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2020-07-20 17:58:43   •   ID: 2188

Small Neanderthal Bifaces from Lommoye, Yvélines

Figure 1
Figure 1 shows three Flint-implements from the “Moustérien à petits bifaces dominants”, an Entity which is common in the Bretagne and Normandie.

The handaxes of this post (max length 6,5 cm) are surface findings from Lommoye, Yvélines. About the Bifacial Mousterian in N/W-Franc see here: 1179 , 1501 , here 1665 , here: 1250 , 1585 , here: 1077 and here 1163 .

Lommoye is a commune in the Yvelines department in the Île-de-France region in north-central France. In the Yvélines Département, isolated surface clusters of small cordiform handaxes are numerous- for example from St-Martin-La-Garenne and Richenourg.

Beside some Acheulian Handaxes-see: 2028 , an undated Levallois-Mousterian with sophisticated elongated Mousterian Points is known from Mantes-La-Jolie.

Because of the limited scientific value of such findings they were never systematically evaluated and are dispersed over numerous old collections.

Unfortunately the same problem is apparent for the early Upper Paleolithic in this region. Although some questionable Aurignacian artifacts were found at Lommoye, this collection is far from helpful to resolve the problem of the repopulation of the area by the Homo Sapiens after the demise by Neanderthals.

The same conclusion seems to hold true for "la série " aurignacoïde " d'Herbeville" and some stray findings with a certain but not really convincing relationship to Châtelperronien points.

2020-07-10 16:58:51   •   ID: 2187

Crossing the Strait of Gibraltar by early Humans?

Figure 1
Figure 1 shows a LCT-Cleaver made from from Quartzite and Figure 2 and 3 show two Acheulian Handaxes made from Quartzite and Basalt, found together in S-Spain / Iberian Peninsula in 1932, by F Sanchez, an Amateur collector of Stone Tools.

Figure 4 shows a heavy Acheulian East African Clevaer from Olorgesailie- see: 1247

It has to be mentioned that the production of LTCs in Europe is a quasi unique feature of the Iberian Acheulian, compared to sites in N/W-Europe- where Cleavers are rare although not totally absent -see here: 2017 .

About Giant Cores and Large Cutting tools see here: 1003 and here 1173 .

Lets add a statement by G. Shanon, an expert in the definition and techno-typological evaluation of the LTC-penomenon:

"Acheulian industries in which the production of large flakes from giant cores was the primary technology for blank procurement are known from all parts of Africa, the Iberian Peninsula, the Levant (represented by only one site, GBY), the Caucasus, and as far as east India.

The other main indicator of these large- flake Acheulian industries is the presence of significant numbers of cleavers in their assemblages.

Figure 2
While it is impossible, in the current state of research, to define the chronological end of the large-flake Acheulian industries in Africa and India, it is evident that in the Levant none of the Acheulian sites that postdate GBY (at 790,000 years BP) can be classified as belonging to the large-flake Acheulian tradition.

The same chronological frame holds true for all Acheulian sites in Europe north of the Pyrenees. None of the sites in this region show evidence of the production of large flakes as their primary blank technology, nor are cleavers present in any significant numbers
(Sharon 2010).

Typically Iberian LCT ensembles, if absolute dates are available, belong to the Middle Pleistocene and are therefore much later, than the invention of this technique in Africa which already occured during the Early Pleistocene.

On the other hand the latest LCTs were still in use in N-Africa, when they finally appeared in Iberia (For example at Casablanca and more important at Sidi Zin near Kef in north-western Tunisia- see 1578 ).

How should we interpret these facts?

  • as a convergence phenomenon in regions where large cobbles or blocks of suitable raw material were common?

  • as a longstanding tradition, beginning in Africa followed by a late technological transfer to Europe through one of the known Afro-European corridors?

Figure 3
One possible transcontinental connection between Eurasia and Africa is beside the Levantine corridor and the Bab al- Mandeb Strait, the The Strait of Gibraltar.

It is a narrow strait that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and separates Gibraltar and Peninsular Spain in Europe from Morocco in Africa.

Today the two continents are separated by 14.3 kilometers of ocean at the Strait's narrowest point.

