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2020-10-30 10:02:25   •   ID: 2209

Celebrating the 10th anniversary of Aggsbachs Blog: A MTA Handaxe from the Creysse Area

Figure 1
Figure 1 and 2: For a modern observer this is a beautiful MTA Biface, found in the Creysse Area in 1932 about 1 km S/W of the famous Barbas site, excavated during the last decennia.

But was the creation of a thin, symmetric artifact really the intention of the Neandethal who made this artifact?

Actualistic studies in living AHMs showed that most people prefer symmetrical to asymmetrical handaxes, in particular young females.

Who manufactured of Handaxes during the Paleolithic? Acheulean handaxes are thought to have been produced by different extinct hominin species, Homo erectus (or Homo Rudolphensis in Africa and Homo Erectus in Asia) and Homo heidelbergensis (Homo Rhodensis in Africa and Homo Heidelbergensis in Europe). MTA Handaxes in Europe were made by Neanderthals.

The Transmission of Handaxe Making: One important issue regarding the conservatism of Acheulean handaxes is the question if handaxes are a cultural object, transmitted by learning from one generation to another or the consequence of genetic transmission. There is evidence for and against these hypotheses as described by Corbey et al (2016), who in depth described the pros and cons for both positions.

Evolutionary Background of Symmetry:

Figure 2
Symmetry is an eye-catching feature both of plant and of animal design, but its causes and evolutionary meaning are not well understood. According to theoretical considerations Symmetry should imply an Evolutionary advantage.

There are Genetic prerequisites for a symmetrical design of an animal, that have been described during the last year: the so-called gene regulatory networks.

They determine which protein-coding gene will be transcribed, and when, in which cells and how much protein will be produced. The transcription of protein-coding genes is directed by regulatory sequences of the DNA.

The different types of regulatory regions (for example, enhancers, promoters, silencers, insulators and so on; e.g.) are activated by the binding of specific proteins called transcription factors (TFs).

The binding of a proper combination of the given TFs to the regulatory regions can either activate, modulate or inhibit the transcription of the target gene
(Hollo 2016).

In a later paper Holo argued that Symmetry is the product of the interplay between gene regulatory networks but also a response to mechanical forces (Holo 2017).

From an evolutionary perspective many important environmental elements are symmetrical and sensitivity to symmetry may have evolved because it is important for discriminating living organisms from inanimate objects. This issue was already discussed here: 1373

Sensitivity to symmetry is a fundamental element of mammalian visual perception, controlled by neuronal network residing in the medial occipital gyrus.

Became Symmetry the Aim of Handaxe production over time ?

It is debatable if Symmetry increased over time, an issue that was already addressed in this blog here: 2030 . In 2020 it seems that the much quoted belief that handaxes become more refined and symmetrical over time has no substantial body of data to support it.

Was Symmetry the Aim of Handaxe production?

In an experimental setting Bachin evaluated if a set of morphological variables, including symmetry, influenced the effectiveness of handaxes for butchery.

From her experiments she concluded: while frontal symmetry may explain a small amount of variance in the effectiveness of handaxes for butchery, a large percentage of variance remains unexplained by symmetry or any of the other morphological variables under consideration a large percentage of variance remains unexplained by symmetry or any of the other morphological variables under consideration (Machin et al. 2006).

This study adds evidence to an increasing corpus of data, published during the last years, that showed that Symmetry per se was not a requirement of success in the Handaxes functionality.

These experimental results let us speculated that the careful creation of symmetrical handaxes may have rewarded by a social, and on a more generalized level, a symbolic additional profit to our ancestors (White et al 2018)- in this respect " Symmetry is its own reward".

By the way: These post was Nr. 700 during the 10th anniversary of Aggsbachs Blog

2020-10-20 10:12:48   •   ID: 2208

Late Neanderthals in N/W-France: Redundancy in Action

Figure 1
Figure 1: This is a small collection coming from hundred of Cordiform Bifaces found at Lommoye, today a French commune with 671 inhabitants in the Yvelines department in the Île-de-France region. It belongs to the arrondissement of Mantes-la-Jolie and the canton of Bonnières-sur-Seine.

This surface scatter is an outpost of the "Mousterian with bifacial tools", mostly known from the Armorican Massif, a geologic massif that covers a large area in the northwest of France, including Brittany, the western part of Normandy and the Pays de la Loire.

About the Bifacial Mousterian in N/W-France see for example here: 1179 , 1501 , here 1665 , here: 1250 , 1585 , 1178 and here: 1077

Figure 2 shows some Bifaces from from Le Bois-l'Abbé at Saint-Julien de la Liègue, a site that comprises many thousands of Handaxes, often reduced to tiny implements of 3-6 cm long- see 1163

After the sinking of the "Human Revolution” paradigm and the "Inferior Neanderthal" discourse, it is time to ask for the function of high level Redundancy of the Bifacial Mousterian in N/W-France, especially of the large workshop sites mentioned above.

Figure 1
In technological systems, redundancy means providing more time, information, and/or resources than is strictly necessary for a system's successful functioning.

