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2018-12-11 08:55:55   •   ID: 2057

The Middle Paleolithic of the Krakow area (S-Poland)

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Poland has a rich Middle Paleolithic record, evaluated since the 19th century.

The two traditional institutions of Palaeolithic research in Poland were always Kraków and Warsaw, with Wrocław emerging later, while other archaeological centers focused more on later epochs.

The Krakow area is incredible rich of Middle and Upper Paleolithic findings: multilayered cave sites and open-air sites are common. The whole spectrum from short hunting stays, sites of repeated hunt to large residental camps is present. Most favourable conditions were present during MIS5 and 3 with an overhelming artifact density at MIS3 sites compared to earler times.

Anyhow, even results from the early 1990ies are outdated, due to the development of new stratigraphic methods and dating approaches.

Scientific Research since 2000 aimed to clarify the:

  • site integrity of already excavated and new sites

  • techno-functional traits of ensembles beyond a Culture-historical archaeological approach

  • dating the sites not only by geomorphology, but by independent radiometric methods and ESR and TL

Figure 2
The Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Polish Academy of Sciences published in 2016 the Monograph "The Past Societies" ( Vol 1: Paleolithic and Mesolithic).

This book provides updated informations from experts in their scientific field and is an important addition to the last synthesis, written in France, by Kozlowski and Kozlowski 20 years ago.

Here I focus on the most interesting sites in the Krakow area. The ensembles can show the characteristics of:

  • the KMG, often combined with the tranchet blow technique; see here 1631

  • the Levallois-Mousterian s.l., including Microlithic ("Taubachian") ensembles; see here 1629

  • other technologies; for example: Middle Paleolithic Laminar technology

Figures 1,2,4 show bifacial artifacts, maybe part of a larger „Pradnik“ ensemble from an 19th century collection from Małopolskie. This region in S-Poland near the Slovakian and Czech borders consists mainly of uplands and mountains.

Other elevated features are the Krakowsko-Częstochowska Upland, the Carpathian Foothills, the West Beskid Mountains and the Middle Beskids, and the Podhale, which includes the Pieniny Mountains.

Figure 3
Of great interest is the Karstic topography of the Ojców National Park park, which in addition to two river valleys (the Pradnik and Saspówka ) contains numerous limestone cliffs, ravines, and over 400 caves (Figure 2: Creative Commons / Wikipedia).

At Ciemna Cave re-excavations in the hitherto-unexplored main chamber were performed after 2007. Ciemna is the type-site with both typical bifacial knifes (KMGs) and many examples of the Pradnik technique (tranchet blow technique)

Three ensembles have been documented and dated: “Mousterian”, “Taubachian” (MIS5), and "Micoquian" (MIS4—MIS3).

The Wylotne Rock shelter is one of the most important and richest Middle Paleolithic assemblages from Poland.

Several inventories from layers 8/7, 6 and 5 have been described, but unfortunately, they show heavily post-depositional disturbances, and refitting over several layers. Probably all material belongs to MIS3. The most important result of recent excavations seems to be that the lithics are not datable and that any stratigraphic trends are artificial, too.

The assemblage contains very large (up to 20 cm long) bifaces (ovates, cordiform, triangular, lageniform), different classes of bifacial knifes, unifacial knifes with cortical backs and virtually every scraper class, known from the Bordes-typology.

Groszak / coin-like Micoquian scrapers are common. There are a lot of rough-outs and preforms. The Levallois technique is virtually absent.

Figure 4
The complex of Palaeolithic open air sites at Piekary is situated on the northern slope of the Vistula River Valley 12 km upstream from Krakow.

The famous Piekary III site with its characteristic KMG- material, typologically shows similarities to the Bockstein findings in S/W-Germany, is lithostratigaphically dated somewhere between MIS5-3- but such dating-problems are known from other regions, also.

Up to date excavations in the Krakow area have been performed at Piekary II and Księcia Józefa.

These excavations at Piekary IIa showed a succession of five Middle and three Upper Palaeolithic assemblages. Several lines of evidence pointed to an MIS3 deposition of all strata (AMS, TL, OSL).

At Piekary IIa an early non- Levallois blade production was accompanied by Middle Palaeolithic technologies (layers 7c, 7b, 7a) and followed by local Early Upper Palaeolithic (layer 6) during a time interval of ca 60 – 32/26 k.a. Laminar blanks were used for production of notches, scrapers, truncations and burins.

The blade ensemble of Layer 6 at Piekary IIa was without any trend to to the developement Torwarts other Upper Paleolithic entities (Aurignacian, Gravettian). Similar results were recorded for the Księcia Józefa site, Layer 3.

