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2019-09-08 18:33:06   •   ID: 2123

Artifact or Geofact- A continuing Dilemma

Figure 1
Figure 1-3: This is a delicate and thin Middle Paleolithic scraper with alternating retouches on a Levallois flake from Saint-Maixent-l'École, located in the Haut Val de Sèvre area of western France, about 64 km from La Rochelle.

Figure 2
The artifact shown here comes from a scatter with excellent products of Levallois origin, but other scatters nearby show an elaborated Quina System,too.

Figure 3
How do you know that this flint was made by Paleolithic men? - this is the most common question I heard during the last 40 years- from people without basic knowledge of lithic technology.

While Handaxes or Leaf-Points are normally recognized even by non-specialists immediately as artifacts made by humans, flake tools from the Lower and Middle Paleolithic are not so easily recognized as human work.

Even specialists in Paleolithic research sometimes have their trouble in their decision, whether a piece is an artifact or geofact. After more than 100 years of research the quantitative database is astonishing small, especially for non–retouched flakes and flakes, not made of flint, creating a a high degree of uncertainty.

This is one reason for a hypersceptic attitude of influential scientists when faced with probably very old artifacts from the Lower and early Middle Pleistocene in Central Europe.

Figure 4 is based on mainly qualitative data and proposes, that Human Percussive Fracture on Flint is usually characterized by:

  • a Striking Platform
  • a Point of Percussion
  • a Bulb of Percussion
  • Ripple Marks
  • Specific modes of Distal Termination

For detailled description-see: .

Please note that there is no strong consensus about the specificity of these diagnostic clues in the scientific Community.

Figure 4
It is important that each characteristic trait can either be stronger or weaker, depending for example on the raw material. Typical traits can be found on flint, homogeneous Obsidian and fine grained Quartzite. On the other hand they may be missing on limestone, Quartz or several volcanic stones (like Basalt).

Typical traits can be missed after secondary modifications - the bulb is sometimes removed, maybe for better hafting.

The presence and absence of characteristic clues depends on the knapping technique: For example hard hammer percussion tends to result in pronounced bulbs, whilst the use of soft hammers often results in either a small and discrete hemispherical bulb or one that is barely perceptible.

Last but not least, the presence of Diagnostic clues depends on the overarching technological system that was used (Discoidal, Levallois, Prismatic...).

On the other hand even laminar products can produced by natural forces in a high energy geological environment. This means, that we are talking not about certainties but about probabilities if a certain flake is a Geo– or an Artifact.

Lubinski and Terry used a comparative method for distinguishing flakes from geofacts by a Lithic debitage attribute scoring.

Figure 5
In their work, the probability of artifacts increased when there was a 1. Identifiable dorsal and ventral surface, 2. a Bulb of percussion, 3. a pronounced Bulb, 4. Eraillure scars, 5. Fissures, 6. Dorsal flake scar count of > n=3, 7. Dorsal flake scar orientation parallel to medial axis of the flake and the absence of any cortex, especially on the platform.

Regarding that we speak about the probability that a flake is an Artifact, it would be interesting to formalize the Attribute scoring approach further by ROC analysis and much more larger datasets for different raw materials.

The ROC (Receiver-Operator) curve analysis is a simple statistical tool, widely used for diagnostic tests in Medicine. To understand this approach it is useful to read the first external link. ROC curve analysis allows to create a complete sensitivity/specificity report.

In a ROC curve the true positive rate (Sensitivity; in this post true positives are possible artifacts) is plotted in function of the false positive rate (100-Specificity; in this post false positives are the rate of possible geofacts ) for different cut-off points of a parameter.

Each point on the ROC curve represents a sensitivity/specificity pair corresponding to a particular decision threshold. The area under the ROC curve (AUC) is a measure of how well a parameter can distinguish between two diagnostic groups (artifact/geofact).

The role of secondary Modifications: Artifacts are often characterized by secondary modifications. The most prominent feature on flake tools is the presence of a continuous retouche, which can be heardly found on Geofacts.

After 150 years of building a Paleolithic typology, the recognition of a specific tool class (a scraper, a denticulate...) also helps to differentiate between artifact and geofact.

Figure 6
Figure 5 for example is undoubtedly a typical Quina scraper, from the Type-site, underpinning the artificial nature of this piece of flint by the typical retouche, which is uncommon in Geofacts, although one important diagnostic clue for an artifact, a pronounced bulb on the dorsal side, is absent.

Style: Artifactual Modifications must exhibit a systematic shape, in other words they have to make "sense" for their user. A scraper needs a continuous retouche to fulfill its purpose and a denticulated tool needs a saw-like shape for a reasonable use.

Figure 6 and 7 shows a denticulated MSA-point from Erg Tit, with bilateral continuous denticulation, which makes "sense" within several contexts. In addition we see a clear bulb of percussion on the ventral side (Figure 7) and a facetted base (not shown here) suspicious for Levallois.

Bias: Older excavations and selective sampling of surface findings always carry the risk of Selection- and -Confirmation-Bias. These problems can be addressed by excavations, that capture the complete geological context of the finds, which have to be completely salvaged, without selection of artifact-like pieces during the field work . A Refitting approach in order to isolate artifacts from natural pieces is another successful strategy.

Depositional Environment: The depositional environment is mainly characterized by the energy implied from the sediments in which finds are embedded.

Figure 7
Specimens are often considered geofacts if found in dynamic, high- energy depositional environments that might have produced them naturally, such as talus cones at the base of cliffs in glacial till.

Flakes from local raw material are more suspicious for Geofacts, while the use of “exotic” raw material otherwise non-detectable in the site’s matrix is more suspicious for human agency.

Anyhow, the dilemma of separating Artifacts from Geofacts will remain as Pasda and Liebermann stated for a sample of unbiased material from Bilzingsleben:

Flint finds from the Middle Pleistocene travertine site at Bilzingsleben are revised. A discussion of the history of research in this context, and findings of recent excavations are presented.

These campaigns targeted the geological context and did not select artefact­type objects. This resulted in a twilight zone between certainly identified non­artefacts and artefact­ type exemplars, a zone which remains diffuse and resists qualitative, and thus also quantitative assessment

Anyhow, in my opinion, this undeniable facts should not lead to a nihilist attitue, rather to an open mind of being ready for the new and unthinkable, for example the detection of ESA sites in Central Europe.

Lutz Fiedler recently published a paper about possible lithic industries dating back to 600 k- 1,2 Ma along the Rhine Rift Valley (last external link). I recommend reading this paper, because it provides the scientific rigor and strength that is necessary in the overheated discussion between the proponents of a "Long" or "Short" chronology.

Suggested Reading:

W Adrian Die Frage der norddeutschen Eolithen; 1948

H. Floss et al: Steinartefakte: Vom Altpaläolithikum bis in die Neuzeit (Tübingen Publications in Prehistory); 2012

J. Hahn: Erkennen und Bestimmen von Stein- und Knochenartefakten. Einführung in die Artefaktmorphologie. ( = Archaeologica Venatoria, Bd. 10) (Archaeologica Venatoria); 1993

L Fiedler: Die Suche nach den kulturellen Anfängen. In: ders. (Hg.) Archäologie der ältesten Kultur in Deutschland. Materialien zur Vor- und Frühgeschichte von Hessen 18; 1997

I de la Torre : Omo revisited. Evaluating the technological skills of Pliocene hominids. Current Anthropology 45 439–465; 2004

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

Figure 4: (Credit: José-Manuel Benito Álvarez / Wikimedia Commons)

2019-09-06 08:18:22   •   ID: 2116

Needle like Microliths from the N/W- Mauritanian Neolithic

Figure 1
These are Needle-Like Amartures from N/W- Mauritania (Medium Length: 2,54 cm), which were collected during the 1950ies by a French Ingenieur, together with a lot of backed points, microlithic shouldered points and some small Ounanian derived microliths ( Medium Length: 1,87 cm).

The operational sequence of these tiny tools begins with the production of straight bladelets, that were in a next step backed on one or two sides. Finally they were bi- or even trifacially reworked by pressure flaking.

Today, the lithic industries of northwestern Mauritania are almost totally denatured by looting operations.

At surface sites one can never be sure, that professional "Antiquarians, indigenous looters, guides or tourists, have removed eye-catching artifacts, which results in biased collections and misleading interpretations. Therefore the scientific search of non disturbed contexts is of overall importance for professional Archaeologists.

Figure 2
Since the early 1970s, only three surface sites have provided archaeologists with statistically consistent information: -Tintan-necropolis, by N. Petit-Maire and his team; -Et-Teyyedché, FA 38 and 39 by R. Vernet.

During the last years it was possible to detect undisturbed Stratigraphies and to reconstruct a local succession from the Epipaleolithic to the Neolithic, mainly by Robert Vernet and his coworkers. Nouadhfat is one of these sites:

The Nouadhfat site, north-east of Nouakchott, in western Mauritania, is essential, both for a knowledge of Holocene palaeoenvironments and for the Neolithic.

The site is near an important hydrographic palaeonetwork and on the bank of a vast palaeolake marked by diatomites, freshwater gasteropods and animal tracks printed in the mud.

Fishing was intensively practiced (presence of harpoons). The habitat was occupied by hunter-gatherers, fishermen and stock-breeders who took advantage of a milieu evolving progressively towards less humidity : first of all in the Middle Neolithic (around 6400 cal. BP), then more recently (3900 – 3300 cal. BP), after a very marked arid crisis.

Figure 3
Nouadhfat, which is the region’s best dated site, fits into an extremely rich ensemble for over at least four millennia.

The main characteristic of this ensemble is without doubt the existence of numerous cultures, which followed each other or which lived together, before the northern limit of the Sahel shifted distinctly southwards.
(Vernet et al. 2017).

Needle like armatures are together with microlithic lunates, trapezes and percoirs are an important component of the Neolithic site of Et Teyyedché, industrie lithique 1 (Vernet 2007).

The artifacts, shown here have affinities to the Et Teyyedche group although some groups are missing, probably by sampling bias.

The composition of such ensembles are only one choice among a broad spectrum of Neolithic tools in the area and the manyfold causes for specific choices and adaptions.

Anyhow, the large number of projectiles atest that hunting was still very important for the „Neolithic“ Mauritanian societies.

2019-08-30 11:42:04   •   ID: 2115

Why are flint tools retouched?

Figure 1
Figure 1 shows some flakes from different Mousterian Sites in the Vezere Valley, using the same raw material.

It was Alfred Tode, the Excavator of the late KMG site Salzgitter-Lebenstedt, dated to ca 50 k.a., who made a little but, in my view, important experiment, not described in the official Excavation report.

He asked an experienced butcher to disassemble carcasses of different animals by the site's most common stone tools (scraper, Handaxes, simple Levallois flakes without retouches).

Everyone in the excavation team was astonished that after a few test cuts, the butcher preferred the non-retouched Levallois flakes to all the others.

With these sharp and flat instruments, the disassembly of the carcasses worked most easily- just if the butcher would have used modern knifes.

Other sites in Germany point to a similar strategy of Neanderthals dismembering and deboning carcasses of large Mammalians like Elephants.

At the Lehringen site in Lower Saxony (Germany), an elephant skeleton was buried at a lake-side together with a 2,4 m long wooden spear and 27 unretouched Levallois flakes.

Whether humans actually hunted the animal or just killed it when already trapped in the swamp, remains open to discussion.

Figure 2
It was certainly butchered, as is equally attested for an elephant skeleton found at Gröbern, again at a lake-side, and again along with 27 Levallois artefacts.

This mode of disassemble carcasses has a considerably time- depth: Currently the oldest stone tools that are widely accepted date to 2.6 million years ago (Mode I Industries / Oldowan) and the use of unretouched flakes was present at least until the end of the Paleolithic, proven by a prolifering data set of microtraceological data.

The tools were simple core and flake tools that generally consisted of on a few removal flakes. It is thought the hominin to use these was probably Homo habilis, although there is some debate that it may be a late Australopithecine. The function of Oldowan tools is likely to be plant matter processing and slaughtering activities.

Figure 3
If simple flakes can successfully be used for cutting and scraping soft and hard materials, why are so many implements during the Paleolithic retouched?

Retouch is the act of producing controlled scars on a stone flake or blade. There is almost no literature about the the need of Retouching and possible advantages of such a technology.

In general I suggest, that retouching is an indication of increasing skills and specialisation during the evolution of Homo sp.

It is interesting that every scientific discipline has some basic issues, that never have been systematically evaluated, because researchers assume that such work has been certainly already done....

Some basic assumtions may serve as a starting point:

  • thick flakes or another unfavourable geometry may often not usable for immediate use without further modification (Quina Scraper in Figure 2)

  • Retouching can be done on one or more edges of an implement in order to make it into a tool, serving for specific functions, as shown by a classic Lacam Burin from the late Magdalenian at La Madeleine in the Vezere Valley in Figure 3

  • Retouch can be a strategy to resharpen an existing lithic tool, like the tranchet blow technique, present in the Old World since the Middle Pleistoceine, but most common in Central European KMG Ensembles

  • Retouch can be a strategy in the implimentation of hafting devices, known since the Middle Pleistocene in the Old World. Figure 4 shows a typical double Endscraper from the "Aurignacian I" at Les Cottes with lateral retouches, that were certainly useful in a hafting context

  • Retouching can be used to transform one lithic artifact into another tool

  • Although I am talking about flakes and blades in this post, the same suggestions on Retouching can be made on Bifaces; for example a classical Handaxe maybe transformed into a core.

    A biface can be used as a tool blank ”(biface support d’outil)". Here the façonnage of a volume is done to create a bifacial artifact with functional different working edges.

Suggested reading:

Alfred Tode: Mammutjäger vor 100000 Jahren. Natur und Mensch in Nordwestdeutschland zur letzten Eiszeit auf Grund der Ausgrabungen bei Salzgitter-Lebenstedt; 1954.

Figure 4
André Debénath and Harold L. Dibble: Handbook of Paleolithic Typology: Lower and Middle Paleolithic of Europe; 1994.

François Bordes: du Paléolithique ancien et moyen; 1988

Peter Hiscock: "Looking the other way: a materialist/technological approach to classifying tools and implements, cores and retouched flakes", In S. McPherron and J. Lindley (eds). Tools or Cores? The Identification and Study of Alternative Core Technology in Lithic Assemblages; 2007

John Shea: Stone Tools in the Paleolithic and Neolithic of the Near East: A Guide; 2013

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.

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 (ca 500-300k.a BP), 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 and 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 450 k.a. (MIS 13)

In Greek the Early 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)“.

Symbolic and 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 links)

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

Figure 1
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

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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 , which disappeared from the Paleonthological record about 600 k.a. Ago.

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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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

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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.