The Strait's depth ranges between 300 and 900 meters which possibly interacted with the lower mean sea level during Pleistocene glacial conditions when the level of the sea is believed to have been lower by 110–180 meters.

Modeling a fall in sea level of about 150 meters indicates the emergence of several islands which would reduce the distance between Africa and Europe to 5+2 km.

During the early Pleistocene, Important falls in sea levels occurred at 2,4 and 1,6 mya. According to Robers (1992), the fall in sea level could have reached c 160m. Interestingly these two events coincided with faunal changes in Europe.

Other events occured during the Middle Pleistocene and during the last Glacial (especially during the LGM).

Here I discuss the hypothesis, that the production of LCTs was indeed not a convergence phenomenon but a longstanding tradition.

I my view there are some evidence that there was probably a technological transfer between N- Africa and Iberia via the Strait of Gibraltar during low sea levels.

Figure 4
This happened in analogy to the „island hopping“ of premodern humans to the island of Flores (Java), which was never connected with the Asian mainland. Notably, Human dispersal to Flores across a considerable marine barrier has been proven as early as 880 k.a. ago.

  • Geographically, Cleavers in possible corridors between the Near East / Arabia and Iberia are virtually absent

  • the specific and sophisticated chaine operatoire of cleavers virtually excludes a convergent evolution during different times and places

  • Beside LCT-Acheulian finds from middle Pleistocene terraces (+40−20 m) of the large Iberian rivers, dated between MIS 11 to MIS 7/6, at least one in-situ site with large accumulations of LCT is known from Spain and exhibits specific African signatures

This site is Porto Maior in the Galicia Province.

At this site lithic tool-bearing deposits date back to 293–205 k.a. Beside Handaxes, Flake Cleavers resembling their African counterparts both in large size, density of deposition and Typology almost exactly resemble their African Counterparts.

Most of the artifacts are in primary position and dated by several methods to 293–205 k.a. This dates are not only interesting regarding a possible African origin of he LCT ensemble, but also to the fact that an early Middle Paleolithic was also present in parts of Iberia at the same time-span.

2020-06-28 11:13:55   •   ID: 2186

The last Pre- Leptolithic industries in N-Africa

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Figure 1: These are three tanged Points from the Murzuq Sand Sea in southwest Libya, already introduced in this Blog- see here: 1030 , here: 2032 and here 1751 .

While the first point on the left (Figure 1 and 2) is certainly a typical elongated Aterian Point made from a thick blade, the last point on the right (Figure 1 and 4) is an Epipaleolithic Onounian Point with a characteristic design.

The central Point (Figure 1 and 3)is a sophisticated convergent blade-tanged point from the "Aterian". Such a suggestive seriation of surface findings could easily taken as an indicator of continuity in the settlement of the Murzuq if there were not good reasons to reject such an assumption.

The most important arguments against such an outdated typological evolution are the temporal distance between Aterian and Ounanian points of at least 15 k.a. and the hyper-arid conditions during the late Pleistocene, making continuous settlement in the Murzuq nearly impossible.

Tanged MSA-Points in the Murzuq sometimes showed a bifacial retouche (Figure 4) or were associated with triangular points without any tang, similar to European Mousterian points and East African unifacial points (Figure 5).

Figure 2
The Motto of this post comes from Edouard Piette (1827- 1906). He was an eminent French Prehistorian, who published the influential paper: Hiatus et Lacune. Vestiges de la période de transition dans la grotte du Mas d'Azil, 1894.

During Piette's time, it was suggested by many influential Prehistorians, that the last "Magdalenians" left Western Europe, following the reindeer herds to the Nord- East. Europe would have been depopulated after the Pleistocene and only repopulated during the Neolithic.

Figure 3
Piette at Mas d Azil and others, who worked on the stratigraphical position of microlithic industries (for example at Fère-en-Tardenois, excavated by E. Tarte in 1885) subsequently proved, that on the contrary, local populations of Western Europe adapted to the new environments instead of emigrating from the Continent- in other words a Hiatus (a gap) in the Archeological record did not exist.

The Azilian and Mesolithic became the technocomplexes who filled the Gap.

The question of continuity / discontinuity of human settlement after marked ecological or sociological changes is debated even today for certain regions, especially North Africa and the adjacent Sahara.