It is allowing a bit extra or the duplication of component parts of a system or a subsystem as a backup regarding safe provision to increase reliability (Compton and Harwood 2007).

How can this statement applied to the Bifacial late Mousterian in France?

  • Redundancy plays a critical role in buffering the group’s informational resources. Larger groups store information in more heads than smaller ones.

    Information can easily drift out of a small group, through unlucky accidents to those with rare skills (Sterelny 2011).

    Small dispersed Neanderthal groups were in need of a high redundancy system, especially during the rapid changing ecological condition during MIS3. The permanent learning of replication of a versatile multifunctional tool like a Cordiform handaxe, that could also easily used for the production of sharp expedient flakes was a prerequisite in surviving


  • According to the work of Rice and Peck, Flexibility and Redundancy are the two most prominent principles describing the Resilience of a system. Therefore a stable socially system may not optimally work without improvements of its redundant components or innovations.

    Resilience will only increase by the Visibility and the Acceptance of adaptive innovations by other members of a given group. Indeed the rate of innovation has steadily increased after the rise of Homo sapiens compared to the innovation rate of Neanderthals, whatever the cause may be


  • Standardization and formal redundancy are essential properties of the survival of any society. Anyhow, it may be suggested, that Neanderthals, being basically cognitive equal to AHMs, were on one hand highly resilient and successful in survival over hundred of thousand years by their Redundancy, but suffered in the long term from poor visibility and diffusion of technical innovations. Maybe their conservatism was finally one cause for their demision from the Paleontologic record


Surf the Blog: see here 2205 , and here 1238 .

2020-10-20 10:12:48   •   ID: 1162

The Archaeology of Curiosity

Figure 1
This is a fossilized shark tooth from the Gravettian strata of the Abri Pataud at Les Eyzies in the French Dordogne. Sharks have been living on earth for about 400 million years.

When a shark dies and its cartilage dissolves, the teeth fall to the bottom of the ocean and get covered with sandy sediment and fossilizes. 

Non-utilitarian items, collected by early humans comprise:

Pigments were in use since the MSA in Africa. The evidence for ocher use even extends back to the beginnings of the MSA, for example in the Kapthurin Formation, Kenya, dated to >240 k.a, at Twin Rivers, Zambia dated roughly to the same time interval.

Excavations at Sai 8-B-11 in northern Sudan show yellow and red pigment lumps associated with grinding tools with traces of pigments and vegetal materials. The associated Sangoan core axe lithic ensemble is dated to 200 k.a BP.

 In addition ca 40 Mousterian sites in Europe, especially Pech de l’Aze I (Dordogne, France), have provided series of coloring materials (hematite, ocher, manganese), whose physical and chemical properties do not appear useful for daily life.

  • Collection of Quartz Crystals by early hominids is first observed during the Lower Paleolithic.

    For example, in India, the Singi Talav in Rajasthan (dated to 800 k.a.) is located a few kilometers from the occupation site where they were discovered. In the Near East, the site of Gesher Benot Ya’aqov (dated to 800 k.a.) also contains unmodified quartz crystals. In China, at Zhoukoudian (dated to 400 k.a.), unmodified quartz crystals were discovered in the Lower Paleolithic strata.


  • Fossils are items which frequently suggest some sense of non-utilitarian activity among early prehistoric populations, or at the very least, an interest in strange or unusual objects.

    Studies indicate that these fossils could not have been brought to the sites by natural processes alone. Some items are already known from the Acheulian (Gesher Benot Ya’aqov) and many more are known from the European Middle and Upper Paleolithic.

    They are rarely modified like the famous fossil, silicified nummulite, from the late OIS5 Micoquian of Tata, Hungary. This partially translucent disc is dissected by a natural fracture, the second one was engraved on both sides at right angles to the fracture.


  • What the motivation was for collecting extraordinary non-utilitarian items from the natural world is impossible to assess in early hominids, and even in modern humans.

    Picking up sich an item and bringing it back to a base camp may be related to various individual or collective concerns like play, aesthetic feeling, emotion, symbolic communication or magical religious practice, among others.

    Apart from that, an overarching explanation may be that such a behavior is a strong indicator for

    Curiosity, as a basic characteristic of all primates. Without curiosity, our ancestors would not have been invented culture and would not have succeeded in niche broadening, which finally, on the long term, led to the conquest of the earth by our species. 

    Curiosity is the impetus to explore the world beyond the existing knowledge.  Curiosity is the desire to learn about what is unknown.Curiosity is a cornerstone of human cognition that has the potential to lead to innovations and increase the behavioral repertoire of individuals.

    Curiosity  compensates for the shortomings of the human condition, that men is an „incomplete being“ (that means: a non-specialized, developable and adaptive social being), an idea that has been put forward by the German philosopher Herder (1744-1803). Curiosity in this way is a creative act: The vast majority of innovations come about through curiosity.

    Extrinsic motivated curiosity arouses not by an internal state in the individual, but rather by a novel external stimulus. It refers to the fact, that experiences that are novel and complex create a sensation of uncertainty in the brain, a sensation perceived to be unpleasant. Curiosity acts as a means in which to dispel this uncertainty.

