the Bergeracois and Figure 3: Two Mousterian Points from the Type Station of the Mousterian: Le Moustier.

    More than 40 years ago L.Binford wrote: "Viewed from the perspective of a living system, an occupation can be defined as the uninterrupted use of a place by participants in a cultural system.

    The material consequences of an occupation represent a document regarding an organizational aspect or phase of operation of the cultural system under study (Binford 1981)". Binford in his systematic aproach basically differentiated between single and multiple component (Palimpsest) sites.

    Sites having evidence for only one occupation are called single component sites. Such sites are rare and invaluable to archaeologists because the inevitable data bias that a multi-layer site introduces through post-depositional modification can be avoided.

    More stratigraphically complex sites are called multicomponent sites. Components are often identified by the presence of particular industries, the association of particular artifact types, or by horizon markers.

    Figure 2
    Archeological paradigmatic for single component / single stay-sites is still the Maastricht-Belvedere complex in the Netherlands, with multiple in-situ sites, embedded in fine-grained fluvial sediments containing fully temperate faunas, most probably attributable to MIS 7.

    TL dates suggest an age between 250–290 k.a. Some of the sites (for example Site C) display Levallois technology, while at others (for example Site K) most of the knapping is from discoid cores. An extensive full account of this groundbreaking large-scale rescue excavations can be found here: Maastricht-Belvedere

    Due to policy of a Preventive Archaeology in rich Western European countries, the number of single component Sites has increased significantly during the last two decades, and this Post briefly describes important lessons that can be learned by these sites about the Late Middle Paleolithic in S/W France.

    What are the hallmarks of a Single Component Site ?

  • Stratigraphic evidence of a brief human presence at the site


  • Spatial pattering; refitting and rejoining of artifacts


  • Evidence of a specific material economy


  • Evidence of a specific technological system


  • Evidence of specific artifact transport patterns


  • Figure 3
    Courbin et al. have recently reported about a late Middle Paleolithic site with these characteristics in S/W-France: Bout-des-Verges (Bergerac, Dordogne)where large-scale investigations were carried out (Courbin et al. 2020).

    They were able to demonstrate the simultaneity of an in situ artifact concentration that was based on a bifacial scheme associated with a Levallois Chaine Operatoire and two smaller concentrations based on a unifacial scheme and discoid production.

    The analysis of raw material units, refittings and conjoinigs played a crucial role in evaluating the raw material economy and the techno-typological systems on the site. The majority of discoidal products were exported for future use, while the imported bifaces and Levallois scrapers with longer use-lives were transported multiple times by Neanderthal groups (Courbin et al. 2020).

    By the way, this finding can help to resolve the old question: What was the last Mousterian in S/W France? The question may be wrong and the answer more ambiguous than expected.

    Depending on the site function and other even important factors it may be sometimes a MTA with a Levallois or Discoid Chaine Operatoire or an unifacial Discoidal Middle Paleolithic....




    Resources and images in full resolution:

    2022-07-18 07:47:13   •   ID: 2341

    A Middle Pleistocene Handaxe from the Valle Giumentina /Abbruzo / Basilicata / Italy

    Figure1 ; Wikimedia Commons
    The Abruzzo, situated in the center of the Italian peninsula and today with over one-third of its territory protected by the government is considered one of Italy’s greenest regions.

    Characteristic of the region are the wildernesses of the large national parks (Gran Sasso, Majella, Sirente Velino as well as the National Park of Abruzzo).

    The originality of the landscape is unique and will immediately enchant you.

    Where else in Europe can you see animals like the brown bear, wolves, chamois, fallow deer as well as lynxes and otters.

    The area encompasses deep river valleys and karst plateaus and presents a great morphological and altitudinal variety (from 130 to 2793 m).

    The sea, the hills and mountains are the three most constitutive elements of this landscape.

    During the coldest periods of the Ice Age, the Adriatic Sea was transformed into a wide plain with grazing Herdes of animals, created by the sinking of the sea level, reaching as far as today's Croatia.

    During Middle Pleistocene warm episodes, even middle altitudes up to 1500 m were part of the habitable oecumene (Negrini; personal communication 2018).

    Figure 2
    Figure 3
    Figure 2 and 3 show the dorsal and ventral Sides of a rather crude ("Abbevillian") Handaxe, made from local high quality Flint, from the Valle Giumentina, a Middle and Upper Pleistocene open-air archaeological in-situ site located in central Italy (Abruzzo), on the Adriatic side of the peninsula in a deeply incised Valley (Foto courtiously by W.Hernus).

    First Excavations were carried out in the 1950s by A. M. Radmilli and J. Demangeot and revealed in total nine stratified levels of human occupation and thousands of lithic artifacts in good preservation. This observations were confirmed gross modo by Nicoud et al. recently.

    The long stratigraphy of the deposit (more than 25 m thick) and the convincing Archeological sucsession finally helped to establish Valle Giumentina as an essential reference of the Lower and Middle Paleolithic of the Abruzzo Region, Italy and even Europe.

