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2019-08-09 12:02:03   •   ID: 2114

Early Paleolithic Pleistocene European Straight-Tusked Elephants and early Humans

Figure 1: Pleistocene European Straight-Tusked Elephant; Wikipedia Commons

Figure 2
Figure 2-4 shows different views from a molar of an European Straight-Tusked Elephant the Elephas (Palaeoloxodon) antiquus (FALCONER & CAUTLEY, 1847), found within the Rhine- Region and stratigraphically dated to MIS 5 sediments- Credits to D. Döbert / Lorsch.

The Typical "Elephas Antiquus-Fauna", which contains Stephanorhinus kirchbergensis, Sus scrofa, Dama dama, Capreolus capreolus, Megaloceros giganteus, Alces latifrons, and Bos primigenius in addition to the straight tusked elephant is characteristic for the European Middle to Late Pleistocene Interglacial conditions. Under optimal conditions even Hippopotamus amphibius and Bubalus murrensis occurred.

Figure 3
This Faunal Association is especially found within a Mediterranean Core area, expanding to West and Central Europe under warm thermal conditions. The Eastern boundary of the Antiquus fauna can be roughly drawn from Poland to Romania.

Proboscideans are an order of mammals that include the living elephants as well as the extinct mammoths, mastodons and gomphotheres. All members of the order have a proboscis or trunk that they use to grab food and water.

They also have specialized teeth to browse and graze on vegetation as well as tusks (modified second upper incisors) used to scrape bark off trees, dig on the ground for food, and to fight.

The living three species of elephants on our planet are the African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana), the African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) and the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus).

Figure 4
Genetic evidence from four individuals of Straight-Tusked Elephants, from two well known sites in Central German sites (Neumark-Nord: n=3; MIS5) and Weimar Ehringsdorf (n=1; MIS7) indicates that P. antiquus mitochondrial genomes are related to African forest elephants.

This is of major interest, regarding that until recently Palaeontologists suggested, based on skeletal traits, that Palaeoloxodon was related to the Asian elephant.

Surprisingly, P. antiquus did not cluster with E. maximus, as hypothesized from morphological analyses. Instead, it fell within the mito-genetic diversity of extant L. cyclotis, with very high statistical support.

The four straight-tusked elephants did not cluster together within this mitochondrial clade, but formed two separate lineages that share a common ancestor with an extant L. cyclotis lineage 0.7–1.6 Ma (NN) and 1.5–3.0 Ma (WE) ago, respectively
“ (Meyer et al. 2017).

Figure 5 shows a transversal scraper from a Palaeoloxodon site in Spain, probably used in butchering Activities.

Experimental work shows, that even simple flakes, but also Handaxes, and Scrapers were used in the processing of Elephant carcasses during the Lower and Middle Paleolithic.

Figure 6 shows two typical Limestone Handaxes from Venosa, dated to the middle Pleistocene. Here a site with Palaeoloxodon antiquus fauna was "excavated" early in the 20th century.

The Archeological Record from the Levante to Europe, evaluated with up-to-date Methods (Isotope- techniques, TL, Microstratigraphy, Taphonomy, Strontium isotope analysis, Paleogenetic methods) allow a reliable reconstruction of Man- Elephant relationship focused on the following points:

    Figure 5
  • Nutritional importance of Meat and Fat: Getting access to large quantities of high quality Fat and Meat, whether by scavenging or active hunting (The Start of active hunting roughly coincidences with the Evolution of H. Erectus), was one important prerequisite of Human Encephalation, because inclusion of more animal food in the diet stimulated brains to enlarge.

    We argue that a significant aspect of meat and fat came from elephants, as long as elephants were available. It is true that Acheulian hominins consumed a large variety of other animals, but none of these resembles the “ideal” package of fat and meat offered by the elephant.

    The archaeological evidence clearly demonstrates that Acheulian homi- nins were not indifferent to such ideal food-packages that roamed Africa, Europe, Asia and the Levant during the Pleistocene, and ate elephants continuously over hundreds of thousands of years
    “ (Barkai and Gopher 2013).

