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2020-03-28 14:41:06   •   ID: 2168

The Significance of Early Ornaments

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Figure 1: LSA Bead Strings from the Algerian Sahara. Ca 4000 k.a. calBC

Figure 2 : Ostrich eggshell beads Kenya; Ca 2000 k.a. calBC

Figure 3 and 4: sophisticated pendant made from shell, Jemdet-Nasr Period, Sumeria, ca 3rd Millennium BC.

Figure 5 and 6: Pair of gold earrings from Mesopotamia - 3,1-2,6 calBC.

This is a short account of early Ornaments between ca. 120-40 k.a. calBP (MSA- EUP). Later Periods may be described in a later post.

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Jewelry consists of any ornament that is placed on the body for any symbolic reason. Ornaments can be made of metals, shells, beads, textiles, clay, gems, stone, glass, or any components extracted from animals or plants.

They appeared in forms ranging from rings, armlets, bracelets, necklaces, and ornamental piercing to broaches, headdresses, and hair clips

Because they are items of a very personal nature, jewelry is thus used to convey information about the cultural, religious / magical ideas or similar sets of beliefs.

They symbolize informations about individual and group identity of its wearer, highlighting both significance and function within society that go far beyond trivial ornamentation- see 1556 . They may have be used to adorn the body, to express wealth, as a method of intercultural exchange, to convey social or spiritual messages or as a tool of creativity. Anyhow most of these assumtions are speculative.

Since their first appearance during the MSA and probably related to the spread of AMHs, ornaments have occurred in almost every culture across time and space. Even the Neanderthals, sometimes created such items, although in much lower density.

Archaeologists are mostly interested in examples of :

  • The social significance of ornaments- especially in the context of social networking
  • Indications of long distance interregional contacts, sometimes over hundred of km since the the late MSA in Africa and Upper Paleolithic in Eurasia
  • craft specialization


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Africa, and the Middle East: The earliest shells used as ornaments are from Africa and the Middle East.

It has shown that in Middle / MSA Paleolithic sites in both Africa and Eurasia, members of the genus Nassarius were the preferred mollusks selected for use as beads. Species of this genus continued to be exploited as part of the shell bead corpus during the Upper Palaeolithic as well as in later periods (D.E. Bar-Josef Meyer 2015 ).

More than 40 perforated tick shell (Nassarius kraussianus) beads, dated by OSL to ca 75 k.a. BP (MIS4) were recovered from the Middle Stone Age levels at Blombos Cave (South Africa; Cape Province). Perforated shells, used as beads are also known from Sibudu Cave (KwaZulu- Natal, South Africa) from the Still Bay and Howiesons Poort layers of this site with 60-70 k.a. OSL ages.

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Even older perforated marine gastropod shells were found in Israel from the Skhul site and maybe in Algeria from Oued Djebbana (C14>35 k.a.). Skhul is currently dated to 100-135 k.a. years ago, 25,000 years earlier than previous evidence for personal ornaments in South Africa.

In N-Africa, modified Shells have been recovered in stratigraphic context associated with Aterian / Mousterian lithic artifacts and were used as beads 82–85 k.a. ago at Taforalt, 82 k.a. ago at Ifri n'Ammar, and at 80–70 k.a. ago at Rhafas.

Interestingly, many of the African beads were covered with ochre while in use- maybe an indication for some ritual context.

The use of Ostrich eggshells ( see Figure 2) 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 engraved ostrich eggshells, possible used as containers, which are dated to the Howiesons Poort (74-60 k.a. by TL at the site)..

Ostrich eggshell beads are among the oldest known ornaments made by our species and are often found in archaeological assemblages throughout Africa and Asia beginning during MIS3. They were produced by some communities until the 20 century (for example by the San).

Prehistoric eggshell beads date to as early as 40-30. k.a. years ago in eastern and southern Africa, as recently re-confirmed at two sites in Lesoto. The excavators suggest, that these beads were part of a long-distance insurance partnerships.

Anyhow, Ostrich eggshell beads from the site of Enkapune Ya Muto in Kenya, dated to about 40,000 years ago remain earliest known beads of this material type to be used as personal ornaments.