It remains unclear how to interpret these findings: a local independent evolution from a Middle to Upper Paleolithic?; maybe an impulse for the development of the Bohunician in the Brno area?; Incomplete recording of a larger area?-

Anyhow a blade industry during large parts of MIS3 remains remarkable, again pointing to flexible solutions of Neanderthal societies under changing environmental conditions.

Suggested Reading:

Wylotne and Zwierzyniec, Paleolithic Sites in Southern Poland, edited by Stefan K. Kozlowski, The Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences, Warsaw University, Krakow 2006.

Kozlowski Janusz k. et Stefan K. Le Paléolithique en Pologne: 1996 (still available!-see external link)

2018-12-06 10:02:31   •   ID: 2056

The Châtelperronian North of the Loire Valley

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This is a 6,1 cm long backed, white patinated, blade found during the late 19th century in the Paris vicinity.

It has a continuous back and the contralateral margin shows some secondary damage, maybe by periglacial weathering. The base shows the typical stigmata of soft hammer technique. Undoubtedly the artifact is a finished tool and not a preform.

It does not resemble an Azilian Mono-point, nor is it a typical Gravettian point. Backed artifacts of this kind are rare during the local Neolithic.

I always hesitated to call it a Châtelperronian point, but this designation fits best, although it was found far away from the "heartland" of this technocomplex is S/W-France- see here 1492 .

After the first publications of the Findings at Les Bossats à Ormesson (Seine-et-Marne), this label does not appear ridiculous anymore and therefore this post is about the Châtelperronian North of the Loire valley.

Les Bossats site at Ormesson, is under excavation since 2009. The stratigraphy starts with a late Discoidal Mousterian followed by a Chatelperonnian and and a Gravettian bison processing camp. An evolved Solutrean and traces of a Badegoulian are on the top of the Long succession.

Topographic considerations support the hypothesis, that the site offered optimal hunting conditions and gave access not only to animal resources but also to raw materials and fresh water. The attractivity of the area is evidenced by repeated settlements during ca 30 k.a.

The Châtelperronian is nearly intact as demonstrated by taphonomic analysis and multiple refitting of the lithic debitage. It seems that the area was rapidly covered and preserved by fine grained sediments.

According to first results it may about 38 k.a. old.

Finished tools comprise the diagnostic points and some burins. Endscrapers are absent from the limited sondages, maybe an excavation bias or an activity-specific trait. The chaine operatoire is clearly focused on the production of blades and bladelets- a pure Upper Paleolithic Ensemble.

According to Bodu et al. "In spite of a certain geographical isolation, les Bossats are nonetheless part of a “northern” Châtelperronian territory which includes the famous Renne at Arcy-sur-Cure or Roche-au-Loup at Merry-sur-Yonne (Yonne) caves".

The excavators finally argue that "the apparent scarcity in Châtelperronian sites north of the Loire River, which is perhaps more related to the actual state of research rather than to a real lack of occupations".

Indeed, Archeology has always only found what it was looking for. If you never look for Keilmesser outside Central Europe, you will probably not recognize them, if they were found in other parts of Europe.

And maybe backed artifacts not resembling Gravette Points, that were found in Northern France, were always classified as Azilian, because nobody since François Bordes` times took into account, that they could be a "Perigordian ancien".

Note that there is no systematic work that compares the morphology of Gravette, Châtelperronian and Late Paleolithic backed points, although it is well known, that these tools can easily misclassified. Such work would be useful in classifying old collections- lost in forgotten Museum-boxes.

2018-12-01 14:50:54   •   ID: 2055

Neolithic axe from the Île-de-France

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The polished axe is an artifact, that was early recognized by Antiquarians as a tool made by humans.

These insight was also made possible by ethnographic items, that accumulated in the early European Museums since the 18th century onwards- see also 1182 about the history of Ceraunia and Thunderbolts.

The artifact of this post is s a Neolithic triangular and pointed axehead, made of flint with greenish color, that was carefully polished. There is some course secondary damage, also seen on the picture here. The lateral margins were well finished. The blade edge is curved, symmetrical and still intact.

In the Saine Valley such axes appear in larger numbers since the Middle Neolithic after the LBK-phase. It is interesting that we know such axes also from post-Neolithic secondary contexts, for example from Roman sites in Britain, where they may have been deliberately collected, for symbolic reasons. About secondary contextes see also here: 1056

François Giligny et al. already described the production sites of axe heads mainly from the Middle Neolithic in the Seine Valley between Paris and Le Havre, the Chaîne opératoire of axe manufacturing for different raw materials and the circulation of rough outs and finished axes along the Seine Valley as an important transport route.

Beyond the practical context, axes were of great importance in the symbolic sphere and Neolithic imagination.