    By exhibiting curious and exploratory behavior, organisms are able to learn more about the novel stimulus and thus reduce the state of uncertainty in the brain. However, this model does not account for the observation that organisms display curiosity even in the absence of exciting and new stimuli.

    Intrinsic motivated curiosity refers to behavior that is driven by internal rewards. Intrinsic motivated curiosity in humans, different from many animals, is the intrinsic desire of humans to know and understand.

    Such intrinsic motivation mechanisms are observed during the whole life, from infants spontaneous exploration of their body and external objects to adults that are still eager about new information of the world.

    Experimental work has indeed demonstrated that acquisition of knowledge is emotionally pleasing. The satisfaction of curiosity through acquiring knowledge brings pleasure and reward. This confirms the hypothesis that curiosity or need for knowledge is a fundamental and  on a par with other Basic needs, such as sex or food.

    The act of wanting new information involves mesolimbic Dopamine activation, which assigns an intrinsic value to that new information that the brain then interprets as a reward. This is the neurobiology that motivates exploratory behavior.

    In addition, Opioid activity in the nucleus accumbens evaluates stimuli and attaches an immediate value to the novel object, a sensation known as "liking". This liking stimulates pleasure. The chemical processes of both wanting and liking play a role in activating the reward system of the brain, and perhaps in curiosity as well.

    The roots of our peculiar curiosity can be linked to a trait of the human species called Neoteny. This term means the “retention of juvenile characteristics”.  It means that as a species we are more child-like than other mammals.

    Our lifelong curiosity and playfulness is a behavioral characteristic of neoteny. Whereas in most animal species , the curiosity behavior disappears at puberty, it usually persists for a lifetime in humans.

    Our lifelong capacity to learn is the reason why neoteny has worked so well during the evolution of humans. Our extended childhood means we can absorb so much more from our environment compared to our primate cousins, including our shared culture. Even in adulthood we can pick up new ways doing things and new ways of thinking, allowing us to better adapt to new circumstances. Think on that:  "I have no special talents , I am only passionately curious " (Albert Einstein)




    Resources and images in full resolution:

    2020-09-24 12:33:44   •   ID: 2204

    Lithic Diversity of Central Europe during the LGM

    Figure 1
    This is a small collection from a surface scatter, found in the Kamp Valley in Lower Austria, during the 1930ies.

    It assembles a carinated core, a small blade-let with marginal retouche, a partially retouched flake and a small backed bladelet.

    The small ensemble has affinities both to the Aurignacian and Gravettian, but is very different from the nearby stations like Krems, Willendorf and Aggsbach. A post-Gravettian age is most probable.

    The diversity of techno-typological concepts during and early after the LGM in Central Europe is astonishing and much more diverse, that I have formerly described in this Blog- see 1675 . It may be prudent to avoid terms like: Epi-Gravettian or Epi-Aurignacian, because characteristics of both entities are often mixed.

    The Last Glacial Maximum around 24 k.a. CalBP played a more important role in cultural adaptation than it was expected previously. During this time period, the western part of central Europe appeared as an area of remarkable demographic decrease.

    Anyhow a regular network of sites is recorded in the eastern part of central Europe, namely in the Carpathian Basin, Moravia, Slovakia and parts of Lower Austria, which seemed to have functioned as habitable climatic European refugia.

    Petr Škrdla et al. recently tried do give an account about the current knowledge of different Paleolithic Industries around the LGM in Central Europe. According to him our small ensemble is part of the “Plevovce” tradition.

    Phase “SS-IV” (22.5–21.0 ky cal BP)
Stránská skála IV (CZ), Grubgraben (A), Kašov I (upper layer) (SK), Ságvár (HU), Mittlere Klause, Kastelhöhle-Nord and Wiesbaden-Igstadt (D), Kraków-Spadzista C2 and Deszczowa cave (PL)(?) The lithic industries at these sites include steeply retouched artefacts and microlithic tools. While the lithic assemblages from Stránská skála IV and Kašov are distinctly rich in blades, those from Grubgraben and Ságvár feature flake technologies

    Phase “Plevovce” (20–19.5 ky cal BP)
Mohelno-Plevovce (KSA), Esztergom-Gyurgyalag, Szeged-Öthalom (HU), Rosenburg, Grubgraben (upper layer) (?) (A). The lithic assemblages are characterized by variable microlithic components – microliths on carenoidal blanks removed from carinated endscrapers are present in Mohelno.

    Phase “Brno-Vídeňská” (19–17 ky cal BP)
Brno-Vídeňská, Mohelno-Plevovce (AC1&2), and Stadice (CZ), more sites in Poland and Hungary.
The lithic assemblages are characterised by the manufacture of long, narrow, symmetrical blades, often manufactured from bipolar cores. A typologically dominant component are burins with blade endscrapers and microliths represented by backed blades.
    (Skrdla et al. 2020).

    The Kamp Valley is an important axis between the Middle Danube region towards Moravia and certainly understudied despite sites already known at Kammegg, Langenlois or Rosenburg.