    Ron Barkei even suggests, that: „ early hominins might have had taste preferences and that elephant meat played a significant role in their diet, when available.

    Furthermore, the archaeological evidence coupled with ethnographic observations and the study of frozen mammoths suggest that juvenile elephants were specifically a delicacy and were hunted intentionally since their specific meat and fat composition seems to have had a better taste and a better nutritional value
    “ (Barkai 2017)
  • .

  • Hunting / Scavenging / Exploitation of Elephants: An important prerequisite of a scientific evaluation of Killing / Slaughtering sites remains the proven integrity of the site.

    Participially we have to face two different scenarios:

    1. the exploitation of a single elephant carcass or

    2. A lithic industry in close association with multiple remains of elephants and other Mammalian Macrofauna.

    There are numerous Pleistocene associations of Elephants and Paleolithic sites. Killing of Elephants by early hunters is not easy to prove.

    Direct proof comes from sites, where hunting-devices (spears, fragments of stone tools found incorporated within bone) are embedded in the carcasses. Such settings remain certainly the most elegant evidence but are notorious rare.

    Killing or scavenging of Elephants and the consecutive butchering may indirectly evidenced by the nearby association of Stone tools, with microtraceologic evidence of slaughtering activities and stone tools cut marks on the Elephants bones before other carnifores had opportunity to consume the carcasses.

    It seems that the mortality pattern of processed animals was focused on young adults (Cerelli et al. 2016).

    A critical overview was recently published by Cerelli et al. (see attached papers). Aspects from some earlier excavated sites have been already described in this Blog.- here I focus on more recent excavations, mainly from South Europe.

  • Figure6
  • Important Archaeological sites: The earliest evidence of elephant carcass butchery comes from the Early to Middle Pleistocene of Africa. The main sites are FLK North Olduvai level 6 (1,82 Ma), FLK North Olduvai Bed II and Barogali (Djibouti) (ca 1,5 Ma).

    In Israel, Palaeoloxodon antiquus associated with lithic tools are reported from Gesher Benot Ya'akov (0,8 Ma). At Revadim Quarry, on the Israelian costal plain, Middle Pleistocene elephant bones with cut marks associated with bifaces made on stone and cortical elephant bone were present.

    South Europe was during the last years an important area of Paleolithic research. Many of the sites date to MIS 13 and are about 500 k.a. old.

    The exploitation of elephant (Palaeoloxodon) carcasses is documented in a number of Middle Pleistocene sites in Spain (Aridos 2, MIS 11 , Ambrona MIS 12) and France (Terra Amata; MIS 9-11).

    At Notarchirico (Basilicata), a Lower Palaeolithic industry, that included Bifaces and Choppers, was dated between 670 and 610 k.a. and associated with a skull of P. antiquus with the tusks still in place.

    The butchering site of La Ficoncella (Tarquinia, Latium) is slightly younger (MIS 13). Here, an incomplete P. antiquus carcass was associated with small sized lithics, resembling the Bilzingsleben / Vertesszöllös assemblages from the Middle Pleistocene.

    Important human-elephant interaction is documented during the late Middle Pleistocene from several sites near Rome, in particular at Castel di Guido, dated between 327 and 260 k.a. (MIS9).

    Castel di Guido is a famous Middle Pleistocene elephant butchering site where intentionally fragmented bones of elephant and of other large mammals were found together with Acheulean industry, including bifaces made of various stone types and of elephant bone, associated with flint tools on flakes.

    La Polledrara di Cecanibbio site is another locality near Rome with rich Palaeoloxodon antiquus deposits from the the Middle Pleistocene. Geology points to a flat fluvial-marshy landscape, with open spaces and moderately covered woodlands.

    Small Flake tools, made from small local flint pebbles, were found near a almost complete and articulated skeleton of an Elephant.