In his thesis: Ceci n’est pas une hache Karsten Wentink (see attached free pdf file) showed that TBK-axes, deposited in the Netherlands either in graves or in waterlogged places were loaded with different symbolic / ideological meaning:

Smaller and worn axes from a funerary context became "inscribed with a group’s history" .

The significant larger and non-damaged "ceremonial" axes deposited in bogs had a very different connotation: "Through depositing these ceremonial axes outside the sphere of everyday life such an object along with its powers was returned to a larger social and cosmic universe".

2018-11-28 18:17:07   •   ID: 2054

Elongated triangular Biface from Saint-Amand-de-Coly (Dordogne)

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Saint Amand de Coly clings on the edge of a hill in the Dordogne countryside, just 8 km from Lascaux. Its fortified church, which dates back to the 12th century is reputed to be one the most beautiful fortified churches in the Perigord.

The village is named after Saint Amand, a hermit living in a cave in the hillside in the 6th century.

Like almost everywhere near the Vezere valley, Bifaces, mainly from the MTA/MAT were found by earlier collectors and are still found on the surface. Every family has some artifacts found in their own gardens and fields- I noticed during my first visit in the Dordogne in 1974.

Figure 3
Stone Tools from Saint Armand are no exception from this rule and the village is situated near another famous Middle Paleolithic surface site: La Chapelle Aubareil-see: 1281 .

The elongated, 14 cm long, triangular Biface from Saint Amand de Coly, shown here was found in 1936, just some years before a new law by the Régime de Vichy outlawed private excavations and systematic collections in 1941. This law was validated after the Liberation of France in 1945.

The artifact shows the typical characteristics of a triangular Biface from the Moustérien de tradition Acheuléenne.

Triangular Handaxes exhibit lateral edges, that are straight, slightly convex or even bi-concave ( "Dent de Requin"-Handaxe).

The base is typically straight and sharply bifacially retouched, seen also in our example, but may sometimes retain a certain amount of cortex. If the base is convex/rounded the artifact is a considered sub-triangular

If the elongation index is higher than 1,5 (like in the example of this Post) a triangular Biface is considered elongated.

More information about triangular Bifaces in Europe can be found here: 1536 and 2027 .

2018-11-24 17:18:16   •   ID: 2053

The Streletskian /Streletskayan: A short Introduction

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This is a very characteristic Streletskaya point made from a flat flake by bifacial retouches showing the „diagnostic“ concave base.

Paleolithic ensembles with such points are known as Streletskian. In this context, the triangular tool is a formidable "fossil directeur" of a very interesting technocomplex, characterized by flake production and the near absence of blades in most of the Sites assigned to this complex.

Together with this unique points, bifacial leaf-shaped points, "Poplar leaf points" and “knives” with a single retouched edge made on flint plaquettes are common. Small endscrapers with continuous edge retouch, producing a roughly triangular or thumbnail form are also characteristic for the Streletskian.

Burins are virtually absent. Together, bifacial tools and endscrapers account for about 60% of tools. Many of the retouched artifacts have a Middle Paleolithic design, including sidescrapers, both single and double (convergent and dejete). "Mousterian" and "Quinson" points occur. Anyhow, such artifacts may represent unfinished tools. In this view, there was no transitional technology in the Streletskayan (Giria, 1999).

The East European Plain  is a vast interior plain extending east of the North/Central European Plain, and comprising several plateaus stretching roughly from 25 degrees longitude eastward.

It includes the westernmost Volhynian-Podolian Upland, the Central Russian Upland, and on the eastern border, encompassing the Volga Upland. The plain includes also a series of major river basins such as the Dnepr Basin, the Oka-Don Lowland, and the Volga Basin.

Along the southernmost point of the East European Plain are the Caucasus and Crimean mountain ranges. Together with the North European Plain covering much of north-eastern Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, it constitutes the European Plain, the mountain-free part of the European landscape.

While the structure of the Early Upper Paleolithic (EUP) in Western and Middle Europe became considerable clear during the last 20 years, the integration of the east European EUP into the wider European context remains challenging.

The most important reason is related to the scarcity of natural shelters on the East European Plain resulting in a low visibility of buried sites. Another critical issue is the data quality from old excavations, often in combination with unreliable radiometric age determinations. Important reports were not written for an English speaking audience and remained unnoticed in the international scientific discussion.

But the the times they are a-changing (Bob Dylan) and an international team has successfully renewed and coordinated work at the Kostenki sites:

Figure 2
On the East European plain it seems that bifacial elements (Streletskian, “Eastern Szeletian”) define one important component of the EUP. Recently some key sequences were re-dated and other remain to be reevaluated in depth.

Let's begin the discussion with key-sites in the in the regions of the villages of Kostenki and Borshevo. Here, mostly multilayered sites cover about 30 km2 and are situated over ca 7 km along the western bank of the Don River in Khokholsky District, Voronezh Oblast, Russia, some 25 km south of the city of Voronezh.

The Paleolithic sites, already recognized during the 19th century are named Kostenki-1–21 and Borshevo-1–5. About the stratigraphy of these sites see Reynolds at al. (last external link with minor modifications of the text):

" At many sites in the Kostënki-Borshchëvo area, part or all of the same geological stratigraphy has been identified, which can be summarised as follows

  • A Lower Humic Bed (LHB) of paleosols interstratified with other deposits is overlain by a non-humified, calcareous layer. The latter contains an often-visible volcanic ash layer which has been identified as tephra from the Campanian Ignimbrite eruption
  • Above this is found the Upper Humic Bed (UHB), which is of similar composition to the LHB. This is in turn overlain by
  • loess-like loams, which contain a comparatively weakly expressed paleosol layer known as the Gmelin soil.

A. N. Rogachëv divided the archaeological layers found at Kostënki-Borshchëvo into three chrono- logical groups based on their stratigraphic positions. These are, from earliest to latest:

  • those found in the LHB: Ancient / Earliest Group
  • those found in the UHB: Middle Group
  • Those found above the UHB, including sites found on the first (lowest) terrace, where the UHB and LHB have not been identified": Late Group

Systematic investigation of Kostenki 1 were initiated by I.S. Polyakov in 1879 and repeatedly during the 20th century. Five archeological strata have been identified: K 1/1 (Kostienki - Avdeevo-Willendorf –Gravettian), K1/III: a genuine Aurignacian and Kostenki 1/V (Streletskian). The lower chronological limit of the Streletskian is about 42 k.a. old (44-47 k.a. cal. BP).

These state-of-the art C-14 data are verified by OSL and another important evidence: The Streletskaya assemblages geochronological belongs to the Kostenki Ancient Chronological group in the LHB (Layer V underlies the CI tephra ~40k.a. cal BP).

Of similar age is the Strelets Material from Kostenki 12 and 6, which are incorporated in and below the CI-tephra. It has to be mentioned that even older EUP ensembles in the area of Kostenki are known.

Excavations of the last decade of the lowermost cultural layer (IVb) at Kostenki 14, under the CI tephra and older than the Streletskian provided evidence for an assemblage without typical Aurignacian and Streletskian elements, maybe with affinities to the Ahmarian / Protoaurignacian.

Outside the Kostenki area, other sites have been repeatetly assigned to the Streletskayan:

Biryuchiya Balka 2 is a workshop site located at a flint outcrop at the Lower Don river. Archaeological levels 3a-3б (“Kostenki-Streletskaya culture” at Biryuchiya Balka 2 is assigned by AMS dates between 32 and 36 k.a. BP (non-calibrated).

The tool-Kit includes the typical “bi-convex” triangular concave-based points, many of them more elongated than at Kostenki and very delicately made. Thumbnail scrapers are common. The ensemble could indicate an advanced stage of the Streletskian /Streletskayan according to Kozlowsky.

The “Eastern Szeletian / Streletskian” at Buran-Kaya III, level C is situated under stadial conditions, between two interstadials, and below an Eastern Micoquian, C-14 dated to to 41,5-40 k.a. cal BP. It is therefore roughly contemporaneous with the Kostenki Streletskian.

It shows the typical endscrapers and bifacial leaf-shaped points but instead of bifacial points with concave base -unique bifacially retouched trapezoids with straight and concave bases.

If we accept, that the new direct AMS C-14 dates of the famous Sungir human burials are representative for the typical Streletskian at this site (33,3- 36,3 k.a. cal BP), this would indicate considerable time depth of at least 5-6 k.a. of this techno complex in the strict sense.

At the rich upper Layers of the Garchi I Site, which is located in the upper Kama basin, more than half of tools are bifacial triangular projectiles with concave bases and end scrapers. Most end scrapers were made on short triangular flakes with ventral trimming.

The age of the Garchi site is based on only one C-14 date of 31.5-34.7 k.a. cal BP. However, the OSL and TL-samples produced similar ages between 33-38 ka.

Further sites, discussed below, exhibit the typical triangular points, but are neither well dated and/or show a different artifactual composition of the assemblages.

The Vys site in the Vys river basin (Central Ukraine )was excavated between the 1980ies until 2005. We have no radiometric data and according to geological estimates Vis is said to be dated around 30 k.a. BP.

Although typical flat triangular Strelets points are present, the mode of debitage is clearly more blade orientated, than the Strelets in Russia.

The assemblage includes end-scrapers on blades and flakes. Carinated and nosed scraper pointing to a production of Lamelles, not mentioned in the Report, probably not part of the excavated area or exportet. Denticulates and side scraper were also present. There are both typological links to the Strelets of the river Don basin and to the so called “Moldavian Szelet” for example at Gordinesti of unknown age.

Overall the Streletskian has a very wide spatial distribution from the Middle Urals (Garchi 1) to the Pontic steppe (Biriychaia balka 2, Vys), without relations to any environmental conditions or to site functions.

If there are any connections to the "Morava-type Aurignacian / Míškovice-type industry" with triangular points without a concave base remains uncertain because these ensembles are surface palimpsests.

Suggested Readings :

Le Sungirien S. Vasylyev, A. Sinitsyn, M. Otte (edit.) Collection ERAUL 147. Far the most complete synthesis I know....

and look in Dons Map for the rich Burials of Sungir.

2018-11-16 12:32:29   •   ID: 2052

Artifacts from the Chifeng region in in southeastern Inner Mongolia

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This are microlithic (maximal 1,5 cm long) bifacial triangular points made mainly of translucent Calcedony, but also of brownish flint.

They were produced by micro-core technique, some of them even show characteristic of sophisticated FOG (flake over grind) flaking, not known before the Pre- and early Dynastic Egyptians.

They were found in the Chifeng region in in southeastern Inner Mongolia, People's Republic of China. It is difficult to imagine, that such tiny implements were the tip of tiny arrowheads, rather they were part of composite weapons, known from findings in N-China with the preservation of organic components.

It is impossible to link these artifacts to a specific time period, but they are almost certainly from the Neolithic, where the use of Calcedony for the production of lithics was much more common than during later times.

North China has long been recognized as one of the major regions where agriculture began and is home to one of the longest-lasting, sustained agricultural systems in the world. The Neolithic, in this post is defined as the formation of sedentary communities, mainly relying on animal and plant domesticates.

This process started as early as the climatic amelioration after the LGM, which allowed a broad-spectrum subsistence economy. The earliest domesticated plants so far recovered in Northern China appear to date between 10 and 8 BP.

Anyhow the whole " Neolithic package" was not established before the beginning of the 6. millennium BP, when societies founded on the sedentary cultivation of rice and/or millets were widely established.

As elsewhere on a global scale, strategies toward the Neolithic show great regional variation, suggesting a complex mosaic of adaptations in the transition to agriculture.

Pottery is not part of this package, neither in the Levant,nor in Africa or Asia. -The oldest pottery in China fragments have been found at the Xianrendong site in S-E China, layer 3C1B. Ten radiocarbon dates from this layer range between 17,4-19,5 k.a. cal BP, long before domestication took place.

The better known pottery Neolithic of the Levant started around 7,5 k.a. cal BP, after the establishment of the most important domesticates.

Anyhow, the invention and propagation of pottery can not be underestimated. It allowed more secure storage, may have been a trigger for a more sedentary lifestyle and appeared at Chifeng ca 8 k.a. cal BP.

Liu et al. recently published the results of new excavations from Inner Mongolia : "By examining residue remains and usewear patterns on sandstone grinding stone tools unearthed from the Shihushan I and Shihushan II sites, dating to the mid-5th millennium BC, we show that the earliest Neolithic settlers in Daihai appear to have enjoyed a way of life making use, and possibly management, of a wide range of plants, including various underground storage organs (tubers, roots, rhizomes, and bulbs), nuts, and wild grasses, while engaged in a limited level of millet production".

2018-11-12 16:32:21   •   ID: 2051

Flexible Stones: The Anatomy of a Middle Paleolithic Tool

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This is a large (13x8x0,1-2,5 cm) non Levallois flake with several active units and one passive unit- a field find from 1982 near Lenderscheid / Northern Hesse in Germany, already introduced in this Blog for its Middle Paleolithic triangular Handaxes, Leafpoints, Levallois and non-Levallois debitage.

Lenderscheid-A Middle Paleolithic Workshop in Central Germany: see here 1624 , here 1712 , 2027 , and here: 1625 .

Many, non-expedient, Middle Paleolithic stone tools were multifunctional. A scraper could be used for grinding activities. A biface could use for different tasks (defleshing activities, hammering, scraping soft materials and perhaps even for fire making).

A Biface was sometimes a core for the detachment of sharp flakes or had one edge selectively usable as a scraper (biface support d’outil): see 1305

Multi-functionality could be primarily intended by the knapper or being a part of a retooling or reworking process.

The Middle Paleolithic artifact shown here is interesting for its different functional units.

Firstly it is a concave scraper with continuous course denticulation made on the ventral side of the artifact (Figure 1).

Secondly it has a still sharp broad tranchet blow on the distal portion of its dorsal face (Figure 2). It is one of the rare Middle-European Cleavers.