During the Early Upper Paleolithic: "The relatively large numbers of shells bead from the Northern Levant such as Ksar Akil and Üçağızlı (hundreds of shells) is due to the fact that these are multi-layered sites with repeated occupation that spanned over 10000 years whereas most sites in the southern Levant are either single or short occupation sites (especially in the western Negev, northern Sinai, the Lower Jordan valley and the Azraq basin in Jordan) or were used for shorter periods (e.g. Kebara Cave, Hayonim Cave).

The use of shell beads (and beads in general, such as those made of bone or ostrich egg shell) is considered to be a trait of modern human behavior as attested also by their presence in contexts of modern humans in the Middle Palaeolithic and Middle Stone Age. Whether the increase in shell numbers has to do with an increase in human population size or with other qualities inherent to Homo sapiens remains to be seen.

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The species most commonly used include Nassarius gibbosulus, Columbella rustica, Mitrella scripta, Dentalium sp. Glycymeris insubrica (that was previously referred to as G. violacescens) and Cerastoderma glaucum.

The proportions between these species vary from one site to another, and a few other species are more rare. In a few isolated cases such as Kebara Cave and Meged Rockshelter, the use of the freshwater snail Theodoxus, pierced as a bead, is worth mentioning" (D.E. Bar-Josef Meyer).

An excellent paper about Beads during the Levantine (Epi- Paleolithic), which shows the stepwise evolution of stone beads, which are quasi absent in the proceeding Periods, can be found here:

https://www.academia.edu/3125726/Towards_a_Typology_of_Stone_Beads_in_the_Neolithic_Levant .

Another paper about visualizing the beaded headdresses, jewelry and clothing during the early Natufian in a burial context from el-Wad, Mallaha and Hayonim can be found here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/324113479_Personal_Adornment_in_the_Epi-Paleolithic_of_the_Levant .

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European and Asian Upper Paleolithic: First modified shell assemblages from the early upper Paleolithic at circum- Mediterranean sites (ca. 41 k.a. BP) such as from Riparo Mochi in Ligurian Italy, and Klissoura Cave 1 in southern Greece show similarities with the EUP of the Middle East as already described. They come from strata, ascribed to the Proto-Aurignacian and Uluzzian.

The Archaeological Record in Asia is promising, but still in its beginnings. For example, in the Altai, perforated animal teeth have been reported from the Denisova cave site ca 70 k.a. ka BP) and cultural sediments at Kara-Bom site yielded some perforated animal teeth and bone slices (43±1,6 k.a. CalBP).

2020-03-20 09:52:54   •   ID: 2165

An interesting Artifact from Les Cottés (Vienne, France)

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This is a thic Flake from Les Cottés (Vienne, France)-see here: 1483 and here: 1492 (Presumably from the Aurignacian layers)-maybe used as a bec or as a percoir.

While the distal side of the artifact side is formed by coarse truncations–The adjacent side at a 75 degree angle accounts for a needle like working edge (Figure 1-3).

The piece is an exception from the rule, that Paleolithic European becs are usually made on blades- see here. 1097 and here: 1478 . Percoirs also have a quite different Design .

This brings me to another suggestion: Maybe this is an "ad hoc" tool, not classified in the "Sonneville-Bordes" list. Such tools are not rare during the Paleolithic - see examples from Abri Pataud here: 1619

Researchers have done a lot of work for a unified terminology of stone tools. But we should remember, that every type-list has its limitations.

The tool shown in this post is a good example for this flaws:

  • Researchers often suppose, that a tool found during an excavation is the desired end-product


  • Researchers often suppose, that "ideal" fossil directeurs of a class of specific tools exist. Every deviation from this ideal is quoted as "atypical" or falls under the "diverse" label


  • There is only a loosely connection between the designation of a stone tool and its function


  • Figure 3
    Of course Archeologist will have to continue to work with Type-lists and they are well aware of their many limitations.

    A close look on the working edge in Figure 3 suggest, that the artifact was most probably used for perforating purposes- but the even limited and, by the way- highly appealing patination of the brown local flint will make a microtraceological approach difficult or impossible.

    Suggested Reading:

    Pierre Laurent et al: Types d'outils lithiques du paléolithique supérieur en Europe; 2000. - the e–Book can be bought at Amazon with cheap money.

2020-03-20 09:46:15   •   ID: 2160

A Raclette from the Badegoulian at Laugerie haute

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This is a heavy patinated Raclette from the Badegoulian at Laugerie haute (Dordogne)- see also: 1268 . It has been made by a flat round flake with almost continuous abrupt retouches.

In general, a raclettes are usually made from flat flakes, more rarely from (intentionally) broken blades. The outlines are very variable and characterized by fine direct, but sometimes alternating, abrupt retouches more or less continuous over most of the circumference of the tool.

The first systematic description came 1930 from A Cheynier, who described raclettes from the Badegoule site (Dordogne)- see id 1268. He also pointed out that raclettes were already described under the name of a “lame grattoir” by H. Breuil (1902) and D Peyrony (1908) from Laugerie-Haute.

According to Bosselin and Djindjian’s analysis, four groups of lithic tool types of the Magdalenian in S/W-France could be found which possess a temporal significance.

The oldest group corresponds to an older Badegoulian with transversal burins and a low proportion of raclettes, while the second group corresponds to a younger Badegoulian and shows high proportions of raclettes.

Raclettes should not confused with thumbnail scrapers, which show neither a round circumference, nor continuous retouches. In addition they have a distal scraper cap and a non-worked base-see: 1445

Raclettes appeared much earlier in Central Europe, during the Micoquian / KMG- somtimes in large numbers-see: https://aggsbach.fossilserver.de/index.php?Edit&1524 . In the Polish Literature Middle Paleolithic Raclettes are called ”Grochakis". They are a characteristic element of the Middle European Keilmessergruppen (KMG; Middle European Micoquian), first noted in the Prodnik ensembles near Krakow by S Krukowski.

Similar to Upper Paleolithic Raclettes, they are made of oval or circular flakes with continuous or discontinuous semi abrupt or abrupt retouches, often referred by the Polish authors as "round scrapers“.

Some authors suggest, that they are more irregular, than their UP counterparts and tend to be more denticulated-but judging from what I have seen and what has published- I remain cautious.

In Germany such artifacts were first recognized by Bosinski and are called: flat flakes (1) Type Heidenschmiede (continuous retouche) or Type Balve (discontinuous retouche). Beside Balve and Heidenschmiede, in Germany such artifacts are known from the Neanderthal burial site and from the Schambach Micoquian.

Functional results from the Sesselfelsgrotte (Bavaria) are already available; although they should not be confused with the functional characteristics of later raclettes:

A use-wear analysis was carried out on the microliths (Richter 1997), which are comparable to pieces described as “raclettes” by Bordes (Bordes 1961). The flakes are never larger than about 2 cm and often have all-round retouch.

A total of 202 microlithic pieces from archaeological unit A01 up to A06 was examined microscopically. Forty-three specimens showed microwear traces, mainly polishes, determined as being caused by working soft, sometimes wood-like plant materials (Lass 1994)
(Rots 2014).

Middle Paleolithic items also appeared in different facies of the Mousterian in S/W-France, where they have been described by F. Bordes during the 1950ies.

Middle Paleolithic Raclettes are not confined to the Paleolithic of Europe, but sometimes appeared in the Levantine Levallois-Mousterian, for example at the Open-Air Site at Nesher Ramla (Late MIS6/ early MIS5) in Israel.

They are a component of the Non-Levallois Zagros Mousterien, as described by Deborah Olszewski.

In the Near East they generally are also found through the Upper Paleolithic-Epipaleolithic until the PPNA / B- Obviously a high valued tool!

2020-03-20 09:42:44   •   ID: 2159

A Modified Byblos Point from the Jordan Valley

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This is an Byblos-Point from the the Levantine PPNB "Big Arrowhead Tradition", found decenia ago in the Jordan Valley. These tools were made from specific bipolar cores. -see here: 1147

Interestingly the Tip has modified to a dihedral Burin (Figure 3). The design of the artifact is not suspicious for the knappers primary intention to create a tanged burin- rather the burin spalls were removed early in a process of rejuvenation of a already used tool.

I have already described a similar tool from the European Upper Paleolithic from my collection https://aggsbach.fossilserver.de/index.php?Edit&1138

With the appearance and development of the PPNA culture (Neolithic pre-ceramic A) in the Levant, a major change is taking place in the production technologies of lithic tools. The microlithism characteristic of epipaleolithic periods is gradually abandoned, as observed in Hatoula and Mureybet, in favor of the production of increasingly long and wide blades.

Bipolar laminar technology has its origins in middle Euphrates valley at the end of the recent PPNA and at the start of the early PPNB, around the first quarter of the 9th millennium BC on sites such as Cheikh Hassan, Jerf el Ahmar and Mureybet IIIB-IVA.

It gradually developed from a unipolar laminar technology with two opposite striking planes documented during the PPNA - one of two striking planes being only intended to correct the distal edges of the blades detached from the opposite striking plane.

Figure 2
The appearance of the highly standardized bipolar production of large blades with very specific characteristics (rectilinear profiles, naturally pointed and generally robust) for the manufacture of projectile points, and to a lesser extent, sickle blades, knives and other tool types constitutes a major change in local lithic traditions.

Beginning with the 9th millennium cal. BC the bipolar technique diffuses along the middle Euphrates valley to sites such as Nevalı Çori and Göbekli (Layer 2) as well as north-west of Syria (Orontes valley), at Ain el-Kerkh (Layers 7-9).

Traces of in situ production of central or predetermined blades were reported at each of these sites (presence of naviform cores, long blades, tablets, crested blades and Byblos points).We observe a rapid dispersal westward, reaching Cyprus at around 8,500 cal. BC (Shilourokambos- see 1005 in Cyprus )

The spread of Bipolar technology to the upper Euphrates and Tigris valleys followed a more complex process. A significant proportion of bipolar blades and finished tools (Byblos points), often obtained from standardized “naviform” cores, was reported during the study of the lithic industries belonging to the “Grill and Channeled Building” sub-phases by Çayönü (ca. 8500-8100 cal. BC).

The presence of such blades and finished tools in Çayönü has been interpreted as proof of complex networks of intercommunity exchanges, probably originating in the middle Euphrates valley.

It’s only around 8000 cal. BC that the abundant presence of Byblos points, “naviform” cores and elements indicative of their debitage appear at Çayönü (“Cobble and Cell Buildings” sub-phases, and Cafer (early phase), indicating that the bipolar technology has been completely adopted and integrated into the local lithic traditions of the high Euphrates and Tigris valleys.

Figure 3
It was also during this period that obsidian was incorporated as the main raw material used for the production of bipolar blades, to its use for the production of pressure blades.

Around the middle of the 8 millennium cal. Bipolar cores share the base for lithic industries at almost sites dated to the later stages of the PPNB in ​​the North Levant.

The bipolar blades are finally produced from obsidian and a wide range of flint, from medium to fine grained (local or imported) from both primary and secondary deposits (river and wadi terraces).

Suggested Reading:

Jacques Gauvin, Les outillages néolithiques de Byblos et du littoral libanais (Maurice Dunand, Fouilles de Byblos, tome IV)

Klaus Schmidt, Sie bauten die ersten Tempel: Das rätselhafte Heiligtum am Göbekli Tepe; 2016.

2020-03-14 18:22:19   •   ID: 2157

Riesenklingen and Tanged Points: the Latest Epipaleolithic of the N-European Plain

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This is an Epipaleolithic surface ensemble from the Warder See region near Bad Oldesloe in Schleswig-Holstein; N-W Germany.

It consists of an Ahrensburgian Point (seen on Figure 2 and 3), small Endscrapers, Burins on truncation and truncated small blades (Figure 1,2,3)-maybe preforms of Zonhoven points. In addition we see a typical "Giant Point" (Riesenklinge; 12,5 cm long) (Figure 4 ,5, 6). Microliths (Zonhoven Points) are not present, maybe by sampling bias of this old collection from the 1950ies.

Such Epipaleolithic ensembles are known from S-England and N-Germany and called Eggstedt-Stellmoor-Gruppe of the Ahrensburgian in Germany, Belloisien in the Paris Basin and northern France up to Brittany and long Blade ensembles in the Netherlands and Belgium.

They are usually dated to the younger Dryas- the latest manifestation of the Palaeolithic in North/West Europe.

The relationship of Ahrensburgian and Belloisian sites is not well understood. While traditionally Ahrensburgian sites may be considered as short Hunting camps with traces of fire, microlithic projectile points, a lot of tanged points, and a few large Blades, the Belloisian shows no or very few burnt objects, abundant debitage remains, Riesenklingen, few retouched tools, and almost no tanged Points.

In contrast microlithic projectiles may be abundant and long sequences of knapping activities for the production of long and very thin Blades are present. There is a high a degree of post-excavation refittings. Belloisian sites may have been butchering or workshop sites.

Figure 4
The lithic industries of this kind are characterized by large, well-made blades struck from bipolar cores. Typically these assemblages include heavily edge- damaged artefacts, known as "bruised blades" or "lames mâchurées"- also seen in this post.

It has been suggested that they were utilized for chopping hard organic materials such as antler and bone, or curating sandstone hammers.

In the UK, long-blade ensembles are known from  for S/E-Britain and East Anglia mainly in floodplain or river valleys close to the sources of high quality in situ flint. They are sometimes associated with atypical tanged points ("Epi-Ahrensburg-like").

Recent studies have highlighted the sparse evidence of human occupation in Britain during the Younger Dryas. The majority of evidence comes from the end of the stadial and is often typified by assemblages dominated by long-blade technology.

Figure5
In Nothern Germany, “Riesenklingen” were usually associated to the Ahrensburgian technocomplex. In the Netherlands the most important site remains Zonhoven (see the Monograph in the attached files).

First findings in North France go back to the begin of the last century and were first published by V. Commont.  

While tanged points are rare, large blades are combined with other microlitic projectiles (Pointes à troncatures obliques concaves, Pointes à troncatures obliques,Pointes à dos microlithiques, Pointes à Zonhoven à base tronquée-also called pointe de Malaurie).

An important site, excavated and published during the last years is Buhot, near Calleville (see attached files).

2020-03-03 16:59:41   •   ID: 2155

Time is on my side (Sir Michael Philip Jagger)

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The post presented here, highlights the importance of chronologies to the archaeological treatment of time.

The 19th-century Paleolithic chronologies of Lartet, de Mortillet, and Breuil are not simply lists of periods but rather the expression of differing conceptions of the relations between hominins, adaption strategies, the archaeological record, and time.

Figure 3
We will never know if our early Paleolithic ancestors had a time concept, comparable with the linear time concepts of Humans during historical periods.

Did they think in terms like yesterday / today/ and tomorrow?

Did they discuss concepts like technological modes of knapping, the properties of raw materials and concepts of innovation ?

Did all these conceptualities make any sense for them?

Figure 1 shows an Oldowan chopping tool / core from Reggane in Algeria, probably > 1,5 my BP, Figure 2 displays a Yabroudian scraper, made by a thick flake and a Quina -like technique from Israel (200-400 k.a. BP), and Figure 3 two Levallois Points made from a prepared core (ca 50 k.a) BP from Israel (Kebara Cave / Nt Carmel).

The pictures continue with a Upper Paleolithic scraper, from a robust blade from the "Aurignacian V" (ca 23 k.a. k.a. cal BP) from Laugerie haute, a denticulated sickle, made from an elongated bladelet, from the S/E European Neolithic (about 6 k.a. BC), Neolithic Microliths made from small and thin bladelets, from the Western Sahara (about 4-3 k.a. BC) and a polished Battle Axe from Central Europe shortly before the Beginning of the European Bronze Age.

These examples display a general trend of the Old World Paleolithic- from simple "Pebble Tools" to Flake tools, followed by Blade and Bladelet tools to polished artifacts.

In retrospect the evolution of stone tools could easily confused with an inevitable process and indeed Archeological reconstructions, explicitly or implicitly sometimes come dangerously close to unscientific teleological concepts.

Instead, Prehistory is an open process and the design of stone tools depends, among other things on:

  • Cognitive Capacities of the Genus Homo during its evolution (social, emotional and technological)- see last external link


  • Accumulation of skills and knowledge and their transmission-verbal or not-verbal


  • Changing functional needs, while hominins entered new ecological niches or were faced with new climatic challenges


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Figure 7


The increasing variability of lithics over time could be easily expressed as an exponential diversification of specialized tools.

First Mode-I tools come from Lomekwi in Kenya which were incorporated in sediments about 3.3 million years old.

More sustainable evidence of Mode I industries from East Africa was found at several sites in primary context at Gona, in the Hadar region of the Afar triangle in Ethiopia, dating to 2,6 – 2,5 m.y.

Earliest Handaxes also come from East Africa Especially from Ethiopia. For example, the Konso site In Ethiopia is currently dated to 1,75 m.y

The first Flake tools were present since the Oldowan, more specialized flake and blade tools in Africa and the Middle East are as old as 400 k.a. BP.

Although blades appeared in East Africa as early as 400 k.a. ago, typical "Upper Paleolithic" bladelets and sophisticated blades became the main lithics at ca 50-35 k.a.B.P.

Let's take the Upper Paleolithic as an example: A time bracket of about 15 k.a. for development of the Initial and Early Upper Paleolithic seems to be incredible long in terms of our contemporaneous linear time conception.

The evolution of IUP and early EUP technological features needed about 400 generations over a vast space (from the Negev, over Turkey, Syria, Bulgaria, Moravia, the Siberian Altai, Mongolia and northwest China..) to become the prevalent mode of lithic production.

Dispersal of people, ideas or convergent evolution may have triggered this processes.

The end of technical traditions is also extremly variable. For example Chopping tools in Asia were present until the Holocene and MSA artifacts in East Africa continued to be made until the latest Pleistocene / Early Holocene, while they had disappeared in other regions c 30-40 k.a. BP. see here: 1637 and here: 1532

2020-02-29 12:31:55   •   ID: 2154

Ein Aqef: Aurignacian from the Negev?

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Figure 1:These are Upper Paleolithic tools from a very small Surface Scatter at Ein Aqef (Negev desert; Figure 2 / Wikimedia Creative Commons). Until some 30 years ago Upper Paleolithic ensembles in the Levant postdating the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition and predating the Epipaleolithic were related in one way or another to various stages of the “Aurignacian” sensu lato.

This view was early established by Zumoffen, who worked in the Lebanon early in the 20th century. He excavated Upper Paleolithic deposits at the Antelias cave in the Valley of Antelias, which was named after a small coastal town some kilometers north from Beirut.  

Later researchers (Garrod 1953; Neuville 1934; Rust, 1950) reconstructed the Levantine Upper Paleolithic sequence as a unilinear evolution of Aurignacian variants finally evolving to the Epipaleolithic.

This paradigm was challenged since the late 1980ies by creating two independent “phyla“ of evolution:  The “Leptolithic lineage” which stretches from the transitional Emiran at ca. 50 k.a. cal. BP right through to the onset of the Late Epipaleolithic Natufian. This Leptolithic lineage comprises the:

  • Emiran
  • An as yet unnamed industry beginning in Boker Tachtit 4
  • The Early Ahmarian c 45 and 46 k.a. BP (47-49 k.a.cal. BP) until c 30 k.a. cal. BP
  • The Late Ahmarian (Masraqan; ca.30-25 k.a. BP)
  • The Pre-Natufian Epipaleolithic complex.
 

Figure 2
The Levantine Aurignacian sensu strictu which is identified with ensembles that encompass nosed and carinated scrapers, strangled blades with lateral retouches dihedral and truncation burins, Dufour bladelets (some twisted, some incurvate), and (small) el-Wad points. Bone tools, if present, include points and awls, and split base points, which are so well known from the European Aurignacian.  

The best documented non-calibrated Radiocarbon dates for the Levantine sites scatter around 34-36 k.a BP. Manot cave shows calibrated dates of 38-34 k.a. cal.BP- clearly younger than the (Proto)-Aurignacian of Europe.

It should be pointed out that the European Aurignacian” is rich in tools on blade and bladelet blanks as well as blade/bladelet cores, while in the Levant, the local Aurignacian is considered primarily as a flake-based industry.

Nevertheless, there are considerable numbers of blade/lets in those assemblages assigned to the Levantine Aurignacian sensu strictu which were fashioned into scrapers, burins, retouched blades and bladelets.

Actually it is debated if there further technocomplexes, that should be differentiated both from the Ahmarian and Aurignacian. Concerning the small collection of artifacts (carinated scraper, thick scrapers on short blades, burin) , shown here, I am not sure if I should call them “Aurignacian” in a strict sense.




Resources and images in full resolution:

2020-02-19 16:34:29   •   ID: 2153

Ubeidiya Chopping Tool / Core

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This is a classic Chopping Tool, made from high quality flint, from the multilayered Ubeidiya site in Israel, currently the earliest site in the Near East. The unique importance of `Ubeidiya lies in the fact that it is the best-documented site in Eurasia that illustrates the spread of humankind from Africa into the rest of the world.

Ubeidiya is located in the Jordan Rift Valley, where "Oldowan" and "early Acheulean" levels in a lake margin context have been bracketed on biostratigraphic grounds and paloemagnetism,to between 1.4 and 1.0 million years ago. For a simlar chopping tool from the site see here:http://www.antiquities.org.il/t/item_en.aspx?q=Ovadya&CurrentPageKey=4_1

The age of the site of 'Ubeidiya is determined mainly on the basis of its faunal assemblages which are generally related to the Cromerian and Biharian faunas.

The fourteen archaeological horizons uncovered were found stratigraphically within the folded and faulted 'Ubeidiya formation. According to its sediment facies the 'Ubeidiya formation has been divided into four members, representing transgressions or regressions of a fresh water lake.

This horizons should not misinterpreted as “living floors.” They are a mixture of cultural and geological factors were involved in the formation of these assemblages (Shea 1999). They should rather considered as archaeological palimpsests.

Most of the Palaeolithic stone tools were found within the Fi member; they were generally incorporated in beach deposits and, more rarely, sunken in silty- clayey layers, or mixed with gravel accumulations.

These lithic assemblages are characterized by the abundance of core-choppers / chopping tools and simple flakes along with spheroids and hand-axes.

Regional variability in Acheulian typology has often been attributed to differences in the properties and shapes of the raw material available in each area.

Tracing the different stages of the Acheulian in Israel as they are represented by the tools of Ubeidiya, GBY and the Late Acheulian sites, as described by Gilead in 1970, different strategies of raw material use can be detected in LCT production.

LCTs in the Ubeidiya assemblages (dated to 1.4 million years BP) consist mainly of crude handaxes, picks and trihedrals, with practically no cleavers. At this site the LCTs were made almost exclusively on basalt, see here:http://www.antiquities.org.il/t/item_en.aspx?q=Ovadya&CurrentPageKey=10_1 while flint and limestone were preferred for small flake tool manufacturing for the production of Chopping Tools and Spheroids.

At GBY, basalt is the dominant raw material for the production of handaxes but occasionally flint and even limestone were used.

The late Acheulian around 500-400 k.a. with developed Levallois technology is mainly made of high quality flint and one possible ancestor of the Middle Paleolithic "Levallois-Mousterian".

Suggested Reading:

Stekelis M., Bar-Yosef O., Schick T. 1969. Archaeological Excavations at 'Ubeidiya, 1964-1966. This is still the most important publication about this important multilayered site. Can be found for cheap money in antiquarian book-shops.

Enzel Y. , Bar-Yosef O. (Ed) of the Levant: Environments, Climate Change, and Humans 2017

N. Goren-Inbar. The Acheulian Site of Gesher Benot Ya‘aqov Volume IV: The Lithic Assemblages (Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology) (English Edition) 2018

R Gallottiand M Mussi. Emergence of the Acheulean in East Africa and Beyond: Contributions in Honor of Jean Chavaillon (Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology) 2018.

Surf the Blog: here 1171 , here: 2076 , here: 1176 , here: 2068 , and here 1460

2020-02-18 12:12:23   •   ID: 2152

The Art of Flint-Knapping during early Dynastic Egypt

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Figure 1 and 2 show a large (110mm long x 60mm wide x 5mm thick) and superbly worked Early Dynastic or late Pre-Dynastic Egyptian artifact of unknown function.

This tool is a superb and very finely worked bifacial piece fashioned from a pale reddish-grey flint ; very well defined and symmetrical, of thin section with expertly pressure flaked and still sharp blade edges all round.

Stone tool technology in Dynastic times had its roots in late Predynastic flint manufacturing, especially that of the Nagada culture. Very high-quality tools were produced then, especially the thin ripple-flaked knifes found in elite, (late) Nagada culture burials.

Bifacially worked knifes were manufactured until the New Kingdom, but their form changed and the quality of flaking declined. There were also tool types which were used mainly in domestic contexts (scrapers, burins, borers and hafted blades for cutting meat).

Huge blades, up to 20cm long and 3cm wide, have been found in an Early Dynastic context. These are the so-called “razor blades,” but their denticulated, pointing again to a Palestinian origin. Also at this time the type of flint used for tools changed and the Egyptian tradition of core flaking tradition ended. In New Kingdom times the stone blanks were increasingly replaced by flakes or blades, and the tools became more coarse.

The bifacially worked flint knifes and sickle blades described above are the two most important tool groups of Dynastic Egypt, showing a stylistic and functional development through time. Their manufacture until the 25th Dynasty can be best explained by their high degree of usefulness and low production costs. Examples in Dynastic Egypt of borers, burins, axes and arrowheads, however, are rare.

Why stone tools were used for such a long time in ancient Egypt needs some explanation. In contrast to its rich Chert resources, Egypt has only very small deposits of copper and virtually no tin (for bronze production).

This also explains why ancient Egypt was not able to play a leading role in metallurgical technologies like its neighbors, especially Palestine, which has large deposits of copper. In exchange for metal from Palestine and later from Cyprus, Egypt traded gold and cereals, both of which were abundantly available in Egypt. Egypt therefore had to import nearly all its copper and tin, which greatly limited its distribution to most of the population.

Copper/bronze was limited in quantity and very expensive, and most metal in Egypt was needed for weapons used by the army. The remaining metal would have been distributed among elites. The use of stone tools finally ended in Egypt when iron processing began because this metal was much cheaper than bronze, and it was also harder. However, this occurred in Egypt several hundred years later than in the neighboring countries (Text according to K.A. Bard; 2007)

Suggested Reading:

Ian Shaw (Ed)The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt ; 2000

K.A. Bard: Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt; 2007




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2020-02-10 13:54:29   •   ID: 2150

The Proto-Aurignacian: an independent Technocomplex ?

Figure 1
Figure 1 shows long and straight Dufour bladelets from S/W-France, which are suggested to characterize the Proto-Aurignacian (Aurignacian 0).

Figure 2 displays several Carinated Pieces from the Vezere Valley (Abri Cellier) for the production of twisted Lamelles, typical for an early Classic Aurignacian.

The Proto-Aurignacian on the one hand and the early Aurignacian on the other hand are said to reflect two different techno-typological entities and reflect two different routes of dispersal of Homo sapiens into Europe.

While the Proto-Aurignacian spread via the Near East to Europe via a Mediterranian route, the Classic Early Aurignacian is suggested to have entered Europe via the Danube corridor.

The Protoaurignacian technological signature is said to lie in the production of blades and bladelets within a single and continuous stone knapping sequence. Both products are thus obtained from the same core as the result of its progressive reduction.

The Aurignacian on the other hand shows a dissociated productions, that means that two independent chaînes opératoires to produce blades and bladelets. The bladelets were detached from carinated cores.

Figure 2
Wherever found, we observe a diachronic pattern, with Proto-Aurignacian (Aurignacian 0) assemblages preceding Early Aurignacian (Aurignacian 1) occupations. Both technocomplexes precede the Heinrich-4 Event.

But is this paradigma correct?- I was always confused about the "Proto-Aurignacian" at Fumane and Abri Mochi (Balzi Rossi), where Carinated pieces were incorporated into the Proto-Aurignacian strata. A secondary mixing or an Archaeological reality?

Yvonne Tafelmaier, in her thesis has published detailled data about the topic.

"A study of Aurignacian 0 and 1 lithic assemblages from Labeko Koba (layers VII, VI, and V), Ekain layer IXb (both Basque Country / Spain), and Arbreda H (Catalonia / Spain) with special focus on laminar blank production has been conducted.

In addition to the empiric data secondary data on Proto-and early Aurignacian assemblage variability have been acquired. Significant overlaps with regard to technological as well as typological aspects became apparent. Both the typological (Laplace 1966) as well as the technological definition (Teyssandier et al. 2010) proved to be insufficient to clearly differentiate the two "entities".

Numerous assemblages exist that yield characteristics of both phases. Therefore a cultural interpretation featuring different technological traditions is rejected (Teyssandier 2006). In contrast, it is proposed to consider Aurignacian 0 and 1 occupations as more complex adaptive manifestations drawing upon a common technological Repertoire
.“

Therefore it seems reasonable to conclude that both entities were the emanation of one larger technocomplex that spread over Europe at ca 40 k.a. BP.

Suggested Reading:

Tafelmaier, Yvonne: Technological variability at the beginning of the Aurignacian in Northern Spain Implications for the Proto- and Early Aurignacian distinction / Wissenschaftliche Schriften des Neanderthal-Museums ; 9 - 2017

Surf the Blog: 1142 , here 1719 , here: 1483 , here: 1454 , here: 1717 , and here 1600




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