    Several of these Flakes, without and with simple retouches, occurred together were used for butchering / hiding purposes according to Microtraceology.

    Some larger tools (mainly scrapers) were made made from Elephants cortical bones. The age of the Archaeological Horizon is associated to the "Ponte Galeria Sequence", (PGS) dated as early as ca 450 k.a. (MIS 13).

    The La Polledrara site has been The archaeological horizon of Ficoncella is comprised between a tephra layer FIC1 attributed to a Sabatini eruption dated to ~499 k.a. and the FIC2 ignimbrite dated to ~441 ka (Aureli et al., 2016).

    In Greek the Older Paleolithic Site Marathousa ,Megalopolis Basin, Greece is of major importance. It is dated by ESR to MIS 13. The lithic industry is Mode 1 ( Core and Flake ensemble) of particular interest are an elephant cranium and numerous post-cranial elements, which were found in close anatomical association and are attributed to a single individual of the straight-tusked elephant Palaeoloxodon antiquus.

    The skeleton belonged to a male individual in its late adulthood close to or in its sixties, with live skeletal height around 3.7 m at the shoulder and body mass around 9.0 tonnes. The good state of preservation of the MAR-1 bones allows the identification of taphonomic modifications.

    Cut marks on the elephant skeleton, and on other elephant and mammal bones, indicate human exploitation by means of butchering activities, in accordance with the traits of the lithic assemblage and its spatial association with the bones.

    Carnivore activity is also recorded on some elephant and cervid bones. Marathousa 1 is among the oldest elephant butchering sites in Europe and the only one known in Southeastern Europe
    (Konidaris et al. 2018).

  • Spiritual aspects: Ron Barkai et al. recently discussed the Symbolic / Cosmologic connection between Elaphants and Man during the Pleistocene. Although somewhat speculative- his discussion opens new avenues of understanding the special relationship between our ancestors and Elephants (see for example the last external link)

  • Surf the Blog: see here 1295 , here 1216
, here: 1513 , here: 1743 and here 1629

Resources and images in full resolution:

2019-08-06 09:56:56   •   ID: 2113

Foliated Handaxes during the European Paleolithic

Figure 1
Figure 1 and 2: These are two foliated, ca 13 cm long, flat Handaxes found many decennia ago in two different brickyards at Vailly-sur-Aisne, were such Foliates were rather common during the Acheulian.

They may date to MIS 9 or 7. About the Acheulian at the Aisne see here: 1221 and here: 1230 .

Foliated Handaxes were first described by Obermaier and Wernert (Alt Paläolithikum mit Blatt-Typen; Mitt. d. Anthrop. Gesell. in Wien, 1929, pp. 293-310) within a KMG Ensemble from the Klausennische in Bavaria.

The Authors suggested a Late Acheulian Context for such items.

Much later it became clear that the Klausennischen- Ensemble is part of the KMG Group (Bosinski 1968) and probably dates to MIS3- a convergent phenomenon to similar and much earlier findings in N-France.

In Central Europe, a cluster of the KMG group, foliated Handaxes are common at Röhrsheim and also contested at Wahlen and Lenderscheid in Northern Hessen, already described in this Blog– See here: 1735 .

Interestingly almost all Foliates at Roersheim, probably a multilayered Workshop, were (intentionally ?) broken or alternatively left behind, while complete artifacts may have been exported from the site.

Similar leaf point–shaped fragments, also (intentionally) broken, were found in abundance on Beyvar Hill at Korolevo (Ukraine). The Layer Va has been dated by TL to 220 k.a. (MIS 7)- an age similar to the Brandschichten- complex at Ehringsdorf.

In N-France occasionally similar Foliated Handaxes appear at classic Acheulian sites like Presles-et-Boves (MIS 9-11; Aisne), within the Oise region, at Cagny (MIS 9 or 11; Somme), Mareuil (Somme) , Saint Acheul (MIS 7-9; Somme), Montières (MIS 7; Somme), but are uncommon at the so called „Micoquian" sites during MIS 5 (c. 100 – 90 k.a. BP) within the Seine region-see here: 1532 .

Foliated Handaxes in Europe are scattered in time and space and certainly are not a special "tradition" but only the statistical outliers of a group of elongated handaxes within the Acheulian and the KMG complex- more often reflecting a transitory moment in a versatile reduction process than an imposed form.

2019-08-01 09:13:53   •   ID: 2112

MTA from Coussay-les-Bois

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Figure 3
This is an 19th century field-find, once part of the local Ph. Cabey collection from Coussay-les-Bois.

The site is located about three kilometers from Coussay-les-Bois, near the former farm of Variet (or Verlet), on both sides of the road from Coussay-les-Bois to Pleumartin in the Vienne Department.

The artifact, shown here, is formally a broken partial Biface. Alternatively it could be a bifacial scraper, which is not only a hallmark of the KMG Group in central Europe, but also common in the Bifacial Mousterian in the Normandie and the MTA further south in Central-West France.

Figure 1 shows the countryside ofCoussay-les-Bois during the late 19th century from an old postcard.

The Middle Palaeolithic of Coussay was mentioned as early as 1872 in John Evans seminal Book "The Ancient Stone Implements, Weapons, and Ornaments of Great Britain" who wrote: Further south in Poitou, Paleolithic implements are abundant on the surface at Coussay-les-Bois and other places near Leugny.

L. Pradel described a rich surface MTA, mainly consisting of Cordiform and Triangular small (< 10 cm long) Handaxes, already described earlier in this Blog, various scrapers Discoid cores and questionable Levallois debitage.

The Coussay-les-Bois ensemble is geographically not isolated, being situated within a small distance of 30 km North-East from Fontmaure, and Châtellerault, with similar ensembles.

It fits perfectly in the abundant MTA sites in the Region-see here: 1536 , 1585 and here: 1021

Resources and images in full resolution:

2019-07-31 08:03:06   •   ID: 2111

Please do not throw the baby out with the bath water!: The Mode I industries of N-Africa

Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 1 and 2: This is a "Chopping Tool“, found decennia ago at Reggane / Algeria- see here: 2018

Sixty years ago, scientists were convinced of the presence of Early Mode I Stone Age industries all over the Maghreb and the adjacent Sahara.

These suggestions were based mainly on the composition and general morphology of large clusters of “Chopper” and “Chopping Tools”, that resembled artifacts from Olduvai Gorge.

While well-preserved fossils and artifacts within datable, sequential volcanic deposits have made East Africa an ideal ground for spectacular discoveries in a well-calibrated chronological framework, most Maghrebinian Mode I occurrences are from non-stratified scatters, can not be dated by volcanic ashes, and are generally lacking in associated fauna (Barski 2019).

A general critique on almost all Mode I scatters in N-Africa has been put forward by Raynal and Texier who doubt on the antiquity of the Maghrebinian “pebble culture”

They claim that the “pebble culture”- assemblages are either surface finds, reworked materials, the consequence of selective sampling, or even pseudo-artefacts generated by high-energy deposits.

On the other hand, an Oldowan at Aïn Hanech, near Sétif in northern Algeria, and at the nearby sites of El-Kherba and Ain Boucherit, dated as early as 1,8-2,4 Mya. are now generally accepted by the scientific community.

It remains unlikely that out there, nothing else is waiting for us to be detected and it remains unscientific to take the absence of evidence as the evidence of absence.

Most Paradigms are made to be replaced by other Paradigms one day...

Did you know?

Figure 3
Algeria had been chosen as early as July 1957 as the location for the first French nuclear tests, due to the existence of large inhabited regions in the south of the territory with geologically favorable conditions.

Figure 4
A 108,000 square kilometers inhabited zone was designated as military grounds and named Sahara Center for Military Experiments (Centre Saharien d’Expérimentations Militaires, CSEM).

Starting in October 1957, the French Atomic Energy Commission (Commissariat à l’énergie atomique, CEA) and the armed forces built the necessary facilities near Reggane, a small town of about 8,000 inhabitants, between 1957 and 1959.

The base and testing grounds were placed under military command. Up to 10,000 civilian and military personnel were stationed in and around Reggane
(Tertrais 2012)

(Figure 3 and 4 are Originals from my personal foto collection).

2019-07-29 10:46:36   •   ID: 2110

Early Flake Scrapers of N/W-Europe

Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 4
Figures 1-4: This is a large lower or middle Paleolithic Scraper (11x9x2 cm) made from a thick cortical flint flake (Figure 3) with a pronounced butt.

Made by hard hammer technique, It shows invasive, sub-parallel, semi stepped retouches on three margins.

It could been have made by a "Clactonian" or even by the late middle Paleolithic "Quina" technique.

It was one part of the Collection J. Boisgaard (found before 1930) in the Indre et Loire region. We miss further contextual information.

Such implements are part of the Acheulian ensemble at « La Grande Vallée » at Colombiers in Vienne. Archaeological, pedostratigraphic and TL results suggest an age for this lithic industries between 400 and 500 k.a.

There are also links between the « La Grande Vallée » and other, non dated industries of the Vienne and the Poitou-see 1587 .

Passing the English Channel- High Lodge in Suffolk shows a very peculiar industry without any Acheulian component, exclusively consisting of finely made Flake implements, with many parallels to the artifact of this post. Handaxes from the site are chronological more recent and are from a derived context.

At High Lodge the oldest sediments at the site, which include the Flake-Ensemble, consist of clayey-silts laid down as overbank sediments from the Bytham river, dated to MIS 13 or older. A pre-Anglian age is also supported by the remains of Stephanorhinus hundsheimensis.

The fauna and flora indicate a cool climate with vegetation dominated by pine and spruce together with juniper and heathland plants. The floodplain contained pools and marshland with seasonal flooding from the nearby river.

Over 1200 fresh flint artifacts were recovered from the clayey-silts, consisting of flakes, scrapers, notches and cores, but no evidence of handaxe manufacture (Ashton 1992).

Suggested Reading: High Lodge: Excavations by G. de G. Sieveking 1962-8 and J. Cook. Edited by by N.M. Ashton et al. 1992

2019-07-04 16:29:01   •   ID: 2109

An Epipaleolithic Projectile Point from Adrar Bous

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Figure 2
Adrar Bous is a granite massif of 12 km diameter in the Aïr Mountains on the western edge of the Ténéré Desert, Niger. Here I display an 5,3 cm long typical Ounanian Point from the Region- for further information see here 1541 and here 1544 .

Archaeological research at Adrar Bous, has produced finds spanning the Late Acheulean, Aterian, Epipaleolithic through to the Ténérian and remains of contemporaneous non-Ténérian Pastoralist complexes- see 1019 and 1368 .

Most notable are extensive remains of ritualized feasting by specialized Tenerian cattle pastoralists.

The first Archaeological observations have been made by Commander Joubert before 1940; they were summarily published by R. Vaufrey, who was impressed by the quality, size and beauty of “Ténérian” artifacts, mainly made of high quality vitric green tuff, then called green jasper.

A better knowledge of the Adrar Bous sites was acquired during the Berliet expeditions to Ténéré in 1959 and 1960. Five decades after the Berliet missions, a major scientific mission brought new isights into the local stratigraphy, especially focusing on the differentiation between the Epipaleolithic and subsequent Pastoral complexes.

Ounanian Points, known since the 1930s are undoubtedly a marker of Epipaleolithic trans-Saharan contacts, human diffusions and replacements. They are found in the Eastern Sahara, in the Acacus, in northern Niger, in northern Mali, and to the north-east of Mauritania, where they are rare.

The age of these artifacts seems to be decreasing from east to west, especially if we include the Harif-Ounanian points from Egypt into consideration, which corresponds to the idea scientists have today of the first Holocene settlement of the Sahara.