    The excavations of Valle Giumentina revealed the frequentation of the inner Apennine by early Neanderthal human groups, between approximately 300 and 40 k.a. BP.

    According a culture historical interpretation and due to the long lasting and exceptional influence of G. Laplace on Italian researchers the lithic industries were initially attributed to the "Acheulian", "Clactonian" (Figure 4) and "Mousterian". More about the Person of George Laplace can be found here: LAPLACE

    Of course, from today's point of view, these entities were abitrary and characterized by the idea that they were linked to different populations.

    These groups were defined mainly by the presence or absence of Handaxes (a typological trait) and by a Levallois/non-Levallois dichtomy (a technologic trait).

    Handaxes were present in in level 37 and therefore diagnostic for an Acheulian. On the other hand tools on thick flakes in levels 20, 24, 30, 33, and 42 were supposed to be of Clactonian origin and the Levallois flakes and scrapers in the upper levels 45 and 46 were supposed to represent a genuine Mousterian.

    Recently, technical studies have shed more light on the complexity and therefore the fragility of these cultural ensembles.

    Figure 4
    However, they still reflect the multiplicity of technical expressions of Early and Middle Paleolithic Hominins over the entire Italian Peninsula and are currently interpreted by landscape, raw material procurement based and functional approaches.

    During the last years renewed excavations refined these earlier observations by conducting: „a high-resolution pluridisciplinary study of the sequence (sedimentology, micromorphology, bioproxies, tephrochronology) and dating techniques (Ar/Ar, ESR, OSL).

    Six levels of volcanic ashes have been found. Results depict an evolution of the Valle Giumentina basin in four phases, from a lake environment to its drying.

    Eleven archaeological layers have been identified, in both glacial and interglacial periods, during stable environmental conditions (soils).
    (Villa et al.2026).

    Further contributions already presented the preliminary results of the ongoing excavation of Layer 42- ALB incorporated within an ancient paleosol: "This is a paleosol located at 4 m depth, at the top of a lacustrine deposit directly below the coarse deposits associated with the last major erosive event. Faunal remains consisted essentially by Cervus elaphus. The lithic series is characterized by a specific flake production system: only a part of the block is reduced, and platforms and surfaces are not prepared. Several methods are used, including the SSDA are frequent.

    Numerous blanks are transformed by intensive or marginal retouch. Functional objectives are multiple, as shown by different tool structures and use-wear traces. Valle Giumentina 42-ALB is a butchery site used brie"y but frequently during warmer substages occurring during an overall cold period. The “Clactonian” industry of Valle Giumentina is often considered as simple or expedient: we demonstrate its real technical complexity and its func- tional signi!cance. Comparisons are made with other European sites"
    (Nicoud et al 2016).

    Certainly we will hear more from this exciting site during the next years…..

    2022-06-25 08:11:48   •   ID: 2337

    Life History of a Scraper from Troyes La Champagne

    Figure 1
    Figure 2
    Figure 3
    This is a large simple unifacial Middle Paleolithic scraper-(10,5x6,2x2 cm) made by a non Levallois technique from a local blue / black Jurassic Flint, now deeply patinated.

    The artifact is characterized by an elongated thick flake, in which the maximum thickness has been reduced unilaterally by a “Retouche écailleuse scalariforme“.

    This „Quina Retouche“ is best seen from the dorsal side, exhibiting a reworked, convex cutting edge (Figure 1 and 2).

    Looking at the ventral side in Figure 3 we notice, that the bulb of percussion has been carefully removed and that basal parts of the flake carry scalariform retouches while the simple discontinuous contralateral retouches are likely to be post-depositional as indicated by their double patination.

    In addition, several (Janus)-flakes from the ventral side have been removed before the tool has been abandoned. Now the piece of worked as a core.

    About different techniques of these „flaked - flakes“ -see here: 1286 .

    The distal part of the artifact shows a truncation. This „Kostenki“-end is the result of initial preparation steps before the detachment of Janus flakes.

    All the characteristics point to an artifact with a complex life-history, those function may have been manifold and changing over time.

    Genuine Quina scrapers were usually made on cortical transversal flakes and often lacked striking platform preparation- more information about the issue is to be found here: 2290

    In contrast, I suggest that the tool shown here, was rather made by a Discoidal and not by a Quina chaîne opératoire.

    The artifact was found by a local collector decennia ago at Troyes La Champagne, capital of the department of Aube, in France.

    So far, only isolated Paleolithic implements have become known from the urban area of Troyes.

    Techno-Typologically the piece presented here is mainly embedded within the local Middle Paleolithic of the Aube Region- See: 2183 during MIS 4/3 and reminiscent of the Middle Paleolithic in the Upper Rhone Valley with its rich findings 400 km in the south (Slimak 2008).

    Suggested Reading:

    Slimak L. D. 2008 – Artisanats et territoires des chasseurs moustériens de Champ Grand. Aix-en-Provence

    Surf the Blog: here: 1455 ; here: 1649 and here: 1554

    Provenance: Collection P. Vabre




    Resources and images in full resolution: