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2020-05-25 09:23:33   •   ID: 2182

Prehistoric Awls

Figure 2
Figure 1 and 2: This is a bipointed meticulous polished bone awl from a pile dwelling site of Lake Constance. Bi-pointed awls are known since the early Upper Paleolithic in the Old World.

Figure 3 displays a more simple awl from the Terramare Culture at Maggio near Bologna, Italy (courteously by W. Hernus; about Terramare see here: 2092 ).

The awl, shown in Figure 1 and 2 has an elegant flat form, a length of 7 cm, and a pointed tip on both ends. Anyhow this tool could also be a projectile, a clothing pin or a fishing hook-see here: 1411 .

While the use as a small projectile or a clothing pin can not be excluded, fishing hooks usually exhibit a drilled hole or a notch on the shaft / medial part of the artifact and therefore are unlikely.

Functionally and supported by micro wear studies, awls were pointed tools for making small holes in inorganic and organic materials, but could also have been used to create decorative incisions on pottery.

A major purpose during the Paleolithic was certainly the piercing or drilling holes to sew together clothes from animal skins, before the advent of sewing needles-se here: 1677

There is no no standard typology available, describing bone awls, but according to several researchers morphologically awls may classified into:

  • Splinter awls are made from bone splinters that were sharpened at one end but remain otherwise without modification

  • Cylindrical awls on small long bones, for example on the radius or ulna of different species. They are usually fully polished and oval or round in cross section : Figure 3

  • Bipointed awls: Figure 2

Figure 3
First polished bone artifacts, which are suggested to be awls are known from the Still Bay and Howiesons Poort levels at Blombos Cave and Sibudu in South Africa (77-64 k.a. BP.

The fine polish of these tools is suggestive for a non-utilitarian purpose, ffor example their use as a part of exchange systems along the South African cost and its hinterland (d’Errico & Henshilwood 2007).

After 40 k.a. BP Awls are a constant feature in the Archeological record all over the old world. Anyhow, the evidence of such artifacts is dependent on the environmental milieu of their embedment and therefore, they have been mainly found in anaerobic, basic milieus, such as bogs and pile dwellings-like the example shown here.

2020-05-12 09:34:23   •   ID: 2180

News from Bacho Kiro Level 11 (I) the Type Site of the IUP in S-E Europe

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I was always covinced, that this 9 cm long Blade with facetted base from an old Bulgarian collection was something special.

According to the records it was found as a single surface find at the Dryanovo river near Bacho Kiro in North Bulgaria- the Type site for the IUP in South East Europe (the „Bachokirian“).

Beside some intentional or post - depositional notches, flat retouches are confined to its apical part.

The ventral part is partially covered with a thin and hard stone matrix, the artifact is covered by a whitish patina.

The morphology of the artifact resembles items from the IUP/EUP of the Levant but has neither affinities to the Aurignacian, characterized by often thick blades with a lateral retouche, or the Gravettian with its long, straight and narrow blanks, nor resembles the Levallois-point like Bohunician stone tips.

Interestingly, the tool morphology of our point clearly resembles the smaller (max 6 long) pointed Blades from Manot cave (Israel) and the pointed Blades (length up to 11 cm) from Level I at Bacho Kiro cave (Kozlowski's level 11), shown in a paper published recently- see external links.

Regarding the IUP of Bulgaria, genuine blade technology progressively replaced the Levallois chaine operatoire, which seems to be nevertheless still present at Temnata VI and Bacho Kiro 11 (Kozlowski's excavations).

However, typologically Middle and Upper Palaeolithic types (for example heavily retouched side-scrapers and Mousterian Points) persist in these assemblages.

Apically retouched, mostly broken pointed blades, similar to the artifact of this post, are also characteristic for the earliest Upper Paleolithic of Bulgaria.

After the groundbreaking modern excavations at Bacho Kiro, carried out by a Bulgarian / Polish team (Kozlowski 1983), new Excavations by Bulgarian Archaeologists and a team of the MPG in Leipzig took place since 2005.

About the Material of the new excavations, Tsanova et al. (2019) stated that the ensemble of the IUP level is characterized by

"1) selection of fine-grained aptian flints which come from sources in Ludogorie region between 90 and 180 km northeast of the cave;

2) pointed blades (some of them potentially functioning as tips on projectiles based on diagnostic macro-fractures);

3) variability in the size of blades with small blades produced in continuity; 4) bladelets obtained also by reflaking tools and blanks;

4) reduction method and technique close to Levallois;

5) a high degree of retouched tools and shaping flakes, reduction by reflaking (rédebitage), fragmentation and retouch, according to different modalities: on anvil percussion (splintered pieces), on the ventral face of a flake (Kombewa), on the edge of a tool (burin blows);

6) micro wear traces on pointed blades and retouched blades associated with wood cutting, splintered pieces with bone and antler working, and on endscrapers associated with skin scraping;

7) absence of Aurignacian technology (lithic, osseous). Layer I also contains a large faunal assemblage accumulated anthropogenically and personal ornaments made of animal bone and teeth"

But even more important are the results of an extensive C-14 dating program and the analysis from human remains of the taphonomic minimally disturbed Level I at Bacho Kiro I:

"The extensive IUP assemblage, now associated with directly dated H. sapiens fossils at this site, securely dates to 45,820–43,650 cal BP (95.4% probability), probably beginning from 46,940 cal BP (95.4% probability).

This is the oldest date for a H. Sapiens Population that entered Europe during MIS3 so far and the first unambiguous indication that at least one of the so called: "Transitional Industries" was made by this Species.

Surf the Blog: Discussion about the IUP/EUP: 1603 , here 1495 , and here: 1557

2020-05-09 16:29:07   •   ID: 2179

Convergent Scraper from the Yonne Valley

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This is a 9 cm long Convergent Middle Paleolithic convergent scraper made on a Levallois flake- a single surface find from a brickyard at the Yonne river.

German Typologists would possibly call such an artifact as „Bogenspitze“ (sensu Bosinski)

The Yonne in Northern France is a left-bank tributary of the Seine.

The Yonne Valley and its tributaries are rich in Lower and Middle Paleolithic site- see 1172 and attached external links.

The craper was made on a thin flake which exhibits marginal-semi-invasive retouches. Both edges are slightly convex and end in a well executed point.

If this scraper was initially a single scraper and consecutively reworked into a convergent tool, remains unclear, the overall design, in my view, speaks for the second hypothesis.

The age of the artifact covers a long period of time (MIS 8-3) and can not be seriously determined.

In N/W Europe such scrapers were present during MIS7, for example at Maastricht-Belvedère [K], Rheindahlen, Biache-Saint-Vaast and Weimar Ehringsdorf and part of an early Middle Paleolithic, chacterized by different prepared core techniques.

At Biache and Ehringsdorf lithic ensembles, which included convergent scrapers were associated with the remains of Early Neanderthals.

Further information about the Levallois-Mousterian in N/W-Europe and adjacent areas can be found here: 1564

Use-wear evidence over European Lithic ensembles indicates that convergent and pointed tools were used for different tasks like:

1) cutting work on soft, semi-hard and hard materials, depending on the overall design of the tool. 2) As classical scrapers 3) As piercing tools.

In addition V. Rots showed, that many of these tools were hafted at Biache-Saint-Vaast- even if the morphology of the tools allowed a free-hand use.

Suggested Reading: Rots, V: Prehension and Hafting Traces on Flint Tools: a Methodology ; 2010

2020-05-01 08:40:23   •   ID: 2175

Early Mesolithic Microliths from La Fère-en-Tardenois

Figure 1
These are typical triangular microlithic points from Fère-en-Tardenois, the Type-site of the French "Tardenoisian".

After C. J. Thomsen had in 1836 revived the idea of the Latin Philosopher Lucretius 99 BC – c. 55 BC) deviding Prehistory into the three ages of Stone, Bonze and Iron, there was only one Stone age, but when the discoveries of Boucher de Perthes had been recognized by the scientific community, John Evans in 1859 pointed out that this age must be divided into two, one in which the fauna was extinct and the material culture was made of chipped stone and a second in which the fauna was recent and polished tools appeared.

Later on, John Lubbock suggested that these two periods should be termed respectively the Paleolithic and Neolithic ages. It was soon noted, however, that these ages did not pass into one another, but that between them there was a "hiatus"

Subsequently, the term "Mesolithic" was created in the late nineteenth century from the need to label chipped stone ensembles of the early Holocene, that were characterized by Microliths and a postglacial fauna without evidence of domestication. The Mesolithic filled the gap between the Paleo- and Neolithic.
Figure 2

The Tardenoisian was first described by G. de Mortillet in 1896 and is a Mesolithic Technocomplex named after sites found in the environs of La Fère-en-Tardenois in northern France (department of Aisne).

It needed decades until the the Mesolithic was accepted as a topic of serious scientific engagement. Systematic work in France and Central Europe essentially began only after WW II. For Northern France the systematic evaluation of Mesolithic sites by J.-G. Rozoy (1972 et 1978) and J. Hinout (2002) remains essential.

A similar role played W. Taute (1934-1995) for the Definition of the Mesolithic ("Beuronian") in S/W-Germany. During his excavations of the Jägerhaus cave near Beuron on the upper Danube he succeeded for the first time in recording the early Mesolithic stages in a reliable sequence.

In the Scandinavian countries Mesolithic research remained always in the focus of Interest since JA Worsaae's (1821-1885) times
Figure 3

In Northern France the Mesolithic record is usually limited to excavations carried out in a sandy environment with secondary mixed ensembles or even to surface collections. This unfortunately also holds true to the many ensembles around La Fère-en-Tardenois.

Therefore ongoing research on non disturbed in-situ ensembles in the Somme basin which, beside a detailed stratigraphy, include also organic remains have provided a much more sophisticated picture of the Mesolithic in N-France. Regarding the Early Mesolithic of this region, reliable C-14 dates are now available:

The Mesolithic typochronology of northern France was examined by a series of radiocarbon dates obtained from sites with single occupations. Some difficulties still persist in dating the earliest stage and the Mesolithic characterised by trapezes.

Lithic assemblages characterised by points with unretouched base and some adzes or axes, typical of northern Europe, are dated between 9500 and 9300 BP.

Figure 4
Assemblages with numerous points with retouched base (Tardenoisian points or Horsham points; Beuronian ?) and crescents are dated between 9100 and 8600 BP.

Crescents are replaced by triangles around c. 8500 BP.

Assemblages with backed bladelets and mistletoe points appear around c. 8200 BP
(Ducrocq 2009).

Regarding these data, the points of the present post are at least 9100 and 8600 BP old, but it is important to note, that according to Erwin Cziesla ,isosceles triangles with dorso- ventral base-retouche-identical to the smaller point in this Post-were also present during the next 4000 years over a wide area of Germany, between the rivers Seine and Rhine, eastern France and the Low Countries until the Mesolithic / Neolithic boundary.

2020-04-19 20:41:13   •   ID: 2174

Variability of the pre-MIS4 MSA of South Africa

Figure 1
Figure 1: This is a 10 cm long broad blade, made by Levallois technique from fine-grained Quartzite- a surface finding from the Mossel Bay area in South Africa. Figure 2 is a triangular flake and Figure 3 a flat core, both of Quartzite from the same locality.

Such items are common during the pre-SB / HP-Phase in South Africa (MIS5).-Compared to East Africa, our knowledge about the early (prae MIS5) MSA in South Africa are rather rare.

Transitional Industries: I rewewed the South African Acheulian already here: 1715 and here: 2071

According to S. Wurz "transitional" industries appeared after 500 k.a. alongside the Acheulian (Wurz 2014).

  • Sangoan-like industries are known from open-air sites in the Mapungubwe National Park at the border with Zimbabwe and Botswana in northernmost South Africa. They are characterized by core axes, denticulates and denticulated scrapers and small Handaxes. Levallois products are present. At Kudu Koppie the Sangoan was found in situ below a "common" MSA (Kuman et al. 2005). Unfortunately we are lacking absolute dates till now. A number of undated Sangoan occurrences have also been described from South Africa, along the costal dune systems of KwaZulu-Natal
  • The Lupemban is the least known transitional industry in southern Africa with some dubious stray finds but has been recorded in Namibia, as part of its greater Congo basin distribution (Kuman 2005)
  • New data from stratified Fauresmith sites suggest that this industry, which combines small refined handaxes with technological components characteristic of the MSA (prepared cores, blades, Levallois points, convex scrapers), maybe as old as 542–435 k.a. (Wonderwerk Cave MU4 , Kathu Pan 1). Fauresmith assemblages are known from Rooidam, Kathu Pan, and Bundu Farm in the Northern Cape but also known from Elandsfontein, on the Vaal and Orange Rivers, in the Seacow Valley, and at Taung

Figure 2
Regarding these data it becomes clear that some of these "transitional" industries, (Lupemban, Sangoan) indepently their name and taxonomic reality occurred not only in Central Africa, where they first were described, but were a dynamic widespread phenomenon over wide areas in Africa from Nubia in the North to South Africa in the South and from East to West Africa.

If we take the data from the earliest stratified Fauresmith sites (542–435 k.a) for sure, despite taphonomic problems, this entity is the most prominent example for a very early MSA-like ensemble on the African continent.

The limited “early Middle Stone Age” (ca 300- 120 k.a. BP) sites without pics and Handaxes do not really give a coherent picture what happened during this time interval and are relatively poor and in addition we are lacking detailled publications.

Wurz repots such ensembles from Sterkfontein, the Lincoln Caves, Border Cave, and Wonderwerk Cave. They are characterized by mainly unretouched blades, flakes, sometimes in association with different prepared core techniques.

The earliest dated ensembles from this group are Florisbad (c 279 k.a.) and Pinnacle Point, (c 162 k.a.). The deposits at Pinaccle Point are in association with shellfish remains- an eary indication to costal adaptions in S-Africa.

Figure 3
The number of sites increase during MIS5. Many of these sites are known from the Cape coast and KwaZulu-Natal. Good examples are the deeply stratified sites such as Klasies River, Pinnacle Point, Blombos Cave, and Sibudu.

Important inland sites include Rose Cottage Cave, Border Cave, Cave of Hearths, Bushman Rockshelter, Wonderwerk Cave, Apollo 11, and Melikane.

MIS5 (130-79 k.a.) was predominantly a cold climatic event in South Africa but with several warm climatic oscillations (MIS5c and a).

It is said that the MIS 5 deposits from Klasies River possibly contain the largest collection of MIS 5d-a artifacts in S Africa. Taken as the reference site for S-Africa for many years it now has become clear, that-not surprisingly- there are many other MIS5-3 traditions over the subcontinent, comparable to Eurasia or East/North Africa..

At Klasies River, the lowermost layers (Klasies River sub-stage) at ca 110 k.a. was characterized by elongated debitage, transformed into thin and symmetrical "points" on quartzite.

Median length is about 8 cm. Long blades up to 11 cm occurred. Retouches are rare.

Debitage was-struck from prepared cores, and by soft-hammer technique. Levallois reduction method coexisted with the laminar method, for production of blades.

The next Early MSA substage at Klasies River is called: Mossel Bay sub-stage (c 100-80 k.a.; MIS 5c-a)

During this sub-stage the end-products are very different. Main raw material is quartzite. Some cores are mostly split cobbles with fully cortical surfaces on their ventral side. (Wurz 2005). Other cores confirm a unipolar, highly standardized, reduction method on flat and pyramidal cores.

Figure 4
Compared with the Clasies River substage, the debitage is shorter, wider with facetted platforms and convergent-sided pieces or blanks. Most end-products resemble non-retouched Levallois-Points and blades.

Material of this substage was found since the 19th century at Cape St Blaize (Figure 4; Wikimedia Commons), the center of a landscape with more than 20 Rock-shelters and caves with Archeological material (for example Pinnacle Point). There are several localities with Mossle Bay material. The old collections are currently under re-evaluation and new excavations are going on.

MIS 5c material from Pinnacle Point, despite some differences has strong affinities to the Mossel Bay sub-stage at Klasies river as Thompson et al. demonstrated in a techno-typological study.

Laminar MSA-complexes in S-Africa: Laminar technologies during the MSA of S-Africa are most prominent during MIS5, with early for-runners like the Fauresmith complex. An excellent review is given by Schmidt (2019)- the last external link.

She describes the lower "prä-SB" strata of Sibudu (around 80 k.a.) and compared them with other S-African laminar systems.

The lowest Levels of Sibudu, around 80 k.a. yields a unique ensemble with crested Laminar production. The elongated blanks were transformed into serrated elongated points.

Another characteristic of these layers are bifacial points before the Still Bay phase at the site. Unifacial points and scrapers are also present.

The Pietersburg MSA- techno-complex is abundant in the interior of South Africa. It is characterized by large blades and elongated products from prepared cores (Levallois, Pyramidal).

The richest Pietersburg sites are Border Cave with ages between 238-80 k.a., the Cave of Hearths and the upper MSA occupations of Bushman Rock Shelter (Limpopo Province, Luminescence chronology: 73-91 k.a.).

The cave of Hearths was subdivided by the excavators into three phases with different weighting of main tool classes (especially laminar products, triangular flakes and endscrapers).

Mwulu’s Cave also shows an internal technological variation during the sequence. Of interest are uni- and bifacial points and endscrapers.

The assemblage of Bushman Rock is characterized by a Levallois and semi-prismatic strategies, laminar reduction strategies and is typified by the presence of end-Scrapers.

The convergent blade and the two other artifacts in this post, found in 1932 stray find from the Cape St Blaize area fit perfectly into the laminar MIS5-complexes of S-Africa.

Suggested Reading: Barham, L. & P. Mitchell. 2008. The first Africans: African archaeology from the earliest tool makers to most recent foragers. Cambridge: Cambridge University

2020-04-19 11:05:29   •   ID: 2133

Pleistocene Human- Cave-bear Interactions

Figure 1
This is a Anthro–Zoomorph or even Theriomorph , 5 cm long, figurine representing a bear in upright position. It is a rare finding from the Tarya "Neolithic" (4,0-2,5 k.a. BP) of the Kamchatka Peninsula made from now patinated Obsidian.

A bear standing on its hind legs is normally not aggressive but highly attentive. It is just standing upright to survey the surroundings and to catch airborne scent, but always ready to become agressive if it feels threatened.

"The bear is a large and dangerous carnivore. However, fear alone does not account for the rich and varied traditions linking bears and humans. Not infrequently, people have felt a kind of kinship with bears, for humans and bears share many characteristics.

They live in the same regions and eat the same fish, roots, and berries. Unlike other animals, bears can stand on their hind legs as humans do and they can use their fore paws as humans use their hands.

A bear’s skinned body looks human, and several bear bones resemble human bones, which lends credence to the view that the animal is really a man in disguise
" (Germonpré 2007).

According to Joachim Hahn, who worked on similar, but much more older Pleistocene animal figurines, they could have been created as a Symbol of physical power and agression- maybe as a humans "Alter Ego".

The motive of a bear, shown as a mighty beast in a human–like upright two legged position, is known since the Paleolithic.

The most important item in this context is an 5,5 cm long erect anthropomorphic Bear from the Aurignacian layers of the Geissenklösterle Cave in the Swabian Alb which was reconstructed from 11 pieces of ivory.

Its head is raised and the snout slightly opened, a quite realistic depiction, compared with the stylized Kamtschatka counterparts: .

At Cap Blanc (Dordogne) a contour of a attentive bear (3,3 cm long) was created of flint stone, conceptionally near the zoomorph statuette, shown in this post.

Figure 2
The Tarya Complex was concentrated in Central and Southern Kamchatka. Subsidence was based on Hunting and Fishing. While hunting is evidenced by Projectiles, fishing may be indicated by the abundance of sink-pebbles.

People lived in small sedentary housholds. Ceramics are extremely rare and food was mainly cooked in wooden or birch-bark vessels.

The Tarya lithic tools, some are shown in Figure 5, are mostly bifacial and made from Obsidian

In central Kamchatka the Microblade industry is still very present, but had already disappeared from Southern parts of the Peninsula. Different ground adzes and oil lamps are present for the first time in the Kamchatka Archaeological record.

The Tarya Complex is characterized by retouched stone figurines, first noted by Zamiatnin in 1948. The majority of them were found in the cultural level of the Tar’ia type site. They are made from small blades of obsidian reworked by pressure retouch as highly stylized figurines often with a zoomorphic character.

Figure 3
The Kamchatka brown bear (Ursus arctos beringianus) is a subspecies of the brown bear, native to Circumpolar regions, among them to the Kamchatka Peninsula.

According to the bear population assessment, there are more 20000 species on the peninsula. This is 5% of the bear population on the planet or 15% of all bears in Russia. Most of the bears inhabit the area of Lake Kuril.

According to aviation assessment, up to one thousand bears gather each year in this area during a spectacular salmon spawning.

The literature about the relationship between man and bear is extensive. In the Archaeological context, the Pleistocene cave bear (Ursus spelaeus), which represents one of the most frequently found paleontological remains from the Pleistocene in Europe is most important.

The cave bear was always confined to Europe and was contemporary with the brown bear, Ursus arctos, which still exists today and plays a major role in early Ethnological reports, but also in old and modern Archaeological Myths and in the popular Folklore of the Circumpolar countries.

"Relationships between the cave bear and the two lineages of brown bears defined in Europe, as well as the origins of the two species, remain controversial, mainly due to the wide morphological diversity of the fossil remains, which makes interpretation difficult (Loreille et al. 2001). This complicated issue will not be further discussed in this post.

The cave bear's range stretched across Europe; from Spain and Great Britain in the west, Italy, parts of Germany, Poland, the Balkans, Romania and parts of Russia, including the Caucasus; and northern Iran.

Figure 4
The largest numbers of cave bear remains have been found in Austria, Switzerland, northern Italy, northern Spain, southern France, and Romania, roughly corresponding with the Pyrenees, Alps, and Carpathians.

The huge number of bones found in southern, central and eastern Europe has led some scientists to think Europe may have once had literally herds of cave bears.

Others, however, point out that, though some caves have thousands of bones, they were accumulated over a period of 100k.a. or more, thus requiring only two deaths in a cave per year to account for the large numbers.

The cave bear inhabited low mountainous areas, especially in regions rich in limestone caves. They seem to have avoided open plains, preferring forested or forest-edged terrains.

Even the behaviour of certain family groups and their preferences for specific caves was predictable:

Figure 5
Genetic studies showed that: "Late Pleistocene cave bears and middle Holocene brown bears that each inhabited multiple geographically proximate caves in northern Spain.

In cave bears, we find that, although most caves were occupied simultaneously, each cave almost exclusively contains a unique lineage of closely related haplotypes.

This remarkable pattern suggests extreme fidelity to their birth site in cave bears, best described as homing behaviour, and that cave bears formed stable maternal social groups at least for hibernation.

In contrast, brown bears do not show any strong association of mitochondrial lineage and cave, suggesting that these two closely related species differed in aspects of their behaviour and sociality
" (González Fortes et al. 2016).

The interaction between humans and Pleistocene Bears will be discussed around three important issues:

  • Did Humans successfully hunt Pleistocene Cave Bears in Europe?

  • Was there a Pleistocene "Bear Cult"?

  • Why did the Cave Bear dissapear around the Late Glacial Maximum from Europe?

Figure 6
Figure 6 shows an illustration of a "Bear Hunt" by Zdeněk Michael František Burian (1905-1981), a Czech painter and book illustrator whose work played around the mid 20th century a central role in the development of paleontological reconstruction.

Burian depicts a Hunting scenario between three Anatomical Modern Humans and an erect aggressive Bear in an interglacial / interstadial landscape during Summer or Autumn.

The scenario directly contradicts the Archaeological and Ethnographic record, where Cave Bears were killed in caves and not in the free landscape during hibernation in the Winter and not during Summer (Pacher 2000, 2002).

Indeed there are rare but clear indications, that Humans directly attacked bears in Caves: Münzel described Cave Bear remains from several Upper Paleolithic pre LGM Ach- Valley sites. In the Geissenklösterle cut marks on some skull fragments of cave bear were recognized.

Figure 7
At Hohle Fels human modifications on cave bear bones were even more frequent. A cave vertebra with an embedded fragment of a flint was recovered in the year 2000 in an early Gravettian layer at Hohle Fels (Münzel 2004).

Similar hunting injuries were found at Bear bones at Potočka Zijalka in Slovenia, wher Aurignacian Hunters visied the large Cave and left behind a collection of more than 130 Mladec Points: see here: 1318 .

An Engraving on schist of two humans attacking a bear is shown in Figure 7 (Courteously by Don Hitchcock). It was found early between 1912-1927 at the grotte du Chien à Péchialet, at Groléjac, Dordogne- about other Abris at Groléjac see: 1011 .

Although assigned to a Gravettian by Breuil, who found in 1927 some Noailles burins at the already heavily disturbed site, the style of the figures is close to a similar plaque from Limeuil, found in a late Magdalenian layer.

Note that this scene resembles Burian's vision of a Bear Hunt and may have inspired him for his composition.

The Magdalenian of S/W-France is rich in depictions of the bear, made on different materials and by different techniques:

Engravings on bone, like the famous, partial destroyed rondel from Mas-d'Azil, showing a bear paw combined with a man exhibiting an erected penis- another example is the combination of a bear en face with several stylized humans (a hunt?) on an animal long bone from La Vache (Ariege);

Scuptures in bone and stone: remember the sitting bear from Laugerie-Basse today exposed in the MAN;

Last but not least the bear as a common motive of several Contour découpés...

Magdalenian parietal art: for example of the Portel, Combarelles, Massat and the Trois-Frères Grottos, shows bears with signs of battle and wounds.

The bear motive during the European Upper Paleolithic is even older:

During the Pavlovian (Dolni Vestonice, Pavlov) we know several bear statuettes made of burnt clay- maybe produced by children and possible profane toys without ritual connotations.

E.P brought to my attention a flint-figurine, resembling the item from Kamchatka shown in this post, from Senozan, a Gravettian site in Southern Burgundy. The lithics from this site are extraordinary elaborated, focused on the production of large blades and bladelets.

"Two pieces of mobiliary art emphasize the extraordinary character of the site. One piece is a pebble supporting the engraving of a vulva, the other is a multiple borer (bec), probably depicting the outline of an animal or an animal’s hide. Both objects were found within the palaeolithic context, among ordinary, non-decorated objects (Floss et al. 2014; see last external link

Figure 8
After the end of the first World War, the Swiss paleontologist Emil Bächler excavated the Drachenloch cave in eastern Switzerland, and found some intriguing arrangements of Cave Bear Bones together with Mousterian tools.

He described, that Skull and leg bones had been arranged in “stone boxes”. He subsequently excavated other caves where he discovered burnt cave bear remains, broken bear bones, and skulls on or under rock slabs or in niches.

Bächler’s findings, and similar discoveries in Swiss, Austria and Slovenia, have given rise to a widespread belief in the popular literature of a Neanderthal «cave bear cult».

Figure 8 shows Burians vision of this scientific myth, still popular during the 1950ies.

With the advances in taphonomic research the "Bear Cult Theory" was refuted. It was shown that the enigmatic assortments of bear skulls and long bones in the caves were not due to human activities, but to the flowing water or other transport mediums.

Until now, there is no convincing evidence for a Paleolithic bear cult.

To use of Ethnographic records and other sources, dating back to 1000 years at best, for the construction a "Bear Cult" remain nothing more than nice speculations- especially if the nasty shaman narrative is part of these fairy tales-see 1301 . Ethnographic literature can be found in the external links.

Anyhow some non-disputable facts, which point to a special releationship of Homo Sapiens and Cave Bear remain:

  • "Red ochre traces on several fossil bear remains in Belgian caves were shown to have been applied purposely by prehistoric people and were not the result of contamination with spilt ochre or ochre containing sediment". (Germonpré 2007)

  • At Chauvet Cave- Excellent parietal art maybe from the Aurignacian or Gravettian- which stylistically would fit better to the Gravettian style- at 32-28 k.a. calBP. In the in the "Recess of the Bears" three monochrome red Bears are assembled in a panel and 12 other monochrome (red or black) depictions of a bear detected together with the presence of 55 ancient bear skulls in the Cave, including one carefully placed isolated Bear scull on a fallen rock- undoubtedly an intentional gesture of the people who entered the cave before the LGM.

  • A very special finding from the Middle to Late Magdalenian was discovered in 1923 by the speleologist Norbert Casteret deep in the cave of Montespan (Haute-Garonne, France).

    Here the loosely modelled, near-life size, headless clay model of a bear was found in the Galerie Casteret, 300 m deep in the Cave in the context of stylistically Magdalenian engravings and disturbed further clay models.

    It is said that between his front paws lay the skull of a real bear, maybe once been attached to the figure itself. Unfortunately it got lost or stolen before an independent scientific committee visited the site and we have no Photodocumentation of the site, that could proof its existence.

    In the sculpture 41 circular holes are visible, which are interpreted as punctures of spears or arrows. It is possible that this figure is a ritual object in connection with a hunting ceremony. But this interpretation may be misleading and another modern myth.

Figure 9
Figure 9: Bear Canine from an Slovenian Cave. Why did the Cave Bear disappear from the Archeological record in Europe around the LGM? As always a combination of climatic events and hunting by Humans is discussed.

The latest paper about this topic took into account Paleogenetic data and Bayesian phylogenetic analysis and assumed a constant decline of the female Cave Bear population after 40 k.a. calBP (Gretzinger et al. 2019). The authors prefer to explain this decline as the consequence of a poor resilient bear Population combined with human Agency.

They stated that: "Our calculated effective female population sizes suggest a drastic cave bear population decline starting around 40,000 years ago at the onset of the Aurignacian, coinciding with the spread of anatomically modern humans in Europe.

While climatic fluctuations during MIS 3 may significantly decreased the population, a new human player with more effective hunting techniques could further decimated the species:

our study supports a potential significant human role in the general extinction and local extirpation of the European cave bear and illuminates the fate of this megafauna species".

But we should remember, that a coincidence is never a proof of causality....

Surf the Blog: 1198 , and here: 1318

Suggested Reading:

L'ours dans l'art préhistorique. MAN 2014 (at your local bookstore); see also: . with 3-D Animated Objects from French Sites!

Burian Z: Menschen der Vorzeit, Artia, 1961

Andre Leroi-Gourhan: Die Religionen der Vorgeschichte, Surkamp 1981

Waers et al.: Bärenkult und Schamanenzauber Rituale früher Jäger, Archäologisches Museum Frankfurt 2015: you can read it as a free pdf in the external link section!

A. Russia: Visiter Cap Blanc, 1999; Edition Sud Oest

Resources and images in full resolution:

2020-04-17 09:43:53   •   ID: 2172

Late Neanderthals in splendid Isolation at the Saint-Brice-sous-Rânes site

Figure 1
Figure 1: These are three small Handaxes (max. 7 cm long) and a bifacial scraper from the well known site Saint-Brice-sous-Rânes.

The last Neanderthals in Europe developed an extraordinary techno-typological diversity during MIS 3.

These ensembles were present alongside with a plethora of other Technocomplexes, those makers remain widely unknown like the Limcombian-Ranisian-Jerzmanowician, the Moravanian Szélétian, the (Proto)- Aurignacian, the Uluzzian and the Bohunician- see 1603 .

The lithic production of the last Neanderthals along the Atlantic Facade of France included several Bifacial Ensembles-About the Bifacial Mousterian in N/W-France please see here: 1179 , 1501 , here 1665 , here: 1250 , 1585 , and here: 1077

The upper strata of Saint-Brice-sous-Rânes were dated by TL on heated flints of 40.6 ± 2.2k.a, and therefore to a time, when Homo Sapiens was certainly present in Europe. The lithics do not show any influence by leptolithic technics.

Anyhow, together with the 45-50 k.a. old Saint-Amand-les-Eaux site -see here: with its wonderful triangular ovalaire and cordiform handaxes, we unfortunately have no absolute dates for the Bifacial Mousterian in N/W-France. Possibly most of these ensembles also date to MIS3.

There is some evidence, that Neanderthal societies in the Normandie did not form any networks with Homo sapiens groups. This hold also true for other Bifacial Mousterian-sites in N/W-France, especially for the large undated workshop sites at Julien de la Liègue- see 1163 .

The sites, mentioned in this post are called workshop sites, because stone knapping activities seem to be focused on the production of supports and tools. The settlements were almost near the deposits of raw materials and evidence to the production and maintenance of the tools like manufacturing of bifacial tools, resharpening, and retooling.

Anyhow we lack of faunal data and have no certain indication of dwelling structures, thus the classification of these "mega-sites" remains tentative.

Certainly there is almost no techno-typological overlap between the tool kits of Saint-Brice-sous-Rânes and Julien de la Liègue and the Central European "Micoquian / KMG-and Blattspitzen / Szeletian groups", as suggested by some authors. The same holds true for the only Technocomplex, that can ascribed with a sufficient degree of certainty to Homo Sapiens: the (Epi)-Aurignacian.

Based on Lithic artifacts in this part of Europe at least we have no indication for an interaction of Neanderthals and AMHs.

Figure 2
Figure 2 (Wikimedia Commons): The Pegasus Bridge at at the Orne River/Caen Canal crossings remains a symbol of the D-Day- an important step of the liberation of Europe in 1944 by the Anglo-Americans.

I will remain thankful for this military operation, allthough the USA is now under the control of a narcissistic lier.

Suggested Reading: Dans les pas de Neandertal. Sur les traces de Néandertal: Les premiers hommes en Normandie de 500000 à 5000 avant notre ère; 2016.

Resources and images in full resolution:

2020-04-12 15:35:37   •   ID: 2171

Ahrensburgian Zonhoven-Points from Budel IV (NL)

Figure 1
These are typical Zonhoven points from Budel.

Budel is a village in the Dutch province of Noord Brabant. It is located in the municipality of Cranendonck, 25 km outside Eindhoven.

There are several late Paleolithic and Mesolithic scatters around Budel. Budel IV is characterized by Ahrensburg artifacts, while other scatters come from the late Mesolithic-see here: 1656

The “Zonhoven Spitze” was first defined by G. Schwantes (1928) as a short thin microlithic blade, which at its distal end is obliquely truncated by a abrupt retouch. K.J. Narr (1968) used the term also for points which in addition also exhibit a basal truncation.

Three of these obliquely truncated bladlets in this post are made from Wommersom Quartzite, which gained more and more importance during the late Mesolithic in the area.

While the classic Ahrensburg tanged points are common in Germany and Denmark, they are largely outnumbered by Zonhoven Points in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Figure 2
Based on the limited number of dates in the Benelux states, the absolute chronology of the Ahrensburgian seems to encompass the very end of the Allerød, the entire Younger Dryas and the first half of the Pre-Boreal, from 10,8-9, BC (95 % probability range).

Interestingly Federmesser sites are considerably more numerous than Ahrensburgian sites in the Benelux area. While the Allerød interstadial conditions are characterized by a stable landscape, the climatic conditions during the Younger Dryas became unstable , colder and more dry. The occupation thus appears to have declined sharply during the Younger Dryas.

2020-04-08 18:37:27   •   ID: 2170

Grimaldi Scraper from Laugerie basse

Figure 1
This Endscraper was once part of the Collection of Emile Rivière and sold by his two sons during an auction in 1922, at the Hotel Drouot in Paris. It is made of typical Bergeracois flint.

These items are called Grattoirs de Laugerie-haute (or Grattoirs de Grimaldi) and are small and flat scrapers, made on elongated flakes or small blades. The lateral circumference of these tools is characterized by a continuous, direct, abrupt or semi-abrupt retouche.

These artifacts were especially numerous at Laugerie-haute and part of the Solutrean strata. D. Peyrony suggested, that they were an evidence of an invasion of “Negroid Grimaldiens”- were their skeletons were detected in 1901 in the “Grotte des Enfantes" (Grotta dei Fanciulli). (Balzi Rossi, Italia at the French border).

About the Grimaldi sites at the Balzi Rossi caves (Rochers Rouges)-see here: 1600

Figure 2
Ironically, the items found at the Grotte des Enfantes came from an advanced Epigravettian and would today described as Thumbnail-scrapers.

Therfore such Scrapers are nowadays described as Grattoirs de Laugerie-haute, were they were found in abundance. In the greater Aquitaine, they are only occasionally present in the Upper Solutrean.

The History of the „Negroid“ Grimaldians": The finding of the first fossil Homo Sapiens at Cro-Magnon , dated to the Gravettian, in 1868 led to the idea that modern man had arisen in Europe.

In Contrast the Grimaldi finds of two Paleolithic Homo Sapiens (Epi)-Gravettian skeletons in the Grotta dei Fanciulli in 1901 were interpreted as ancestral to the "Negroid race", just as a Magdalenian Homo Sapiens skull from Chancelade.

In this colonial and imperialistic world, characterised by the ideology that it was „ the white mans burden“ to „civilize“ the rest of the world, such findings were used as prove of the superiority of the white race.

In this view, the „Negroid“ Invasion of Eurpe failed by the inferiority of the African people compared with the superior Cromagnons.

The Last external link gives us a fatiguing 32 Pages long account about the discussions around the Pleistocene European Homo Sapiens and its suggested „Sub-Races“ during the late 20th Century.

In this overview you can read all about Paleoanthropological theories before the recognition, that Homo Sapiens evolved in Africa and that race is a Social construct but not a biological reality.

And again you will also still find speculations around the „Negroid“ Grimaldi People..

The term "Race" even found its way into official UNESCO Post-war Publications, writen by experts in their field: „in the upper Paleolithic age we first find representatives of Homo sapiens of today; the Cro-Magnon stock (of whom the Canary Islanders, descended from the ancient Guanches, may well be a modern remnant) and the quite distinct Chancelade and Grimaldi races (of a type reminiscent of the Negroid races of today).

In the mesolithic period we find a mixture of races in existence from which there emerged in the neolithic period the Nordic, the Mediterranean and the Alpine types, who, up to our day, have constituted the essential anthropological elements in the population of Europe
". (UNESCO 1956)

As described elswhere in this Blog, the term "Race", is beside its deadly genocidal consequences, scientifically untenable- see 1276 . In particular:

  • The frequency of different gene variations does not change abruptly between populations. There are no major breaks and no sharp boundaries, but usually smooth transitions
  • The apparent differences (for example skin color) wrongly evoke deep-going genetic differences. At least 3/4 of all human genes are the same in all people. Some phenotypic features like skin pigmentation and facial features are overestimated and can easily described as evolutionary adaptions
  • In humans, the vast majority of the genetic differences do not exist between geographical populations, but within such groups. The highest genetic diversity is still found today in people on the African continent. This is the continent where the story of Homo Sapiens began

2020-04-06 17:30:54   •   ID: 2169

Howiesons Poort (HP) in South Africa

Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 1-5: This is a rather small, 4 cm long, Howiesons Poort (HP) crescent made of non heated Silkrete. Figure 6 and 7 show an example made of Quartz, 3,2 cm Long.

Many questions about the HP remain unresolved. Why began people in S-Africa to produce these sophisticated tools? Why did the HP disappear? What was the cognitive background for "symbolic" activities during the HP?

Geography: South Africa, especially the Indian South coast and Atlantic west coast, has an incredible number of MSA-sites preserved in different kinds of environments.

Especially the Western and Eastern Cape region, offer a fairly high number of deeply stratified Rock shelters and Caves with a good to very good preservation of organic remains. These conditions inevitably lead to a certain bias towards the detection of these highly visible localities.

With the Exception of Apollo 11 in Namibia, the HP is found primarily south of the Limpopo River.

Important Sites: HP strata occur at, for example, the type site, Boomplaas, Border Cave, Diepkloof, Klasies River, Klein Kliphuis, Rose Cottage Cave, Sibudu, and Umhlatuzana in South Africa; at Melikane and Ntloana Tsoana in Lesotho; and at Apollo 11 in Namibia and a number of surface sites (Wurz 2013).

Techno-Typology: The HP is characterized the increased use of local and non-local fine- grained raw materials. These include quartzite, quartz, silcrete, hornfels and chalcedony.

At most sites, blade and bladelet reduction strategies are found together with the production of flakes.

The Howiesons Poort is most often associated with large numbers of backed elements (trapezes, segments-also called crescents or lunates and triangles). Another characteristic tool of the Howieson’s Poort are notched blades.

There is much inter and intrasite variability between the HP-sites, regarding knapping strategies, raw material procurement and hunting strategies of meat and fish / moluskes.

Absolute Chronology: SB and HP are widespread, although relatively short phases during MIS 4 in South Africa. They remain the most important last glacial chronological anchor points.

The SB occupation lasted from 70-77 k.a. while most HP ensembles are dated by single-grain OSL between ca. 64,8 and 59,5 k.a. BP (MIS4) but there are exceptions:

The Diepkloof TL dates go back to 109 k.a. The HP from Border Cave dates to around 75 k.a. and similar dates are known from Pinnacle Point. It remains unclear if the HP here started really earlier or if methodological problems cause this unconformities.

Relative Chronology: Important multilayered sites have been excavated during the last 20 years, some of them will described here:

The South African MSA offers two important characterisic complexes: the Stillbay (SB) and Howiesons Poort (HP).

Figure 4
Figure 5
Complexes which preceede and follow them are often globaly called: Pre-SB and Post HP. These complexes exhibit a considerable variability in techniques and tools.

Important up-to-date excavations at Klasies River were first undertaken In 1967 and 1968 by Ronald Singer and John Wymer.

The Klasies River Caves are a series of caves located to the east of the Klasies River mouth on the Tsitsikamma coast in the Humansdorp district of Eastern Cape Province, South Africa.

The three main caves and two shelters at the base of a high cliff have revealed evidence of middle stone age-associated human habitation from approximately 125,000 years ago.

The 20 metres (66 ft) thick deposits were accumulated from 125,000 years ago. Around 75,000 years ago, during cave remodelling, the stratigraphic sediments were moved out into external middens.

John Wymer described the artefact sequence in a typological scheme describing the culture stratigraphic order from oldest to youngest as the MSA l, MSA ll, Howiesons Poort, MSA lll and MSA lV.

MSA I: was characterized by Levallois und pyramidal cores. Large "elongated flakes" (Blades), up to 10 cm long, mostly made of quarzite were present. Unifacial points were common.

MSA II: (also called Mossel Bay) was characterized Levallois cores. Compared with the MSA I, Flakes became shorter, smaller and thicker.

The following strata were characterized by a nice Howiesons Poort ensemble. MSA III / MSA IV were described as Post- Howieson’s Poort ensembles.

Figure 6
Sarah Wurz recognizes the following culture stratigraphic sequence: Upper member (top units): not formally named post-Howiesons Poort sub-stage (circa 60 k.a.) Upper member (bottom units): Howiesons Poort sub-stage (circa 70 k.a.) SAS member (topmost units) and possibly RF member: Still Bay sub-stage (circa 80 k.a.) SAS member (mid and lower units): Mossel Bay sub-stage (circa 100 k.a.) LBS member: Klasies River sub-stage (circ 110 k.a.)

These sub-stages are defined by techno-typological criteria. In the Klasies River sub-stage long (upwards of 100 mm) blades made almost exclusively in quartzite and elongated points are characteristic.

The blades were struck from appropriately prepared cores, platforms are plain and relatively small and the bulbs of percussion are diffuse. This suggests a soft (wooden) hammer technique.

The Mossel Bay sub-stage the end-products are very different. They are shorter, wide, facetted platformed, convergent-sided pieces or blanks.

The bulbs of percussion are prominent and the point of percussion is set well below the upper surface of the core with the result that the butt of the blank is thick. Such pieces are conventionally called Levallois flakes.

The Still Bay is represented by a relatively small sample from main site that include bifacially worked pieces. This sub-stage is better represented in the sample from Paardeberg inland of main site.

The Howiesons Poort sample, resembling Figure 6 and 7, from main site is large and informative. It represents a return to blade production as in the Klasies River sub-stage but blade dimensions are much reduced (circa 40 mm).

Figure 7
These blade blanks, a percentage in non-local raw materials, were used to make backed artefacts in geometrical forms like segments and trapezes which are typologically very distinctive.

The sample of the post-Howiesons Poort layers is too small to be useful for technological study but seems to be yet another different and distinctive artefact production schema ( modified from: HJ Deacon Guide to Klasies River 2001).

During the following years it became clear that Klasies River can not taken as a blueprint for the Late Pleistocene S-African MSA. Especially the early and late phases show a lot of variability.

At Diepkloof (Western Cape), excavations begun in 1998 and provided a sequence in which the Stillbay facies clearly underlies the Howiesons Poort assemblages.

In addition, the Diepkloof Howiesons Poort assemblages have now been dated, by thermo-luminescence, to between 55 and 65 k.a.

KwaZulu-Natal in the eastern part of South Africa, today covered by dense subtropical vegetation, has also an enormous Archeological potential, evidenced by the Sibudu site together with the Holley Shelter and the Umhlatuzana site.

Sibudu, a large rock- shelter shows a long sequence of MSA layers: the final MSA roughly dating to around 35 k.a. a late MSA (about 47 k.a.) a “post- HP” (about 58 k.a.), HP (ca 65-59 k.a.), Still Bay (c a77-72 k.a.) and pre-Still Bay (>80 k.a.) (Wadley 2012).

Umhlatuzana Rock Shelter was excavated in 1985. A long and detailed sequence of Middle Stone Age (MSA) and Later Stone Age (LSA) stone artefacts were recovered. These provide important information on the MSA, MSA/LSA transition, the Robberg LSA, as well as the relationship between hunter-gatherers and farmers between AD 400-800. At this site the MSA/LSA transition occurred between 35-20 k.a. BPBP. This transition is gradual with MSA technology being replaced by increasing bladelet production.

Diepkloof: The cave is about 17 km from the shoreline of the Atlantic in a semi-arid area, near Elands Bay about 150 km north of Cape Town. It occurs in quartzitic sandstone in a butte that overlooks in a east direction 100 m above the Verlorenvlei River. It contains one of "most complete and continuous later Middle Stone Age sequences in southern Africa" stretching from before 130,000 BP to about 45,000 BP and encompassing pre-Stillbay, Stillbay, Howiesons Poort, and post-Howiesons Poort periods (Texier et al. 2010).

The use of Ostrich eggshells in South Africa is very old. The most prominent example for a non-utilitarian use comes from Diepkloof rock shelter (Western Cape) which yield in an MSA-context more than 400 Fragments of geometrical engraved ostrich eggshells, possible used as containers, which are dated to the Howiesons Poort (74-60 k.a. by TL at the site).

Apollo 11 rock-shelter in Namibia, contains the longest late Pleistocene and Holocene archaeological sequence in this region. (MSA) indus tries represented at the site include an early MSA, Still Bay, Howieson’s Poort and late MSA. The TL age of the HP-industy is estimated to 63.2 ± 2.3 k.a.

Rose Cottage Cave is another multilayered site with an impressive number of lithic artifacts. It is one of the rare sites that contains the Howiesons Poort Industry located between two MSA industries ((Pre- Howiesons Poort, Howiesons Poort, post-Howiesons Poort, a final MSA, and an MSA/LSA transition.

The disappearance of the HP remains enigmatic. Maybe ruptures of social networks and climatic changes during the MIS4/3 boundary triggered changes toward other modes of lithic production. Excavations of the upper poat -HP MSA layers have shown, that lithic production changed, mostly towards the production of unifacial points, but was not less sophisticated than HP ensembles.

At Sibudu for example asymmetric convergent tools were observed as an independent tool class. They are characterized by a asymmetric and convergent distal end. It is formed by a convex retouched edge and one opposing straight edge which is frequently not retouched.

Other unifacial convergent tools during the late MSA at Sibudu are ‘‘Tongatis’’ and ‘‘Ndwedwes’’ Togatis are a special form of triangular symmetric or asymmetric points, while ‘‘Ndwedwes’’ are asymmetric elongated unifacial convergent instruments, not unknown from other near by sites (Conard 2012).

Specific Behavior patterns?. The HP is characterized by patterns, unknown from earlier or later MSA complexes in South Africa (exception: SB, especially at Blombos). They include:

  • The existence of a bone tool industry
  • Like the earlier Stillbay industry, the Howiesons Poort culture created "symbolic" artifacts such as engraved ochre. Compared to earlier MSA complexes we observe an increase in both color variability and quantity
  • The production of eggshells with incised ornaments and and shell beads.

The "why" of these patterns has not been satisfactorily explained so far.

Resources and images in full resolution: