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2018-10-19 18:45:02   •   ID: 2042

Grooved Abraders / Stone Polishers

Figure 1
This is a tool, made from sandstone, from the Saharan desert, found associated with Neolithic Arrowheads.

The multiple U- shaped grooves have a diameter between 5-9 mm.

I have already written about early polished artifacts and their functional advantages see here 1371 , but nothing about Grooved Abraders or Stone Polishers.

Their chronology may provide important informations about technological advances of our ancestors.

Grooved Abraders were for example used:

  • as arrow shaft straighteners together with controlled heat
  • for polishing beads
  • for shaping bone and antler objects


Grooved Abraders during the Paleolithic appeared not before the moment, when organic materials became important. The discovery of bone awls and projectile points at a number of Still Bay and Howiesons Poort sites in South Africa, securely dated to between 75 k.a. and 60 k.a. , as well as the recent finding of a polished bone knife from Dar-es Soltan 1 cave, ca. 90 k.a. old, should prompt the search of early polishing stones during the MSA.

Currently only one example has been reported from the MSA of Klasies River (S-Africa)- unfortunately without any final publication.

European Paleolithic Grooved Abraders, most of them were made from sandstone are known from the Middle/ Late Magdalenian and were first reported from Gourdan (Piette 1873) and later from La Madeleine (Capitan and Peyrony 1928) and other sites like Isturitz and Duruthy.

But such tools are much more older in Europe. The last inventory was published 25 years ago by Sophie A. De Beaune (see external link).

From here data it is evident, that Polishers are known since the Aurignacian II at Poùligny-Sâint Pierre (Indre) but seem to be more common during the Gravettian.

Gravettian sites include the Grotte d'Isturitz), Sâint-Mârtin-d'Arberesue (Pyrénées-Atlantiques); Abri Pataud, Les Eyzies-de-Tâyac (Dordogne; the Grotte du Trilobite, Arcy sùr Cure (Yonne); Abri du Petit-Puyroùsseau, Périgueux (Dordogne) and Grotte d'Engis, province de Liège (Belgium).

Many of the abraders have some similarities with the Neolithic piece shown in this blog.

Figure 2
More standardized polishers, mainly of baguette appearance with transversal grooves are known from the Near Eastern Epipaleolithic / Natufian and PPNA and B times (Figure 2).It is no surprise that such tools were imported by the first LBK-farmers when they arrived into Central / West Europe.

Irina Usacheva gives an account about the transverse grooved artifacts from southwestern Asia and northern Eurasia. Some remarks about Grooved Abraders / Stone Polishers in the Sahara, which resembles polishers from the Near East can be found via persee.

2018-10-19 18:39:31   •   ID: 2038

A Thick retouched Levallois Point from Bir Tarfawi

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Figure 2
Figure 3
This is a small, 5 cm long and rather thick triangular "Levallois Point" with lateral retouches. Figure 1 shows the artifact from the ventral side, Figure 2 displays the facetted base and Figure 3 continuous retouches on one margin of the point.

Note that this Levallois points is conceptional very different from the Levallois-Mousterian in the Levant and Europe, where delicate, sometimes elongated items are present: see here 1613 . It resembles similar points from the Nubian Complex.

Important data from the Western Oases on the Egyptian Middle Paleolithic / MSA come from Bir Tarfawi and to a lesser part from Bir Sahara East. These two basins have yield a sequence of five humid intervals with MP/MSA tools.

The last four cyclic humid phases, characterized by permanent lakes and separated by periods of aridity were present at Bir Tarfawi between 175-75 k.a. BP.

"Grey Lakes 1-3 and Green Lake" took place in the same basins. The earliest phase occurred in the "White Lakes", a separate and higher basin, dated to ca 175 k.a. with some reservation.

Gray Lake 1 with the important Site BT-14 is dated to MIS 5e (ca 130 k.a.), while the Green Lake was represented the last Pleistocene humid phase at 75 k.a. After MIS4 (ca 60 k.a.) hyper-arid conditions were present. The area was virtually abandoned during the periods of hyperaridity that separated the lacustrine events.

It is suggested, that the lakes existed in a savanna or wooded savanna landscape which supported large animals such as rhinoceros, giant buffalo, giraffe and giant camel but also wild ass and various antelopes and gazelles, hare, porcupine, and wild cat.

Fish were present in the lakes, including species that today are found only in the Nile, Chad and Niger basins, evidence that the lakes were occasionally part of a regional drainage system.

There are several Middle Paleolithic /MSA sites, a minority characterized by the Nubian- Levallois technique, that are associated with the lake deposits.

Sites occur in a variety of settings, each with distinctive assemblages of artifacts and apparently used in different ways.

It is interesting that during these 100 k.a. neither the ways of raw material procurement / processing nor the settlement system changed. The Nubian Levallois technology was restricted to specific MIS5 scatters.

Most of artifacts are made of quartzitic sandstone of various colors and textures. Workshops for these materials lie 3–5km east of Bir Tarfawi, where outlines of pits and trenches are still evident on the surface and the surrounding area is littered with thick flakes and other workshop debris, but almost no cores or tools.

The basic system of lithic production was the classic and Nubian Levallois debitage. The main tool classes comprise scrapers, "Mousterian Points", denticulates and notches.

The only evident changes are the presence of bifacial foliates around 130 k.a., and of stemmed ("Aterian") tools, which were found on the surface and were tentatively dated to the end of the Green Phase under already arid conditions about 70 k.a. Neither of these is likely to have been a local development.

The apparent differences in the faunal content among sites in different settings may reflect variations in activities carried out at the sites. Sites embedded in fossil hydromorphic soils, characterized by low artefact densities, indicate limited use, probably comprising several brief phases and these only during very dry years.

Sites embedded in beach sands were accessible for a greater part of the year, but probably not during the season of highest water, presumably in summer.

Suggested Readings:

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

The Prehistory of Dakhla Oasis and Adjacent Desert (Wroclaw, 1977).

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

2018-10-19 18:37:33   •   ID: 2037

The Late Glacial In Westphalia

Figure 1
Figure 1: This are two projectile points, the largest is 45 mm long, from a "Federmesser" scatter in Westpahlia.

While the Rhine valley Federmesser encampments are well known in the international literature, less has been published about the sites in Westphalia North Rhine-Westphalia encompasses the plains of the Lower Rhine region and parts of the Central German Uplands (Mittelgebirgsregion) up to the gorge of the Porta Westfalica.

The state covers an area of 34,083 km² and shares borders with Belgium in the southwest and the Netherlands in the west and northwest. It has borders with the German states of Lower Saxony to the north and northeast, Rhineland-Palatinate to the south and Hesse to the southeast. Approximately half of the state is located in the relative low-lying terrain of the Westphalian Lowland and the Rhineland.

The Westphalian Cretacious Bay (Westphälische Bucht) opens  towards the Northern German Lowlands (Norddeutsche Tiefebene) northwest  extending broadly into the  North European Plain. The terrain rises towards the south and in the east of the state into parts of Germany's Central Uplands.

These hill ranges are the Weser Uplands - including the Wiehen Gebirge (Hills), the Wesergebirge and the Teuteburg Forest in the east, the Sauerland, the Bergisches Land, the Siegerland and the Siebengebirge in the south, as well as the left-Rhenish Eifel in the southwest of the state.

The Rothaargebirge in the border region with Hessen rises to height of about 800 m above sea level. The Bølling-Allerød interstadial is the initial warm phase during the Weichselian late glacial that is followed by the cold Younger Dryas stadial.

The ice-core record shows that rapid climatic amelioration occurred within only a few years at the onset of the Lateglacial circa 14.7 k.a. BP. Fossil Coleoptera assemblages in Britain suggest a rapid increase in mean annual temperature from circa -8 up to +7°C within only a couple of centuries.

In north-western Europe this warming is reflected by the replacement of a heliophilous herbaceous vegetation by dwarf shrubs communities and later on by forest. In the lowland areas of The Netherlands, vegetation directly responded to climate change by a gradual development of birch forest during the Bølling.

Highest temperatures were reached during the Bølling, followed by a prolonged cooling trend towards the Younger Dryas thermal minimum. According to the current paradigm, Post-LGM resettlement  of what is now Germany took place from the South/West and maybe also from Central Europe in a bidirectional manner.

The Westphalian bay was "no mans land" during these times, as no traces of a late Magdalenian have detected here, despite a nearly 150 years of research history. The Westphalian lowlands, were usually thought to have been populated only during the late Allerød-Interstadial (GI-1c1)by "Federmessergruppen".

Recent research (Holzkämper 2013), however, indicates that this zone became populated already during the early Allerød-Interstadial (GI-1c3; 14,k.a. calBP). Important sites in this context are the Rietberg, Reken, (Frille?), Borken- Gemenkrückling and Haltern-Lavesum sites defining the so called "Rietberg facies" , which is attributed to the Early Federmessergruppen (Azilian).

The Rietberg sites constitute the earliest evidence of post-Last Glacial Maximum human settlement in the region. These inventories encompass beside Azilian Bipoints, shouldered points,  angle-backed points,  trapezoidal points  curve-backed Monopoints, long B-points and Zinken.

This facies resemble “Cepoy-Marsangy Type” ensembles in Northern France. By contrast with the early Federmessser sites, Salzkotten-Thüle, in the eastern Westphalian Basin, represents a short-term camp belonging to the late (pine dominated) Allerød closer to 13 k.a. cal BP and thus as much as a millennium younger.

It comprises some 3000 lithic artefacts overwhelming made on locally available Baltic flint, dominated overwhelmingly by short end scrapers followed by backed tools. It falls clearly into the definition of the late Federmessser-Groups.

Similar sites in Westphalia are known from Weißes Venn (Stadt Senden / Kreis Coesfeld),  Westerkappeln, Kreis Tecklenburg,  Wandhofen (Stadt Schwerte, Kreis Unna. These late  Allerød sites have some similarities to the well known Federmesser sites of the Rhineland and the to the Federmesser-site of Rüsselsheim 122, situated in the lower Main region near Frankfurt (Germany).

Figure 2
After the return of the cold, during the younger Dryas at 12 k.a. BP, Ahrensburgian groups entered the Westphalian uplands (Hohler Stein near Kallenhardt, Externsteine), and the nearby southern Lower Saxony Bergland near Göttingen, as well as the Kartstein rock-shelter (northern Eifel) and the site of  Remouchamps in the Belgian Ardennes. Figure 2 shows a typical Ahrensburg point, 2,3 cm long.

The  Hohler Stein 2,5 km southwest of Kallenhardt is located in a lovely valley named Loermecketal . The cave is about 40 meters long. During earlier examinations about 1500 artifacts, most of them from flint exploited from nearby sources were found.

Most of them were related to the Ahrensburg culture.  Numerous faunal remains, especially from Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), but also from Woolly Rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis), Cave Bear (Ursus spelaeus), Arctic Fox (Alopex lagopus), Snow Grouse (Lagopus mutus) have been identified.  One of these remains, a pierced animal teeth (dog / wolfe) that probably was used as a pendant, is suggested to be the oldest (known) Westphalian piece of jewelry.

Suggested Reading: "Westfalen in der Alt- und Mittelsteinzeit". For free in the external link section. This book will certainly complement and update the still very readable and excellent publication of Klaus Günter: Alt- und mittelsteinzeitliche Fundplätze in Westfalen, Teil 1 + Teil 2.(1986, 1988)

2018-10-18 12:28:38   •   ID: 2034

The Early Paleolithic of Lebanon: A Marginal Matter?

Figure 1
This is a thick, patinated Handaxe from Habboûch (Arabic: حبّوش‎) in southern Lebanon, situated in the foothills Mount Lebanon ca. 20 km S/E of Sidon. The artifact was once part of Mlle. Germaine Henri-Martins collection, who made excavations with D:A:E Garrod during the late 1950ies in the Country.

For the Levant G. Sharon proposed a three stage model for theAcheulean: The first stage is represented by the the ∼ 1.5 Ma site of ‘Ubeidiya. The ensemble is characterized by elongated handaxes, often trihedral and picks, chopping tools, and spheroids.

The second distinct stage is a Large Flake Acheulian, represented by the Gesher Benot Ya'aqov (GBY), dated to ca 800 k.a. BP. The ensemble is based on the use of large basalt flakes as blanks for the production of handaxes and cleavers, unique in the Near East.

Later ensembles from ca 500-300 k.a. are much more common and have allready discussed -see here 1171 .

If the model derived from the Israeli data can be extended to the Lebanese corridor, can not be answered-simply because a lack of data.

Lorraine Copeland and Peter J. Wescombe during the 1960ies published an Inventory of Stone Age sites in Lebanon
Figure 2: trihedral pick from Joub Jannine II
.Their number of sites, attributed to the Lower Paleolithic, increased during the last years from 37 to the modest number of a total of 46 sites, reported by S. El Zaatari in 2018.

One important Acheulian site is Joub Jannine II on the right bank of the Litani river, detected in 1967 and first described by Father Fleisch in 1960. More than 100 handaxes were found, mainly trihedrals and lanceolated items, offen with a rostrocarinated end. Most bifaces are made by hard hammer, a few indicate occasional soft hammer. The archaeological horizon is not dated but resemble early Paleolithic sites in Israel.

Beside this site, the Acheulean is known selectively from surface, not only from the costal plain, but also from the foothills of Mount Lebanon and Antilebanon and the Bekaa valley. These are single find-spots or small scatters with no contextual information. A minority of sites is handaxe free ("Tayacien").

The Acheulo -Yabrudian (at Adloun and Masloukh) has already described elsewhere in the blog.

Surf the Blog: see here 1171 , here 1602 , and here 1423 .

Suggested Readings:

Enzel, Yehouda and Bar-Yosef, Ofer; Enzel, Yehouda; Bar-Yosef, Ofer. Quaternary of the Levant: Environments, Climate Change, and Humans. Cambridge University Press; 2017.

2018-10-17 15:17:50   •   ID: 2033

A Possible Projectil Point from Mt Carmel; Israel

Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 1,2,3: This is a Mousterian point made on a thick Levallois Point from Mt. Carmel / Israel with a burination bending fracture along the right lateral edge of near the tip, ending with a step termination.

Could it be a projectile? Standardized experiments with stone-tipped weapons have been applied as a methodological approach in the investigation of prehistoric flint points since the late 1970s.

The first experimentally based studies described diagnostic impact fractures (DIF) and con­firmed the function of Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic points of various types as tips of projectile weapons.

Subsequent experiments involved point types characteristic of earlier periods (Mousterian Points, MSA Points) and extended the range of research objectives including such issues as invention of projectile weapons and human evolution.

Producing mechanically projected weaponry (bow and arrow) would imply that people were capable of constructing high-tensile strings and sometimes complex adhesives, both of which involve multi-stage planning and assembling.

These technologies may have assisted in niche broadening among modern humans expanding out of Africa after c. 50 k.a. or even earlier (70 k.a. BP; Howiesons Poort industry in South Africa), by providing a flexible technology allowing them to focus more intensely on certain foods while broadening their overall dietary base.

At present there are contentious issues around when and where different hunting weapon types appear in the archaeological record. Because organic components of hunting weapons rarely survive over extended periods of time, Archaeologists rely mostly on contextual evidence, such as macro-fracture patterns to interpret prehistoric hunting technologies.

A macro-fracture can be defined as a fracture that is visible with the naked eye or with a hand lens. DIF’s are macro-fractures that have been shown through experiments to be associated with stone artifacts used as weapon tips. The assumption is that these fractures are caused by longitudinal impact during use (e.g. hunting), and that variations of this use will leave different breakage patterns on the tools.

The characteristics of impact function, based on macro-fracture analysis,  are considered universal for hunting tools of flint and related raw materials (Fischer et al. 1984). There are several DIF breakage types, but only step terminating fractures , unifacial spin-off fractures larger than 6 mm, bifacial spin-off fractures and the very variable class of impact burination have been widely referred to as the primary DIF types to identify the potential use of stone tipped weaponry.

In a review and discussion Coppe and Rots (2017) point to various inconsistencies of the DIF concept. They ask for a more detailed description of probable impact fractures, namely of initiation, propagation and termination of breakage patterns.

Anyhow the question remains: what would happen, if the suggested projectiles were used for other tasks (grooving, boring…). They may occur on a stone projectile but unfortunately they are unspecific. Such damage can also result from a variety of other activities (such as trampling and knapping) and should not be used alone as potential indicators of projectile impact (Villa et al., 2009).

Rots highlighted that: "specific use-wear patterns can be defined for various actions such as cutting, scraping, whittling, grooving or boring, and various worked material such as wood, bone, antler, meat, hide, etc., the features of which are mainly microscopic". She also emphasized that the breakage pattern of different point morphologies is different (Rots 2008).

Only personal experience, that takes into account the lithic raw material, specific actions on specific worked material, macroscopic and microscopic wear patters, combined with large experimental body of evidence will settle the confusion, that seems to be existent in the actual discussions of the identification of lithic projectiles in Prehistory.

Surf the Blog: see here 1608 , here 1501 , here: 1500 , and here 1361

2018-10-16 12:11:26   •   ID: 2032

Interconnectivity: On the possible Nature of the MSA in the Murzuq Desert

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Figure 2
Figure 3
These are several MSA artifacts from a single find-spot in the Erg Murzuq, rich in non-tanged stone tools. We see a magnificent Bifacial Foliate, bi- and mono-facial points and bifacial scrapers, and of major interest- a 9 cm long backed and arched piece, all better executed than the usual debitage in the Murzuq.

The episodic nature of the Glacial / Interglacial cycles within the Pleistocene is explained by a theory referring to cyclical changes in the Earths circumnavigation of the Sun, as predicted by the Milutin Milankovitch, a Serbian astronomer.

He noted three cyclical changes, that heavily alter the insolation of the Earth, namely:

(1) Earth's eccentricity, with fluctuating orbital shape that ranges between more and less elliptical (0 to 5% ellipticity) on a cycle of about 100 k.a.

(2) Changes in the inclination of the Earths axis (tilt) in relation to its orbit around the Sun. Oscillations in the degree of tilt (between 21.5 to 24.5 degrees), occur on a periodicity of 41.ka.

(3) Cycles is Earth's precession which refers to the Earths slow wobble as it spins on axis. It has a periodicity of 23 k.a.

Regarding N-Africa, the combination of the three cycles had a deep impact on the cyclical desertification and "green Sahara" episodes.

"Insolation changes have driven monsoon dynamics and the periodical onset of humid episodes in North Africa over the last few million years, resulting in the greening of the Sahara and savannah expansion throughout most of the desert at times.

These so-called African humid periods (AHPs) were the consequence of a remarkable transformation of the hydrological cycle over North Africa, related to the intensification of the African summer monsoon in response to increased insolation and subsequent northward migration of the Intertropical Convergence Zone
" (Skonieczny et al. 2015.

Reconstruction of the last African Humid Period (AHP) 11–5 k.a. BP, show isolated wetlands, small lakes and perineal rivers but no Megalakes, comparable to the Lake Megachad, in the Sahara, an observation that can be extrapolated to MIS5 and maybe even to the AHPs of Middle Pleistocene age, too.

The evidence for continuous humid corridors and interconnected waterways through the central Sahara may have allowed a north and westward dispersal of hominins originating in other regions of Africa. And in fact- such corridors have been localized in the Murzuq.

If the Murzuq was the recipient area for dispersals, it seems reasonable to take Central /West-Africa and East Africa as source areas into consideration.

Arguing in this way, lithics should have some resemblance to the very variable East African MSA (uni- and bifacial points, backed pieces) and Central/West Africa (mainly bifacial Foliates).

Indeed the artifacts found at "find-spot 43", more than 40 years ago have a Central / East African signature. This holds true for the "Lupemban-like" foliate as to the ached-backed element, which is unusually large, but has for-runners, for example, in the (smaller) MIS5 dated backed pieces, for example from Mumbwa cave .

The quasi absence of tanged pieces in the ensemble and the low frequency of the Levallois-technique fits the hypothesis, that the regional MSA was diversified, with the "Aterian" being only one "facies" (maybe derived from the Nubian complex) in the Lithic record.

Surf the Blog: see here 1751 , here 2030 , and here 2010

2018-10-14 14:17:19   •   ID: 2031

Leafpoints (Blattspitzen) of Germany

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Figure 2
This is a rather crude Leaf point or an elongated symmetric "Faustkeilblatt" from the Lenderscheid site near Kassel (courteously by H. Heidenreich / Tübingen).

Leafpoint industries were widely spread in Europe, especially during MIS3 in Central Europe.

The oldest Leaf points in Europe come from layer VI at Korolevo and have been dated to between 220,000 to 280,000 years ago (OIS 7). Large Leaf points, resembling African Foliates (up to 12- to 20-cm long), have also been recovered from layer Va in trench XIII on Beyvar Hill at Korolevo.

There are a lot of sites with Leaf points (“Blattspitzen”) in Germany, especially in Hessen / Westphalia and S/W-Germany. Most of these “sites” are single-finds (Coesfeld-Flamschen, Lage-Hörste, Mundelsheim, Birklar, Bracht, Rauschenberg, Edertal-Böhne, Kassel-Nordhausen). They offer no contextual information, like several very small ensembles, excavated a long time ago (Nördlingen- große und kleine Ofnet, Möhrsheim Steinerner Rosenkranz).

Other sites have a workshop character with unclear stratigraphy (Lenderscheid, Röhrsheim, Beltershausen).

Some rare sites have been dated to an Interstadial during OIS-3 (Oerel? / Glinde? / Hengelo?) between 50-35 k.a. BP. It is generally suggested, that such industries were produced by Neanderthals.

From a typological and maybe also from a chronological point of view, Leafpoints are often associated with a Middle Paleolithic with Micoquian affinities (Lenderscheid, Röhrsheim, Wahlen), especially if triangular handaxes and other artifacts of the Middle European Micoquian are present.

The famous and extremely fine Blattspitzen from Mauern in Bavaria come from an Interstadial and are also clearly associated with middle Paleolithic material, while the Interstadial Ranis site (Stratum 2) shows both Jerzmanovice (Beedings)- points and classical Blattspitzen with a laminar tendency. Good news: Ranis is again under excavation since 2016!

Blattspitzen at the Bavarian sites at Zeitlarn I und II and Albersdorf are associated with Upper Paleolithic tools and maybe associated with the Moravian Szeletian.

Lenderscheid-Surf the Blog: see here 1624 , here 1712 , 2027 , here: 1625 .

2018-10-14 14:17:19   •   ID: 2030

Handaxe Refinement and long durée in the Acheulean

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Figure 2
This is a beautiful elongated 25 cm long refined Handaxe, found 40 yrs ago in the Erg Murzuq in Libya. This enormous sand sea is a massive, “monolithic” desert east of the Acacus mountain range and south of Wadi Metkhendoush. See here: 1030 and here: 1751 .

Please note the thinness, straight edges, and the high degree of symmetry which are important for the following discussion.

"Archaeological evidence indicates that the refinement and symmetry of Acheulean bifaces were proper- ties intentionally imposed by hominins.

Given the cutting function of handaxes, it is likely that a straight edge was also a desirable feature for Acheulean knappers.

If the goal in biface manufacture was to create thin, symmetrical, straight-edged pieces, then the lack of motivation amongst hominins to enhance such variables can be disregarded as a mitigating factor, as would be necessary with behavioural studies of living subjects"
(Shipton et al 2018).

Therefore, is seems reasonable that refinement of a handaxe could be defined by thinness, edge straightness, and symmetry.

Variability of Handaxe refinement is a multivariate function of raw material, blank morphology, individual and collective skills, site function, duration of stay, functional requirements and different percussion techniques, that were used.

These factors are only captured insufficiently in any evaluation of Handaxe refinement. Therefore, it is not surprising that studies with different outcome exist.

To complicate the issue further, some studies used old biased collection while others did not. Some studies used quantitative measurements and other did not.

The definition of refinement differs between studies, which makes the situation even more complicated.

Last but not least it is an inevitable selection bias to concentrate on some sites and neglect others with similar data quality and excavation history.

Since Victor Commont until the early years of A. Tuffreau, it was a dogma in French Prehistoric research, that the staircase of the Somme river terraces shows a succession of initial crude and successive finer handaxes. Newer studies could not confirm this trend.

The same holds through for the British Handaxes. Boxgrove as early as MIS 13 shows highly sophisticated material.

Iovita at al. recently quantitatively assessed symmetry of the well excavated sites of Boxgrove (500 k.a.) and Noira, in central France, with strata between 700 k.a. and 500 k.a. old. They found an increase of symmetry over time (Iovita et al. 2017).

Anyhow we do not know how these results were influenced by confounding factors and the bias of concentrating on these sites.

Going to East Africa, where Handaxe production began, Louis Leakey’s seminal 1951 publication of the Olduvai Gorge bifaces was focused on 11 progressive stages of handaxe refinement, with the most beautiful types on the top of Bed IV. The Olduvai specimens cover the temporal range from c. 1.7 to 0.6 my.

Recently low biased collections of four East African Acheulean sites: Olduvai Gorge (Bed II and IV), Olorgesailie, Kariandusi, and Isinya (the last three sites roughly contemporaneous with Olduvai Bed III) where quantitatively evaluated for Handaxe refinement over time. One strength of the study was the careful selection of samples and that statistical results were corrected for confounding factors like blank morphology and raw materials that were used.

Factors like raw material were of significant importance for distinct parameters of refinement (thinness, edge straightness, and symmetry) at some sites, but not at Olduvai.

In the long term an increase of refinement was noted at Olduvai, but not at collections from the other sites, which represent a shorter time-frame, and were more dependent on confounding factors.

Possible explanations for the increase of refinement at Olduvai include the maturation of distinct neuronal networks, the evolution of a prolonged adolescence history and the invention of new knapping techniques (soft hammer) over long timescales.

2018-09-28 17:23:42   •   ID: 2029

Protohistoric Notched Hoe from Madison County, Illinois

Figure 1
The artifact illustrated in this post is a Notched Hoe from Madison County, Illinois.

Hoes and other large bifaces here were made of high quality Mill Creek chert and have been known to archaeologists for over a century as one of the most important trade items of the Mississippian period in the central Mississippi and lower Ohio valleys during 700-1700 A.D.

A Hoe is an ancient and versatile agricultural and horticultural hand tool used to shape soil, remove weeds, clear soil, and harvest root crops.

Shaping the soil includes piling soil around the base of plants (hilling), digging narrow furrows (drills) and shallow trenches for planting seeds or bulbs.

Weeding with a hoe includes agitating the surface of the soil or cutting foliage from roots, and clearing soil of old roots and crop residues.

Hoes for digging and moving soil are used to harvest root crops such as potatoes. Hoes are an ancient technology, predating the plough and perhaps preceded only by the digging stick.

The hoe was depicted in predynastic Egyptian art, and hoes are also mentioned in ancient documents like the Code of Hammurabi (ca. 18th century BC) and the Book of Isaiah (c. 8th century BC).

Hoe-farming is the earliest form of agriculture practiced in the Neolithic but lost importance in many regions after the invention of Ploughing.

The use of large mammals – first cattle and then camels, donkeys, horses, and various equine hybrids for traction is difficult to identify archaeologically, although the presence of so-called “traction pathologies” in the lower leg and foot bones may suggest chronic load-bearing or pulling.

The presence of traction pathologies among cattle dating to the Levantine late 6th and even the 8th millennium BC suggests that cattle were regularly harnessed and used for pulling ploughs and/or sledges in early agricultural communities.

In Europe, the oldest known plough marks date from the beginning of the 4th millennium BC.

Where the plough was invented is unknown, but its use spread quickly throughout West Asia, South Asia and Europe between the 4 and 2th millennium BC.

Agriculturalists of the New World did not know the plough until the introduction of plough-farming with European colonization.

Hoe-farming was also practized in vast parts of Sub-Saharan Africa (but not the Horn of Africa), the Indian subcontinent, and Maritime Southeast Asia.

The Mississippian culture was the last major prehistoric cultural development in North America, lasting from about AD 700 to the time of the arrival of the first Europeans.

It spread over a great area of the Southeast and the mid-continent, in the river valleys of what are now the states of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, with scattered extensions northward into Wisconsin and Minnesota and westward into the Great Plains.

The culture was based on intensive cultivation and hoe farming of corn (maize), beans, squash, and other crops, which resulted in large concentrations of population in towns along riverine bottomlands.

Chert nodules were intensively quarried in the Mill Creek area and processed to manufacture hoes and bifaces in nearby villages. The bifaces and hoes were, as already mentioned, important trade items over the central Mississippi and Ohio river valleys from A.D. 900-1400.

Stone hoes probably were hafted to wooden handles using rawhide or bark thongs. The working edges of the blades would become dull after extended use and were periodically resharpened.

Broken hoes and resharpening flakes litter the ground in the American Bottom region of southwestern Illinois. Many hoes and hoe-resharpening flakes have lustrous silica gloss on their outer surfaces, confirming the use of hoes as digging or cultivation tools.

2018-09-28 15:50:18   •   ID: 2028

Damaged “Micoquian” Biface from Mantes-la-Jolie

Figure 1
Chert is by no means „ imperishable“. During the ten of thousand years between discard and excavation-it cracks and crashes. Good examples for the physical degradation of flint are the fragile tools of La Quina in the Charente and the artifacts from La Micoque 6 - N in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac.

This is a damaged large, still 22 cm long, symmetric “Micoquian” Biface, found during quarry operations at the Place république (Mantes la Jolie).

Mantes-la-Jolie which is often informally called Mantes is a commune based in the Yvelines department in the Île-de-France region in north-central France and located in the western suburbs of Paris, 48.4 km from the center of Paris.

Paleolithic findings from Mantes are known since the 1870ies and were already described by Mortillet and Obermaier / Breuil.

Regarding classic symmetric Micoquian handaxes, F. Blaser recently noticed, that: “Discoveries of Micoquian bifaces have been particularly numerous in loess quarries of Paris Basin since the end of the 19th century, allowing Breuil (1932) and Bordes (1954) to define a “province micoquienne de la Seine”.

The “Micoquian phenomenon” was reaffirmed by recent excavations at Saint-Illiers-la-Ville, a sequence of loess / paleosols which has been found at Saint-Illiers (Yvelines) in the western Paris Basin (France) in the context of an archaeological survey.- the old masters of Prehistoric research rarely failed.....

Saint-Illiers-la-Ville was dated by Geomorphology (multiple Paleosols), TL and OSL, applied on burnt flints and sediments between ca 400-100 k.a. BP.

The last date is associated with the Micoquian level (sensu Bordes). The other levels contest multiple occupations by the local Acheulean (MIS 10, 7 and 6).

For a short time (in geological terms), around the beginning of the Weichselian (Elbeuf 1 paleosols)* until ca 90 k.a. BP and over a limited space, reaching some 300 km along the Seine Valley and its tributaries, there is a late non- Levallois Acheulean with symmetric Micoquian handaxes.

The most prominent sites of this group, beyond the Saint-Illiers-la-Ville site, are the quarry findings from Mantes-la-Ville, Rosny- sur-Seine, upper parts of the Saint-Pierre-les-Elbeuf stratigraphy ,Allonne, Villejuif and Le Tillet (already part of this blog; see here: 1532 , here 1615 , and here: 1661 .

Gabriel de Mortillet, Le Préhistorique, antiquité de l'homme, 2e édition, Paris, 1885 wrote:

"Bassin de la Seine. - Dès que la découverte de Boucher de Perthes fut bien constatée, en 1859, un Genevois, M. Hippolyte Gosse, se mit à visiter avec soin les carrières de gravier de Paris. Il y reconnut bientôt la présence de silex évidemment taillés. Plus tard, ces recherches ont été patiemment continuées par Martin et par M. Reboux.

Ces chercheurs ont recueilli un très grand nombre d’échantillons, mais les instruments chelléens sont toujours restés en très petite minorité. Ils ne se trouvent que dans les couches les plus profondes. Tous sont en silex ; seulement ici, outre le silex de la craie, j’ai pu constater l’existence de quelques très rares échantillons en silex d’eau douce.

Martin explorait surtout les sablières de la plaine de Grenelle; Reboux visitait régulièrement la rive droite de la Seine, du Point-du-Jour et de Billancourt à Levallois Perret et à Clichy. Les sablières de Bois-Colombes ont aussi fourni de beaux échantillons.

On en a également recueilli dans la sablière de la gare du Pecq, sous Saint-Germain, où les instruments chelléens sont rares. Les balastières de Mantes en ont donné un certain nombre. Enfin, les carrières de sable et de gravier de Sotteville-lès-Rouen "


* the Elbeuf I paleosols are contemporaneous of the last interglacial, i.e the Eemian-early Weichselian (OIS 5).




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