Is there any evidence that the late MSA in N-Africa evolved continuously to Upper Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic industries, maybe triggered by a major stimulus from other regions- or -on the contrary- are there indications for a marked discontinuity in settlement, because N-Africa was inhabitable during this time?

Historically the MSA (“Mousterian” for Researchers adhering the French traditions) in N-Africa has been split into several entities, those boundaries are less clear, than usually suggested (Mousterian, MSA, Nubian Complex, Aterian, Denticulated Mousterian, Mousterian with Bifaces....).

Figure 4
It has to be mentioned that the socio-economic significance of these Industries“ remains largely unclear.

Here I focus on late -MIS4/3 (69-29 k.a.) late MSA and earliest Post-MSA ensembles of the Maghreb , Lybia and the Western and Central Sahara.

Irrespectively their historical designation MSA "entities" are characterized by:

  • The use of prepared core technique (Different modes of Levallois Production, Discoid and Blade orientated techniques

  • Differences in secondary blank modifications (Scrapers, Notches, Denticulates, Crescents, Unifacial Points

  • The occasional focus on Bifacial Techniques, such as Bifacial Foliates, Cordiform Handaxes

  • The Presence / Absence of Tangs

After the Flourishing of MSA / Aterian industries during MIS 5, during MIS4 the days of the “Green Sahara” were definitively over - but isolated habitable ecological niches remained, probably sustained by the continued presence of fresh water via underground aquifers.

At Uan Tabu in Libya, Aterian sites with a strong Levallois component and blade production were dated to the End of MIS4.

At Haua Fteah, a large karstic cave located in the Cyrenaica in northeastern Libya a Levalloiso-Mousterian has been dated ( TL, ESR) between 73 and 65 k.a. at the 95.4% confidence level, within MIS4.

However, during MIS 3 occupation associated with MSA material was again evident across all areas of the Maghreb and some adjacent areas.

Figure 3
What were the last Pre- Leptolithic industries in N-Africa?

Aterian sites, reliable dated in the Jebel Gharbi may have lasted from c 70-30k.a. and are among the youngest MSA sites known- at a timeframe, the Taramsan evolved in the Nil Valley and the IUP was already present in the Levant.

Just a few dated late Middle Paleolithic / MSA Sites are known from N- Africa: Wadi Noun in southern Morocco, was dated to ~31 k.a. Some uncertainties exist with a Middle Paleolithic, dating to c 26 k.a. at Sidi Saïd in Tunisia.

Barton et al. recently show that an MSA non- Levallois flake industry ( in my opinion Quina-like) was present until 24.5 k.a. Cal BP at Taforalt Cave, Morocco. This occupation was followed by a gap (which was followed by a Iberomaurusian industry from at least 21,1 k.a. Cal BP.

Overall there is currently no evidence for a typo-technological continuity between the MSA and Early Upper (leptolithic) Industries.

Figure 4
The first Initial Upper Paleolithic of N-Africa is known from the famous Haua Fteah cave in the Cyrenaica.

This Industry is the Dabban industry which dates to ca. 43–40 k.a. BP, below the Campanian Ignimbrite tephra which has occurred ca. 39 k.a. BP. The Dabban has some similarities to the Emiran of the Levant and may be more part of the Levantine interaction sphere than part of the N-African world.

The Iberomaurusian is the first widespread fully Upper Paleolithic (Blade and Bladelet) industry found on the coastal zone of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.

The Iberomaurusian seems to have appeared around the time of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), somewhere between c. 25 and 22 BP or during the following Heinrich Event I 19-14.6 BP and would have lasted until c. 11 k.a. cal BP.

The mosaic like lithic traditions in N-Africa, all made by H. Sapiens are impressive and contradictory to a simple linear thinking in Paleolithic Prehistory- see 1637

Suggested Reading

Far the Best about the theme: Africa from MIS 6-2: Population Dynamics and Paleoenvironments (Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology) | Sacha C. Jones, Brian A. Stewart, 2016

Aumassip, Ginette. Préhistoire du Sahara et de ses abords . Editions L'Harmattan-Tome 1 et 2; 2019

2020-06-18 18:02:41   •   ID: 2185

MSA Foliate from the Ténéré

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This is a 10,3 cm long Bifacial Foliate, made fom fine grained Basalt, found decennia ago 150 km East of the Termit Massiv / Niger in the southeastern Ténéré near the Oasis Agadem.