The Epipaleolithic Ounanian is widely present in northern Mali, as shown by Raimbault (1994) who studied in particular the site of Telig, whose reliability is guaranteed by a burial under a lake level and the absence of any Neolithic component.

The context of the Telig deposit makes it possible to envisage a previous installation at the maximum of the wet Holocene phase around 8000 BP" (Raimbault 1994).

In a different style the Epipaleolithic of Foum Arguin, between the Wadi Draa, the Gulf of Arguin and the western foothills of the Adrar, could be related to the Ounanian. It was also the work of hunter-gatherers who did not know ceramics and agriculture followed the local Pastoral complex only 1,5 k.a. later. (Vernet 2004)- see: 1260

Suggested Reading: Robert Vernet: Le golfe d'Arguin de la préhistoire à l'histoire : littoral et plaines intérieures (via

Adrar Bous: archaeology of a central Saharan granitic ring complex in Niger /​ J. Desmond Clark et al. Tervuren, Belgium : Royal Museum for Central Africa, 2008.

2019-06-27 16:40:09   •   ID: 2108

Quartz Arrowheads from the early late Holocene in Senegal

Figure 1
These are some examples of arrowheads, exclusively made from Quartz, coming from a large surface scatter in N- Senegal. The typology of these artifacts, presumably from the second millennium BC, differ somewhat from their earlier counterparts in the Sahara, described by Hugot during the 1950ies, but this may be explained by the morphological constraints of the splintery raw material.

The operational sequence begins with the detachment of small flakes (max 2 cm long) from homogeneous quartz. Subsequently the margins of the arrowheads were retouched. In a further step the upper face was covered with flat retouches. The lower face may completely plain or was also covered by flat retouches, sometimes only over a limited part of its surface.

Figure 2
Until the 3rd millennium BC, the Neolithic occupation of West Africa was concentrated in the mountains of the Sahara (Tassili n'Ajjer, Hoggar, Adrar des Iforas and Aïr), to the paleolakes of the Taoudenni Basin and the Banc d’Arguin wetlands in Mauritania.

Human groups mainly practiced hunting and fishing in a more or less wooded savannah environment. Cattle breeding, which appeared during the 7th millennium BC, was then extended to the entire Taoudenni basin. The Ténérian-see 1019 and here: 1368 is a typical complex of such pastoral societies, although there is much variably, regarding raw material and artifactual composition.

Figure 2
In the Sahel, traces of occupation dating from this period are more rare and take the form of microlithic quartz industries, sometimes mixed with shards of pottery. These remains are interpreted as the material manifestations of hunter-gatherers who, in contact with the Saharan populations, adopted "Neolithic" technologies such as ceramics. Quartz remained a preferred raw material even during later times.

At the turn of the second millennium BC, the aridification of the climate intensified and the current climatic conditions are progressively taking place: a long dry season, interrupted in summer by two months of rains linked to the West African monsoon.

Figure 3
The northern limit of the Sahel changed from 22 ° N to 17 ° N during three millennia, leading to shrinking and then disappearing of savanna areas around the mountain ranges and the gradual drying up of paleolakes and Saharan rivers.

From the second millennium BC, the sites are nevertheless fewer in the Sahara than in the Sahel. The occupation is also becoming denser south of Sebkha in Mauritania, around the inner Niger Delta and in the Gao regions of Mali and the Niger river valley.

The hypothesis most commonly used to explain this phenomenon is that the aridification of the climate would have led the Neolithic societies of the Sahara to migrate to the current Sahelian zone.

2019-06-15 14:01:08   •   ID: 2107

The Earliest Middle Paleolithic at St. Acheul (Amiens)

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This is a rather small Handaxe (10 cm long) found as early as 1874 at St. Acheul-it was former Part of the Evans and Dewey collection. The morphology of this artifact is not typical for the Lower Paleolithic around Amiens.

The Amiens Region provides a deep stratigraphy between MIS 15- MIS 3. The last Acheulian with elongated and pointed handaxes was found in the “limon fendillé” (Sol de Rocourt; Last Interglacial; MIS 5e).

According to V. Commont, the oldest Middle Paleolithic at St Acheul was present in the gravels between the “limon fendillé” and the lower sandy “ergeron” a greyish loam (« limon gris de Ladriere; Sol de Warneton»)- therefore after MIS5e and before MIS4.

The “egeron” has been identified as representing MIS 5c (Brörup interstadial)- the first phase of climatic improvement of the beginning of the Weichselian glacial, characterized by the formation of a grey forest soil under a boreal forest- and MIS 5a (Ødderade interstadial)-a temperate interstadial, characterized by the formation of a second grey forest soil.

This Middle Paleolithic is currently designed as a Mousterian of Acheulean tradition and includes Mousterian Points and scrapers together with many Levallois flakes which are not retouched.

The handaxes are of different morphology: Commont described wonderful flat cordiform and triangular items similar to others in N-France (St Juste en Chaussee, Catigny, Marcoing…) but also smaller Bifaces, similar to the Bifacial Mousterien in the Orne Region and thicker and cruder forms, like the one that is shown in this post.

According to the associated fauna (Mammoth, Reindeer...), Commont called this part of the sequence: “Mousterien ancient a faune froide”.

It is clearly not the first Middle Paleolithic in the Amiens area: At Montières, see: 1627 , 1519 , 2059 , Victor Commont in 1912 described a Middle Paleolithic assemblage, produced from Levallois flakes, which included numerous elongated blades made by a volumetric technique and pointed handaxes.

This ensemble is attributed to MIS 7 associated with a temperate fauna and represents one of the earliest Middle Palaeolithic of continental north-west Europe with a volumetric laminar débitage.

2019-06-09 10:06:53   •   ID: 2106

Archeologists and Collectors: Different Worlds

Figure 1
Here I display early 20th century findings - a Middle Paleolithic scraper from Venosa (Basilicata, Italy; Figure 1 and 2) and a small Handaxe from Fontmaure (Vienne, France; Figure 3).

While the first item was part of a private collection of a Professor from Padua, the second comes from the Excavator of Fontmaure L. Pradel, parts of his collection were sold after his death.

Science is the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of natural phenomena.

The reliability of the scientific results can be verified or falsified by the replication of the investigation, the validation by other investigations and by theoretical models.

Figure 2
Therefore, science is an open process, working with hypotheses that can be verified or falsified.

Paleolithic archaeology has become a highly specialized, interdisciplinary scientific discipline, therefore, there can be no hobby archaeologists- as there are no hobby doctors.

Most of the founders of modern Prehistoric research were keen collectors themselves, and even F. Bordes gave away artifacts from Corbiac as "souvenirs" to others.

Today there are virtually no points of contact between scientists and collectors of Paleolithic artifacts, which is the logical consequence of the professionalization of Archaeological science and the unproven paradigm, that collecting artifacts will inevitably stimulating looting. For some archeologists, collectors are criminal, dull and ignorant creatures.--but that's it...

Collectors of Paleolithic artifacts may find Paleolithics during systematic field-walks ideally under the auspices of local authorities, others are more interested in the beauty and aura of exceptional pieces or representative tool-kits from a provenanced location see: 1392 .

Collectors are deeply emotional involved in their collections, they are an important part of their Identity, and well-being. I know collectors, who assemble "fossil directeurs" from the French Paleolithic, collect only perfect symmetrical Handaxes, assemble exceptional lithics from Eurasia and Africa- the motives for a collection are manyfold....

The common view of Archaeolocists, that antiquities are collected for gaining social prestige is reductionist, dismissive and insufficient. The same hols true for psychopathological interpretations, although collectionitis occures in certain individuals.

Figure 2
Regarding the fact that many thousands of Paleolithic artifacts were amassed in large Collections during the late 19th and early 20th century, especially in France, where private activities were allowed until 1941, the collector can choose from items circulating in collectors networks without getting involved into legal issues.

There is simply no need to acquire items from looting operations and of course Collectors should develop a sensible ethical view on collecting. A network between other collectors remains the best option for the acquisition of legal and authentic Stone tools.

Anyhow, even the fact that Paleolithic artifacts in private hands are decontextualized, they may be recontextualized, which is far the best what a collector can do with scientifically uninteresting stone tools- for his/her own pleasure and the pleasure of others.

Suggested Reading: Erin Thompson: Possession: The Curious History of Private Collectors from Antiquity to the Present

2019-05-24 12:15:40   •   ID: 2104

The Late Middle Paleolithic of the Aisne Valley

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This is an unusual large (9 cm long) quadrangular Levallois flake from Pont Arcy in the Aisne Valley, most probably made by the “preferential” or “linear” Levallois technique.

It is characterized by multiple small continuous abrupt ("Ouchtata-like") retouches over its entire circumference.

The dorsal edges are damaged, most probably by post-depositional processes, creating a "Pseudo-Truncation" on the distal part. It does not look like a facetted truncated piece or "Kostenki edge".

This artifact was found by a Parisian collector, during the years 1905-1910 at the Aisne and remains without any contextual information, like most of the Paleolithic findings in this area.

Figure 2
The river Aisne belongs to the drainage basin of the river Seine in northern France. It rises in the forest of Argonne, at Rembercourt-Sommaisne, near Sainte-Menehould. It flows north and then west before joining the Oise near Compiègne.

A quarter of this distance the river flows through the rolling chalk landscape of Champagne. For the remaining distance the valley cuts through Tertiary limestone plateau, forming a flat-bottomed corridor with steep sides.

The valley floor is covered by gravel terraces with loam on top. A Pleistocene loess cover is almost non-existent, contrary to what is observed in other valleys of the northern part of the Paris Basin, that of the Somme in particular.

The Paleolithic of the Aisne Valley is well known but remains for its larger parts virtually undated and from secondary context. It is often highlighted in Museums like the Metropolitan Museum (see attached link)- but more as an example of excellent workmanship or even early art, than for its scientific value see here 1221 , here 1430 , here: 1230 , and here 1424 .

In particular, abundant Acheulian findings with magnificent bifaces have found during the 19th/early 20th century. They perfectly are comparable to those of the late Acheulian of the Somme.

The same holds through for the non-dated Middle Paleolithic. Therefore, the Middle Paleolithic Levallois in-situ findings at Courmelles, attesting an occupation on a plateau site, dated to MIS 5a are one of the rare exceptions from the rule of secondary contexts at the Aisne.

Most artifacts are made from Quartzite, but the use of homogeneous flint, if available, was not uncommon, especially during the Middle Paleolithic.

Small scatters of Large Levallois Flakes without or with retouches are not rare in nearby parts of N- France and usually belong to MIS 4/3 boundary. They have been interpreted as the remains of short-term hunting camps.

The site of Havrincourt, excavated during the construction of the Canal Seine-North Europe revealed "eight Levallois flakes, four of which are extremely large, in primary position. They are contained in brown silt correlated to the end of the Lower Pleniglacial or to the very beginning of the Middle Weichselian Pleniglacial.

These flakes are standardized and reflect the interest in creating a specific shape and size. They were produced outside the excavated zone (2,000 m2) and used on site (or in the immediate vicinity of the site), as shown by the use-wear study and the faunal remains.

The neighbouring site of Hermies “le Tio Marché” revealed the presence of similar flakes. The preferential Levallois flakes could have been mislaid or deliberately discarded at the site
(Goval et al. 2015).

Several researchers have noted that the repeated use of a Preferential Levallois technique during MIS 5 and 3 for the production of large thin flakes was one successful technological choice of Neanderthals in the creation of standardized debitage during the late Middle Paleolithic in N- France