    2020-09-15 12:52:47   •   ID: 2203

    Handaxes from the Azraq Basin in Jordan

    Figure 1
    Figure 2
    Figure 3
    Figure 4
    Figure 5
    Figure 6
    Figure 1-6 shows a limited surface Collection from the Azraq Basin in Jordan’s Eastern Desert. Regarding techno-typological considerations it may be 400-250 k.a.old.

    You see white patinated Flint Handaxes up to 16 cm long and a large Levallois flake (Figure 5 and 6). The Handaxes are made both by hard and soft hammer technique.

    They are oval, with a tranchet blow (Figures 1 and 2), lanceolated (Figure 3) and cordiform (Figure 4). The Lanceolate is backed - not unknown from other Acheulian sites from the Levant -see 1596 .

    The Handaxes in Figure 1 and 2 resemble Bifacial Cleavers - which define a facies of the late Acheulian in the Azraq region, as emphasized by L. Copeland. Microtraceological studies demonstrated their use as Butchering tools.

    Such tools are techno-typological very different from Flake-Cleavers, made from large Flakes which appeared early early in the African Acheulian-see here: 1216 and here: 1217 .

    Among the oldest sites with flake cleavers yet found in the Near East are Gesher Benot Ya’aqov (GBY), at 0,78 My and Ubaydiyya at 1,4-1,2 My in the Jordan Valley.

    Under natural conditions, the oasis supported reed and sedge communities restricted to Jordan and Azraq. Until recently, it was a valuable staging area for migrating birds and served as an important water supply for local communities, as well as the main water source for the capital city, Amman.

    After WW II it became clear that unsustainable groundwater extraction led to the almost complete desertification of the oasis, also affecting the integrity of potential in-situ Archaeological sites.

    Although a program for the physical rehabilitation was started, it failed and much Archaeological information was lost for ever.

    Overall the Azraq Basin is known for its abundance of Stone Age occupations, which were associated with the presence of oases, marshes and paleolakes. During the Pleistocene these habitats served as refugia both for large animals and Homo sp.

    Acheulian sites were largely associated with lakeshore environments in areas with East African flora and fauna in grassland savannas over much of the Pleistocene.

    The Azraq basin was certainly connected with other oases and former lacustrine basins in the Syro-Arabian Desert. Lakes and spring-fed marshes existed on the eastern landscape of Jordan, from Mudawwara to the al-Jafr and Azraq basins, and northward to the el- Kowm Basin of Syria. These networks constituted crossroads for movements of Homo sp. between Africa and the Eurasian landmass and vice versa.

    In consequence the archaeological sites in the Azraq Basin are spanning a long timeframe from the Acheulian, Levallois-Mousterian, Epipaleolithic (probably Kebaran or Geometric Kebaran) and the PPNB Neolithic phase - very similar to the El Kowm area in Syria.

    Researchers working in Jordan traditionally described an Early, Middle and Late Acheulian. This classification is mostly based on surface findings and, as far as I am aware, has never explicitly explained. Especially the issue of a "Middle Acheulian" remains obscure.

    In general the definition of older and younger ensembles is based on techno-typological considerations and on the material from the two sites in Israel, mentioned above. However, there is certainly some justification for the following classification, which separated an older from a more recent Acheulian:

    • Flat, thin, symmetric Handaxes are later than irregular, rough and trihedral handaxes


    • Early ensembles are often characterized by opportunistic cores, choppers and chopping tools


    • Handaxes, made by Hammer Techniques are earlier than Handaxes and the use of a Soft Hammer


    • The advent of the Levallois technique in Acheulian ensembles is late


    There are numerous Acheulian sites sites in the Azraq Basin. The most prominent are: Lion Spring, 3-4, C-Spring, Azraq Shishan ("South Azraq"). Unfortunately no concise dating program could be performed during 50 yers of research, allthough some sites are multilayered and were only minimally disturbed with a "fresh" appearance of the Acheulian material.

    If fauna was preserved, it did not help to establish more than a Middle Pleistocene age for the industries. The "late" C-Spring Acheulian is of special interest because up to 30% of the Bifaces were Bifacial Cleavers, a higher number than anywhere in the Old World Acheulian, especially in the Levant.

    In summary, despite the many techno-typological studies, that have been published, the ESA of the the Azraq Basin, makes us painfully aware, that without progress in dating stratified sites with preservation of Archaeological structures and fauna remains allows only a very limited understanding of Early Paleolithic land use by our ancestors.

    Acheulian in the Levant: see here: 1171 , here 2076 , here: 1460 , and here: 2068 ,

    2020-09-11 12:35:29   •   ID: 2202

    The Hamburgian at Grande Schleswig Holstein

    Figure 1
    Figures 1-4 show different tools of a Hamburgian Camp at Grande / Schleswig-Holstein in North Germany.

    Among these Tools we notice three shouldered points, a straight Zinken (according to Tromnau), Some Truncations ("Schrägendklingen"), Scrapers and Burins. The Burin highlighted in Figure 4 was created with en éperon preparation.

    There are no backed instruments from this surface collection, although "Gravettes" are mentioned in the Literature about the Site.