The overall design and the raw material speak against a Neolithic implement in favour of a bifacial MSA-point.

The Ténéré is a desert region in the south central Sahara. It comprises a vast plain of sand stretching from northeastern Niger into western Chad, occupying an area of over 400000 square km.

The Ténéré's boundaries are the Aïr Mountains in the west, the Hoggar Mountains in the north, the Djado Plateau in the northeast, the Tibesti Mountains in the east, and the basin of Lake Chad in the south.

Oasis Agadem: The designation "oasis" may a little bit euphemistic, as I was told by People who visited this place during the last years. The last scientific expedition took place by the 1th Mission Beliet in 1959.

Today the Agadem depression as well as the plateaus of Homodji and Tcheni Tchasi are characterized by deeply fissured sandstone, which is iron crusted in its upper parts.

Since the 1970ies it is evidenced by geomorphological research and remote sensing, that during the early Holocene, and even earlier, during the Middle Pleistocene, Lakes up to 40 m deep formed in presently dessert areas of Niger, near Agadem, Bilma and Fachi.

This is known as the "Green Sahara" phenomena, already introduced into the Blog- see for example here: 1368 .

The find-spot of our artifact is located in ithe Periphery both of Pleistocene Megalake Chad and a dense network of Rivers connected with this megalake and the Seresti Tibesti River drainage.

Therefore people lived within a favorable environment during MIS5 or even earlier in the Middle Pleistocene (see last external Link- Page 7).

Lake Chad, with a present mean depth of about 4m, then stood 38 m above its present level; at that time it covered an area the size of the United Kingdom and reached a maximum depth of about 340 m in the Bodele depression in the northeast. Indeed, Mega Chad was the biggest freshwater lake on earth.

Figure 4
Figure 4 displays the Geographic localisation of the Oasis Agadem (© 2020 NASA; Terrametrics - Kartendaten © 2020 Google).

Bifacial Foliates in the Southern Niger could be Part of two "Entities"- The Lupemban and the Aterian - see here: 2024 , here 1273 , here 1052 and here: 1272 .

During wet periods in this region, there could have been a population inflow both from the Tibesti ("Aterian Interaction sphere") or Megalake Chad ( "Lupemban Interaction sphere").

Both industries show a spectrum of Innovations, compared with the ESA (Hafting, Use of Ochre, pressure flaking, blades, composite tools and evidence of symbolic expression..)

The Aterian is found over a vast area-from Morocco to Egypt and as far south as the Sahel. The Aterian of the Central Sahara, usually defined as a Middle Paleolithic with Levallois and Discoid traits including tanged Points and Bifacial Foliates is present in the region of Southern Libya and Algeria, the Northern Niger and Chad.

Aterian ensembles are present from MIS6 (about 190-130 k.a.) to MIS3 (about 59-29 k.a.). While the timing of its beginnings is now rather clear, the timing of its end is ambiguous and may be as late as 30 k.a. in remote areas.

The most southern Lanceolate bifaces of the Central Sahara in an Aterian context were found at Adrar Bous / Niger, ca 600 km North-West from Agadem. They clearly bear similarities to those of the Lupemban technocomplex of Central Africa (Clark 1993).

In Clarks view, the Aterian landscape at Adrar Bous included both habitation sites and work camp locations, while another Aterian scatter was thought to have been a hunters' lookout (Clark 1993).
Figure 5

Another Aterian site was documented by Tillet at Seggedim, N/E-Niger. Tillet excavated one larger central zone and two smaller sites in the vicinity.

The central Zone, 7 m in diameter represented a clearly confined area with about 5600 lithics. Similar findings were present in the smaller sites.

Beside denticulates and scrapers, tanged pieces and some foliates were present. One particularity of the Aterian in the Central Sahara are intentionally perforated lithics.

At Seggedim they were found on Levallois debitage- maybe an early case of Symbolism.