Thirdly the right ventral part, being the thickest region of the tool, near the bulb, shows backing and prehensile characteristics. the back is contralateral to the scraping Edge.

Therefore the backed artifact could be used as a backed scraper for various activities, without the necessity of a hafting device.

The intentionally created cutting edge was ready for use and still razor sharp after 40-80 k.a. ago (Figure 3).

2018-11-11 14:46:42   •   ID: 2050

Upper Paleolithic Endscrapers

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Figure 1 shows a heavy Aurignacian scraper from Combe Capelle in the Dordogne.

Correlation between a tool-class and a specific function is always problematic. The relationship between form and function is an ambiguous issue, that needs to be demonstrated en detail, rather than assumed.

A Middle Paleolithic “point” may have been a projectile point but more often was used as a scraper for wood and hide-working.

Large “Gravette points” were used as knifes and burins are formidable bladelet cores  and a “microlithic saws” may have been used as a projectiles.

A Levallois point embedded in the vertebra of a wild ass, as found at Umm el Tlel (El Kowm basin of Central Syria; strata older than 50 k.a) certainly shows that this artifact was part of a hunting device, but does not mean that every Levallois point, or even that the majority of these artifacts may have been used in this way.

Simple end scrapers from the European Upper Paleolithic were typically made from blades or flakes without modification except to produce a convex scraping edge. A number of (sub-) parallel flakes were removed from the end or side of the distal part of the blank to produce a thick wide-angled “scraping edge”.

The retouches on this edge varies from irregular to a perfect regularity.

The scraping edge typically has an angle that ranges from 70 to 90 degrees. Edge wear is very characteristic of end scrapers and they must have been repeatedly resharpened in order to serve effectively.

Consequently, scrapers became shorter and shorter in length with continued usage (Figure 3).

Function: As the name suggests, the scraper has traditionally been an artifact assigned to one specific function: namely the scraping and working of hides or animal skins. This assumption is substantiated, at least for many European specimens by microtraceology.

Implements that facilitated the efficient scraping, cutting, and piercing of animal hides were of overall importance to produce clothings to protect the body in harsh environments.

Preparing skins according the Archeological context and Ethnological records begins with cooling the animal skin immediately once it was removed from the animal's body by placing it in the shade on a cool surface.

Visible tissue or fat that was left on the hide has to be removed by scraping tools, which could be made of stone or even organic materials made of bone or antler.

Organic Lissoirs, one of the first standardized bone tools, made by Neanderthals during MIS3, made of deer ribs, could have been used to prepare hides to make them more "supple, lustrous and impermeable". They were steadily used during the Upper Paleolithic, also.

Certainly we have to imagine some kind of tanning process, but micro residues about this important step of preparation have not been found from Paleolithic times.

At Pavlov I 15/18 end scrapers were used for hide working and 2 /18 for Antler / Ivory work. The picture at other sites is similar: hide working is most prominent, but scrapers had been used multifunctional, for example as adzes for woodworking (during the late Magdalenian at  La Garenne; Indre; France).

Figure 2
The end scraper as a tool may hold more functions than had been previously thought. Instead of having a one- dimensional use for the scraping of hides, it may have demonstrated several different forms of use throughout its life, on several different substances.

In addition, the function of the scraper may have changed during the course of its life as wear and retouching altered the edge angles. Especially during the Aurignacian, "Carinated scrapers" and "Nosed Scrapers" served as bladelet cores (Figure 2 from the Aurignacian of La Rochette near Le Moustier in the Vezere Valley)

Typologically several types of scrapers exist. These include the side scraper (working edge on the long edge), the classic artifact of the MSA and MP but not absent during the Upper Paleolithic and the end scraper (convex working edge on the distal end of a flake or blade).

End scrapers can be combined with a second scraper edge (double scrapers) or with a burin edge (for hafting?). Some end scrapers are denominated according to their size (thumbnail scraper, approximately the size and shape of a thumbnail)

“Spoon scrapers” first appeared at Ehringsdorf (OIS7) and were common during the Aurignacian (Fig. 3:  Aurignacian near the Mont Circeo in West-Italy south of Rome) .

Figure 3
Cortical scapers are made on a cortical blade or flake and are known from the Solutrean in S/W-France and as scrapers from the Levantine Bronze age.

Other scrapers  are named according to the site, they were first found. For example the Ksar Akil scraper found at Ksar Akil-see here: 1149 , in Stratum 4/5 (non-calebrated lC-14 data: 29-30 k.a. BP). Other specimens are known from Tha’lab al-Buhayra (Wadi al-Hasa in west-central Jordan; 24-26 k.a.) and Boker D (Negev; Israel25-27 k.a.).

Laugerie scrapers are flat (double) scrapers with lateral retouches, first found during the 19th century diggings at the Grimaldi caves ("Grimaldi scrapers") and at Laugerie haute west where they are characteristic for an evolved Solutrean with bilateral Leafpoints.

End scrapers in Europe are common since the Early Upper Paleolithic (including “transitional industries” such as the Châtelperronian and Szeletian), although they can occasionally observed during Lower and Middle Paleolithic ensembles. Nice examples were present at the “Atelier Commont” (OIS9) at St. Acheul.

During the earlier stages of the Aurignacian in France and Central Europe (Figure 4: from Swabia / South West Germany) end scrapers with lateral retouches were common.  These lateral retouches may have allowed a better hafting .

An interesting combination found both in the French and central European Aurignacian are endscrapers on strangled blades.

Figure 5 shows an endscraper from the Early Gravettian from La Vigne-Brun, located in the eastern Massif Central, 5 km upstream from Roanne in the Loire river valley. Vigne Brun / Villerest-see here: 1718 .

During the earlier Gravettian complex simple end scrapers are found in abundance (for example during the early Perigordian in S/W-France, in the Rhone and Upper Loire Valleys, but also in central Europe at Pavlov I, while the domestic tools during the later phases are more characterized by burins. It is unknown, why endscrapers lost their role at this time.

Figure 5
The Magdalenian has a large variability of end scrapers ranging  from tiny specimens to very large and robust ones. Small thumbnail scrapers during the final European Paleolithic are characteristic for the late Epigravettian and the Azilian.

The scraper may be hafted onto wood or antler, as indicated by microtraceological studies on some examples. The only scraper embedded into a haft I know comes from the Magdalenian of the Pekarna cave in the Moravian Karst.

A great potential for a better characterization of the scraper function will be the search and evaluation of organic residues by sophisticated techniques of organic chemistry. This methodology promises to achieve a lot of new insights, as recently demonstrated for  Fat Residue and Use-Wear Found on Acheulian Biface and Scraper Associated with Butchered Elephant Remains at the Site of Revadim, Israel.

2018-11-11 14:46:42   •   ID: 1142

How to describe Lamelles during the Proto / Aurignacian in W-Europe

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Figure 2
These are ventral and dorsal views from three slightly curved unretouched Lamelles Dufour (Dufour subtype) from Pataud (Dordogne; France) and Les Cottes (Vienne; France).

Around 40 k.a. two distinct lithic traditions are found in Europe the Aurignacian: the "Proto-Aurignacian" and the Early "classical" Aurignacian. These two traditions differ in the way of making blades and bladelets and in the morphology of the end-products.

Moreover, in contrast to the classic Aurignacian, In the Proto-Aurignacian, organic productions are poorly developed and personal ornaments are mainly made from shell.

It remains unclear if the two entities developped completely independent or, if there is a certain grade of interconnectivity between them. It is of interest that straight „ Protoaurignacian“ bladelets at Fumane and Isturitz werde somtimes made from „Classic“ Aurignacian carinated cores!

I this post I concentrate in the bladelet phenomenon, unknown in Europe before the (Proto)-Aurignacian.

Limited Microtraceological Studies showed, that all classes of lamelles during the "Protoaurignacian" / "Aurignacian 0" and Aurignacian, retouched and non-retouched, were used. They were parts of different composite tools, used for hunt but also for domestic activities for cutting meat but also for cutting soft vegetal materials.

Lamelles during the Protoaurignacian and the Aurignacian in S/W-France are highly diversified and have not only chronological,but also ecological, economical and paleo-ethnological meanings. They can be classified by the several dichotomies: Large vs small, straight or only slightly curved vs twisted, tipped vs non-tipped. Of importance are also their retouches (ventral, dorsal, alternately, marginal vs semiabrupt) and their different chaine operatoire.

Lamelles during the Protoaurignacian and the Aurignacian in S/W-France are highly diversified and have not only chronological,but also ecological, economical and paleo-ethnological meanings. They can be classified by the several dichotomies: Large vs small; straight vs. slightly curved vs. twisted; tipped vs non-tipped. Of importance are also their retouches (ventral, dorsal, alternately, marginal vs semi-abrupt.

Traditionally, the European Classification of bladelets is based on the Work of Demars and Brun-Ricalens and has described three basic categories.

  • Large Lamelles Dufour (subtype Dufour) with straight or only slightly curved profile, 30–45 mm long. Such lamelles are common during the "Protoaurignacian"

  • Small Lamelles Dufour (subtype Roc-de-Combe with a twisted profile 15-20 mm long. They have inverse or alternate fine/semiabrupt retouche. Such lamelles are common during the evolved Aurignacian

  • St. Yves  Points, with sizes comparable to Dufour/subtype Dufour or larger. They are straight or only weakly curved. Yves points have a fusiform appearance, created by invasive direct, bilateral semi abrupt retouche on both ends. Krems-Points have the same appearance but an alternate retouche.Such lamelles are common during the "Protoaurignacian"

Large Lamelles Dufour/Subtype Dufour were usually produced from pyramidal / prismatic cores, which were also used for blade production.

Figure 3
In contrast  small Lamelles Dufour/subtype Roc de Combe were produced from specialized carinated cores (Figure3).

Font Yves points were made from specialized unipolar non-carinated cores according to the old findings at the Type-site.

Many authors prefer not to use the historical charged proper names, assigning the artifacts to sites that were rather badly excavated during the 19th / beginning of the 20th century and  instead speak about a broad category of Aurignacian bladelets with  different attributes. By the way: Lamelles Dufour are also known from some Châtelperronian sites but with a different chaine operatoire of their production.

Therefore a paper from Armando Falcucci, just published, is of great interest. They focused on the variability of bladelets of the "Protoaurignacian / Aurignacian 0", at sites excavated with up-to-date methods in Italy, S/E France, the Pyrenean region, Cantabria and the Aquitaine.

Protoaurignacian bladelets from Fumane, Isturitz, and Les Cottes were analyzed. Regarding the blanks, they are most slightly curved and straight and mase from unipolar blade cores. Sub- parallel and convergent bladelets are frequent. The mean length is about 25 mm, the maximal length (at Fumane) is 55mm. Retouches are continuous, marginal and semi-aprubt.

The authors state that during the Protoaurignacian " the lamellar assemblages analyzed belong to common stone knapping traditions that aimed to produce regular, relatively straight, and dimensionally comparable bladelets, even if in some of them the retouch expresses distinct finalities".

And more important:

"Protoaurignacian retouched bladelets at Fumane, Isturitz, and Les Cottés (can be sub-grouped into two major tool categories: bladelets with convergentretouch and bladelets with lateral retouch. The first group includes all of the bladelets retouched up to the apex, with the clear intention to modify and rectify the main tool attri- bute. The second group includes the rest of the bladelets that, even if naturally convergent in their distal part, are modified only on the lateral edge(s)".

Depending of the site, there is a focus on Direct, Alternate or Inverse retouches.

This unified analytic approach will certainly trigger more comparative analyses, especially with the Central / East European and S/W-Asian bladelet tradition. You will hear about this topics during a later post.

2018-11-09 17:47:17   •   ID: 2049

Bell Beaker Wrist-Guards

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Figure 2
This is a broad (Sangmeister 1974) Bell Beaker Wrist-Guard, found more than 100 years ago in S-Germany.

The Bell Beaker phenomenon has already introduced in the blog-see here: 1409

Wrist-guards are traditionally thought to have functioned as archery equipment, protecting the arm against the sting of the bowstring.

This view has been challenged recently by the proposition that many of these highly elaborated artifacts were artifacts associated with symbolic meaning and had no utilitarian connotation. Both explanations are complementary to one another and not mutually exclusive.

Sangmeister in 1974 proposed a simple typology in which the distinction between broad and narrow played a critical role. The broad wrist-guards have their main distribution in Central Europe (S-Germany, Austria,Bohemia, Moravia, Hungary) while the narrow ones occur in all European regions where the Bell Beaker complex is present.

Archery had a defining aspect of the Bell Beaker Complex, evidenced by the personal gear found in the graves, including stone wrist-guards, barbed and tanged flint arrowheads found in Bell Beaker graves.

Other artefacts commonly associated with such burials include copper daggers (Figure 3) and buttons with V-shaped holes.

Figure 3
The dispersal of this ideological system all over Europe took only some centuries and was not accompanied by much genetical exchange, except in Britain, where the genetic profile of the early Neolithic inhabitants was almost completely replaced by a signature of steppe-related ancestry after 2,5 k.a. BC, when the Beaker Complex first arrived in the region.

The Bell Beaker phenomenon was characterized by an highly standardized set of burial practices expressing unknown beliefs.

The introduction of the stone wrist-guard as an artifact was probably associated with an appealing ideology most probably centered around the idea of martiality, foreshadowing the violent conflicts of the European Bronze age- evidenced by the Bronze Age Battlefield in the Tollense Valley, north-eastern Germany.

Other ideological aspects may have been also important: the demonstration of mastery in skilled production of wrist-guards.

The raw material of Wrist guards was not local and came from afar, and that indicated travel, adventure, and myths, aspects that can charge objects and their owners cosmologically (Helms in Fokkens 2008).

Wrist- guards may therefore be cosmologically-charged objects that could have been associated with higher values, not necessarily just with power or prestige ( Fokkens ‎2008).