    Overall the collection is compatible with an older Hamburgian. The ensemble is very similar to the sites of Heber and Deimern (Kreis Soltau, N-Germany) and was suggested to be part of the "Teltwisch-Group" by Tromnau- a designation based on the typology of surface findings and obsolete today.

    The detection of the cultures of Late Paleolithic hunters in Northern Europe will always be associated with the groundbreaking multidisciplinary excavations in the Ahrensburg Tunnel Valley, today bordered to the west by the Hamburg-Lübeck railway line, since the 1930ies.

    The work of Rust in different areas of the Valley, mainly at Meiendorf, Stellmoor, Borneck, Poggenwisch, and Hasewisch revealed a succession of two technocomplexes: the Hamburgian and Ahrensburgian and their palynological correlation with different phases of the late last Glacial.

    Figure 2
    He also demonstrated the selective hunting of Reindeer, the first evidence of wooden arrows during the Ahrensburgian - currently the oldest specimens worldwide known - and the first evidence of dwelling structures from the Late Paleolithic in Northern Europe.

    The Ahrensburg tunnel valley was formed by meltwater under the inland ice, which covered this area during the last Glacial.

    This meltwater eroded deep into the subsoil and, at the end of the Glacial, left behind a narrow, elongated channel (tunnel valley) with steep slopes, in whose protected large blocks of ice, called dead ice, were preserved.

    Later, after the glaciers retreat, the dead ice ice was covered by a layer of gravel and sand. A lake formed above these sediments, partially fed by the melting dead ice, and Reindeer Hunters rested on its banks.

    During the Holocene all water bodies silt up more or less quickly and were transformed into a fen with optimal conditions for the preservation of organic remains.

    The Pleistocene Chanel created a natural narrow passage for the migrating reindeer herds, optimal for hunt.

    Figure 3
    The site of Meiendorf is situated between 2 small lakes, while the site of Stellmoor is located between a lakeshore and the steep sides of the valley. Both locations form ideal bottlenecks for driving and then ambushing reindeer herds (Bratlund, 1991).

    New data about the timing and direction of reindeer herd movements in northern Europe have been generated during the last years. Hamburgian and Ahrensburgian groups exploited these herds between ca. 14,9 and 14,0 k.a. calBP and between ca. 12,8 and 11,4 k.a. cal BP, respectively.

    Results of the isotopic analysis suggest that the herds for the most part moved east-west over the North European Plain - probably wintering in the east.

    Figure 4
    Grande is located about 20 km South-West the Ahrensburg Valley and is part of a network of Hamburgian sites over the North European Plain, found from the Netherlands to Poland with few outposts in Jutland and a dense cluster in Germany (Schleswig Holstein, Lower Saxony).

    Interestingly Grande is also located in a tunnel valley, the Bille Valley, with geological conditions comparable to the Ahrensburg tunnel valley. The Bille is a tributary of the Elbe in northern Germany. It rises north of the Hahnheide near Trittau in the southeast of Schleswig-Holstein and flows into the Lower Elbe in Hamburg.

    Anyhow, the Bille does not offer conditions, that would allow a preservation of organic artifacts.

    Future research will probably show whether further artifact clusters can be discovered along the river course.

    Suggested Readings:

    Rust, Alfred: Die alt- und mittelsteinzeitlichen Funde von Stellmoor; 1943

    Rust, Alfred: Die jungpaläolithischen Zeltanlagen von Ahrensburg; 1958.

    Tromnau, Gernot: Die Fundplätze der Hamburger Kultur von Heber und Deimern, Kreis Soltau; 1975.

    Tromnau, Gernot: Neue Ausgrabungen im Ahrensburger Tunneltal . Ein Beitrag zur Erforschung des Jungpaläolithikums im nordwesteuropäischen Flachland; 1975.

    Tromnau, Gernot: Hammaburg NF 1 - 1974 Vor- und Frühgeschichte aus dem niederelbischen Raum hrsg. für das Archäologische Museum Hamburg, Helms-Museum.; 1975.

    Weber, Mara-Julia.: From technology to tradition - Re-evaluating the Hamburgian-Magdalenian relationship; 2012.

    Burdukiewicz , Jan Michel: The Late Pleistocene Shouldered Point Assemblages in Western Europe; 1986.

    Surf the Blog: About Tanged Points from the Ahrensburgian and Zinken from the Hamburgian-see here 1010 , here: 1304 , here: 2201 , here: 2171 and here 1459 ,here: 1710 , and here: 1478 ,

    2020-09-07 11:36:18   •   ID: 2201

    Keep your feet dry! An isolated Tanged Point from Sylt

    Figure 1
    Figure 1 shows Sylt and the islands of Föhr und Amrum from the space.

    Sylt is the island in the Middle of the picture, connected by the "Hindenburg Dam" with the mainland (Wikipedia Commons - Deutsche Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e. V).

    Today, Sylt is an island in northern Germany, part of Nordfriesland district, Schleswig-Holstein, and well known for the distinctive elongated shape of its shoreline. It belongs to the North Frisian Islands and is the largest island in North Frisia.

    Sylt was created by a moraine of the penultimate Glaciation covered by long sandy beaches and sand dunes of Pleistocene origin. On the western side there is a 30 m high cliff coast, the 'red cliff'.

    In northern Germany three ice advances of the Fenno-Scandinavian ice sheet are widespread documented.

    Elster, Saale and Weichsel with two interglacials: Holstein warm period (between Elster and Saale) and Eem warm period (between Saale and Weichsel).

    During Glacials, due to the binding of large masses of water in the glacier ice, the sea level was lower than it is today. The lowering of the sea level is known as regression. What becomes clear- Sylt and the adjacent continental shell were dry land during Glacial conditions.

    Figure 2
    Whether Sylt was Part of Doggerland (opinions diverge about this issue; but most possible the Islands were always part of Continental Europe) or not- is irrelevant in our context.

    At the time of the highest level of the Weichsel glaciation, the sea level was about 100 m lower and thus most of the North Sea was land-based.

    During Interglacial conditions, sea levels rose (transgression). The sea drowned parts of the inland. Marine sediments, e.g. near Hamburg, testify this for the beginning of the Holocene.

    The end of the last Glacial (Weichsel) begins with a continuous climatic warming that occurred after the Late Glacial Maximum (LGM at ca 24 k.a. Cal BP).

    The Weichselian late glacial, often referred to as last glacial-interglacial transition or last termination (ca. 13-10, k.a. Cal BP was a period of rapid climate change.

    The Bølling-Allerød interstadial is the main warm phase during the Weichselian late glacial that is followed by the cold Younger Dryas stadial.

    Figure 3
    During the warming in the early Holocene (Preboreal), the sea level rose again. Initially, this happened relatively quickly in the so-called Litorina transgression with an average increase of 50 cm per century (up to 2500 BC).

    For the next 3500 years, the Dunkirk transgression occurred with an increase of about 15 per century. Only parts of the continental shelf, remained beyond the border line between land and sea, among them the North Frisian Islands.

    Until 1362 Sylt could be reached overland during low tide. Afterwards Sylt became a real island after a massive storm tide washed away a lot of sediment between Sylt and the mainland.

    Figures 2-4 display a 5 cm long tanged Point found in 1949 in the dunes of the Island. It was made of Nordic Flint, which a thick orange patination.

    Although the taxonomy of Late Paleolithic points is currently questioned, in traditional terms the artifact shown here, is an Ahrensburg Point, according the classification of Wolfgang Taute.

    Ahrensburgian Points date to the younger Dryas with lower sea levels than today. This means that Sylt was accessible for late Pleistocene hunters without getting wet feet.

    Figure 3
    Although Riede proposed to classify tanged Points rather by their Function (Spear vs. Arrow) and found by Geometric morphometrics a high variability in these artifacts, without a clear chronological pattern, a younger Dryas age for "Ahrensburg" points remains paradigmatic and is evidenced by just a few stratigraphic intact and valid sites.

    A recent paper compared two sites with successfull refits from the Ahrensburg tunnel valley- Teltwisch 2 and Teltwisch Mitte - for the definition of an older group (Teltwisch Mitte) without Zonhoven points and long blades and a younger group characterized by the presence of these implements at Teltwisch 2 (Mavel et al. 2019).

    the Story goes on - even by the use of old collections from the 1970ies!

    Surf the Blog: see here 1010 , here 1304 , here: 1243 , here: 2171 , and here 1459

    2020-09-01 18:51:58   •   ID: 2194

    Human / Animal relationship during the Pleistocene.

    Figure 1
    This is an intentional perforated Pleistocene Bear Canine- a classic adornment of Pleistocene Hunters.

    Figure 1 and 2 show the Pendant from the ventral and dorsal side. Figure 3 gives an impression of the chaine operatoire with somewhat irregular, sub bi-conical holes, drilled from both sides.

    Classic French Museum examples can be seen Here .

    In Europe such items are known since the IUP/EUP from Bacho Kiro Level 11 and were found together with the remains of AMHs 45,8 to 43,6k.a. cal BP ago- see here: 2180

    In Western Europe they were associated with a limited number of Châtelperronian sites - the most prominent example is the Grotte du Renne at Arcy-sur- Cure.

    Here, Bear Canine Pendants had a different design- The Châtelperronian ornaments have been mostly produced by carving a groove around the root of the tooth, possibly so a string could be tied around it.

    This technique can be occasionally observed during later times (for example in the Swabian Caves during the Gravettian)

    In contrast, the Aurignacian Bear canine Pendants, which are mostly known from the French South-West, were usually pierced (Zilhao 2011).

    The production of such Ornaments got more rare during the Gravettian and Magdalenian, but nevertheless remained present, especial during the Middle Magdalenian, often decorated with parallel incisions.

    Figure 2
    Bear pendants finally almost disappeared during the Holocene, at least in Western and Central Europe. It remains an open question if later generations had no interest in using fossilized Bear teeth or did not even noticed their animal origin.

    But there are exceptions. Some items were found in a Neolithic context - for example at Concise in Switzerland. The same holds true for the Neolithic further East (an example from Georgia is shown in one of the attached external files).

    By the way: While the Bear Canine pendants were relatively rare, most adornments from teeth were made from perforated Fox teeth throughout the Upper Paleolithic of Europe.

    They were produced since the Aurignacian and spread in Southern Germany, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy and Russia, but most examples are known from France (Antl-Weiser 2013). An early example (ca 41 k.a.CalBP) is known from Kostënki 17.

    A complete set of a fox-tooth necklace together with a wealth of other decorated artifacts is known from the Pavlovian at Dolni Vestonice - See Here .

    Until recently Prehistoric Research was predominantly interested to treat the issue of human/animal relationship from an utilitarian standpoint. Animals were objects to be hunted, exploited for their meat, bones and teeth and to be domesticated in the Neolithic.

    Nevertheless an advanced “interpretive” zooarchaeologal approach remains of great interest and has directed attention to the complex roles that animals played in early societies-for example for the development of food sharing as early as during the ESA (Ran Barkai; see attached external links and here 2114

    "Only recently, in tandem with the rising interest in animals in the humanities and the development of interdisciplinary animal studies research, has archaeology begun to systematically engage with animals as subjects (Hill 2016).

    Although Ethnographic analogies are always at risk for circular reasoning, they can be used with care along with the archeological record for a the reconstruction of Human / Animal relationship during the Pleistocene.

    Figure 3
    In analogy to recent Foragers and Pastoralists, an important basic concept is the assumption, that people in the past often dealt with animals in positional, rather than categorical, terms (Hill 2016).

    This concept in mind, Animals have a cultural biography, play key roles as active actors in myths and local cosmologies, kin relations, and social organization. Human / Animal relationships were perceived as relationship of mutual dependency.

    Since their beginnings as hunters, herders and agriculturalists humans have experienced themselves as part of the animal world. With animals humans shared the basic constants of life, and in their different manifestations they recognized varieties of their own corporeality and existence.

    Many recent Hunter-gatherers groups conceive animals as “non-human persons” or “other-than-human-persons”. Humans were able to exchange form and identity with Animals and vice-versa.

    Some Ethnologists claim that, not only Humans experienced themselves as part of a common nature, but that even Nature - the landscapes; animals; watercourses-was perceived as animated.

    This concept is contaminated by bearing traces of nineteenth-century European imperialism and colonialism. Hill therefore proposed to abandon the term and instead using the designation: “relational ontology” (Hill 2013). I doubt that such a renaming can save the whole concept....

    Archaeological traces of intensive “human–animal bonds” were already discussed in this Blog regarding Cats and Cave Bears- see here: 2133 and here: 2088

    A wealth of further informations, that were outlined only briefly here, can be found in Nerissa Russells book (see below).

    Suggested Reading:

    Nerissa Russell: Social Zooarchaeology: Humans and Animals in Prehistory; 2012. This book

    2020-08-28 12:09:39   •   ID: 2192

    Ostrava-Petrkovic and the Moravian Gate during the Late Gravettian

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    Since the 19th century early researchers of the Moravian Paleolithic (Kříž, Wankel, Maška and Absolon) recognized the importance of the Moravian Gate as one of the most important Central European passages, both for animals and their hunters, during the Pleistocene (Figure 1; source probably Absolon).

    Because of its low altitude, the gate works as a corridor between the Sudetes in the northwest and the Beskides / Carpathians in the southeast, by providing the easiest passage from the Middle Danube valley towards the course of the Vistula / Weichsel into the Krakow region and further to the North and East European Plain.

    In Central Europe, the many Gravettian sites are arranged like pearls on a string beginning with the Middle Danube / Wachau Sites (Willendorf, Spitz, Weißenkirchen, Aggsbach, Krems, Langenlois) followed towards the North-East by clusters of the Moravia / Mach River (Grub Kranawettberg, Stillfried) and the Dyje / Theia river with the famous sites in the Pavlovian Hills (Pavlov, Dolni Vestonice, Milovice).

    Smaller Gravette sites are present in the Middle Morava Basin followed by the Predmost sites at the southern end of the Moravian Gate and Ostrava-Petrkovice at the northern end.

    After passing the Moravian gate, the important Kraków Late Gravettian sites, including Krakow Spazista streeet can be easily reached following the course of the Vistula / Weichsel river.

    The backed shouldered point, shown in this post, gives a good impression of one characteristic Moravian Late Gravettian artefact and has similarities to a shouldered point from Ostrava-Petrkovice.

    Earlier Posts about the Central European Gravettian are found here: 2189 , here: 1640 , here: 1296 , here: 1374 , and here: 1014

    The Upper Gravettian site Ostrava-Petrkovice, at the strategic favorable northern entrance of the Moravian Gate was first excavated by Folprecht and Absolon in 1926-1929, followed by B. Klima in 1952-1953, and is currently again under excavation by J Svoboda.

    In the central area of the site, which was covered by powdered hematite, the researchers detected several hearths, and several small pits.

    Interestingly the fuel for the fires encompassed bones but maybe also charcoal, is present on surface in the immediate neighborhood of the site.

    The Lithics of Ostrava-Petrkovice include a lot of domestic tools - Burins are more frequent than Endscrapers, backed bladelets, sometimes with Late Gravettian truncations, Pointed Blades, several Leaf Points (most fragmentary) and Shouldered Points.

    Some ceramic pieces were also present. Organic materials were unfortunately poorly preserved.

    Figure 5
    An unique Figurine, the “Ostrava Venus” was found during Klima’s excavations.

    This miniature female torso – only 5 cm in height – was carved from “a piece of black hematite iron ore” (Marshack 1972; Figure 5 with Permission of the Kirchoff Collection; UMG).

    It was early mentioned, that the figurine looks like a modern Cubistic work of art, but its special appearance is certainly due to the uncommon raw material.

    Initially and maybe echoing Absolon's "Mousterioliths" this site has been considered rather early in the Gravettian due to some archaic tools.

    Later it became clear, that the site belongs to the late Gravettian - technologically by the shouldered points and chronologically by C-14 with an average date of ca 22 k.a. ( ca 25 k.a. Cal BP).

    The site was situated at Landek Hill at the confluence of the rivers Ostravice and Odra. The Hill is only 280 meters high but the highest elevation in the area and was certainly an optimal Lookout point for hunters.

    Today you should not miss to visit the Landek Park Mining Museum.

    Coal mining at Landek is documented as early as 1789, and continued until 1991. After its completion, the area was preserved and transformed into the Mining Museum.

    Some questions about the Gravettian site remain: Up-to-day geomorphological evaluation, precise C-14 dating and exploring whether black coal was realy used to make fire by the earliest inhabitants.

    Suggested Readings:

    Svoboda J., (Ed.) Petřkovice: on shouldered points and female figurines, The Dolní Věstonice Studies Vol 15, Institute of Archaeology at Brno, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Brno 2008.

    2020-07-10 16:58:51   •   ID: 2205

    The Extinction of the Neanderthals

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    The convergent, Mousterian non-Levallois scraper, shown in Figure 1-3 is certainly the product of Neanderthals.

    150 years of Paleolithic Archaeologogy have shown that the European Mousterian was invariably linked with (Pre) Neanderthals between 300-35 k.a. Cal BP. The Aurignacian on the other hand was certainly an early emanation of AHM-culture.

    The scraper was found near the village of Salignac-Eyvigues, a small french village located in the Perigord in S/W-France, near the "Capital" of Paleolithic Prehistory at les Eyzies.

    During MIS3 and just before their extinction the Perigord was one important refugium of Neanderthals during the rapidly varying climatic environment of the last Glacial.

    Timing of Disappearance: The disappearance of Neanderthal in Europe and the advent of first AHMs on the continent does not seem to be a pure coincidence. Anyhow most importantly there is little evidence for a direct war-like competition between Neanderthals and AMH.

    Using data sets from different regions in Europe and advanced C-14 dating methods Hingham et al found that: The Mousterian ended by 41,030–39,260 calibrated years BP (at 95.4% probability) across Europe. We also demonstrate that succeeding ‘transitional’ archaeological industries, one of which has been linked with Neanderthals (Châtelperronian), end at a similar time.

    Our data indicate that the disappearance of Neanderthals occurred at different times in different regions. Comparing the data with results obtained from the earliest dated AMH sites in Europe, associated with the Uluzzian technocomplex, allows us to quantify the temporal overlap between the two human groups. The results reveal a significant overlap of 2,600–5,400 years (at 95.4% probability).

    This has important implications for models seeking to explain the cultural, technological and biological elements involved in the replacement of Neanderthals by AMHs. A mosaic of populations in Europe during the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition suggests that there was ample time for the transmission of cultural and symbolic behaviors, as well as possible genetic exchanges, between the two groups
    .

    I doubt if 2,6-5,4 k.a. were really a long time during MIS3 to allow an intensive interaction between Neanderthals and AHMs if one considers the low population density and the multiple geological, sociological and maybe behavioral barriers between the two groups.

    Other models even suggest, that the Neanderthals had already disappeared from Eurasia, at least from Central/West Europe when AHMs immigrated. Late Mousterian strata are often separated from Upper Paleolithic ones by sterile layers.

    Genetic data indicate, that genetic variability was lower in Neanderthals than in early AHMs, although global group sizes may have not have been very different-but Neanderthals lived in smaller and dispersed groups compared to Homo sapiens.

    What triggered the Demise of Neanderthals?: Here we certainly talk about a multifactorial process, that was weighted differently by region and specific circumstances

    • External factors, such as unstable climatic conditions- especially during the repeated extremely cold and dry climate around 50-40 k.a., sudden natural disasters like the Campagnian Ingebrit eruption at ca 40 k.a. CalBP, plagues brought to Europe from Africa by AHMs and their transmission to non-immune Neanderthals


    • Internal Factors like a different resilience to climatic conditions, different birth rates, small Neanderthal group sizes with consequences for cultural transmission, reduced fitness of Neanderthal descendants from a reduced genetic pool, different genetic configurations, differences in effective exploiting food resources, differences in technical equipment both in hunting pray and coping with the cold




    Discussing these issues in depth is not the aim of this post- but you will find important papers about the topic in the extensive external links.