The central site was interpreted as a knappers camp, with debitage from Levallois and Discoid operational sequences.

The lithics were found near a raw material outcrop, used either over a long period or repeatedly on a number of occasions (Tillet 1985).

The Lupemban of Central Africa and the Eastern Lowlands is dated roughly between 400-150 k.a BP.

It can be identified on the basis of relatively small parallel sided core axes and bifacial foliates and lanceolates, often combined with a blade element and Levallois flake tools.

Figure 6
At Twin Rivers and Kalambo Falls there is the first African indication for backed tool technology, suggestive for hafting these artifacts.

JD Clark suggested these heavy-duty tools were good for wood-working, based on association of Kalambo Falls site in Zambia with deciduous woodland, and preserved wood at site.

However, a number of other sites, such as those excavated by McBrearty in Kenya and at Sai 8-B-11 were clearly occupied by open grassland or savannas.

At Sai 8-B-11 in northern Sudan the two lowermost strata can be attributed to the Sangoan because of the presence of core-axes and distinctive flake reduction strategies.

Given the evidence of systematic blade production and the presence of a lanceolate in addition to small and regular core-axes, the upper assemblage of this sequence is qualified as Lupemban.

This ensemble is overlain by dune sands dating to around 152 k.a. It is suggested, that this ensemble marks the beginning of the MSA in the Nil valley, which is later evolving towards the “Nubian -MSA”, during OIS6/5.

A Lupemban industry also occurs at the site of Taramsa 1, located on the west bank of the Nile in Upper Egypt, where it dates to 165 k.a.

At the nearby site of Taramsa 8 this industry predates the Last Interglacial pedogenesis.

There are certainly West African outposts of Lupemban-like industries near the Niger, which can currently not sufficiently described in terms of absolute dating and site integrity.

The Lupemban, and the MSA in West Africa in general is understudied, for a variety of reasons.

The few absolute dates interestingly show a broad overlap between the end of the MSA and later quartz based LSA industries.

Numerous undated Stone Age sites, described as Sangoan and Lupemban, were, for example, detected in the southern regions of Cameroon, one gateway to the Mali and Niger regions by Allsworth Jones during the 1980ies. Similar sites have also been recorded from Nigeria, the Ivory coast and Ghana.

The bifacial foliates of these industries do not show the "Gigantism", known from Central Africa and principally resemble the artifact shown in this post.

Ounjougou is the most important stratified site in West Africa located in the Dogon country (Mali). Soriano et al. described MSA artifacts from Levallois and Discoid cores over a stratigraphical succession of 30 levels, dated between MIS 6 (ca 150 k.a.) and as late as MIS 2.

Artifacts were especially rich in MIS3 layers. Bifacial foliates < 10 cm were present during MIS3 but also during MIS2 at ca 25 k.a.- a rather late time-point for an MSA-technology indeed! - but not as rare as thought 20 years ago - see here: 1637 ,...

Suggested Reading:

Sacha C. Jones, Brian A. Stewart (Ed.): Africa from MIS 6-2: Population Dynamics and Paleoenvironments (Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology).

The most interesting book about the African MSA Record published during the last years

2020-06-11 20:30:34   •   ID: 2184

Le pays d'Othe: No Land for Scientific Prehistory

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The Pays d'Othe is located between the "chalky Champagne" and the "humid Champagne" on a chalky ground covered by sands formed from flint debris in N/E-France.

Today the Othe-plateau is characterized by a marked uneven surface, mainly the consequence of agricultural activities and subsequent Erosion.

The countryside is crisscrossed by valleys, ravines and potholes (Figure 4: Wikimedia Commons).

Consequently the rough charm of the Othe Plateau is rather unknown even for French Tourists, which are more attracted by the Burgundy and southern Champagne.

The artifact of this post is a large, 10 cm long, Levallois Flake (Figures 1-3), without further secondary retouches. it exhibits a faceted platform (Figure 4) and was found at the Beginning of the 20th century by a colleague of mine, the Dr. Bargues from Paris.

In my private collection several large Levallois Flakes made by the "débitage Levallois à un éclat préférentiel" and products of different recurrent Levallois methods (sensu Boeda) are present from the Othe region.

They are, if not patinated, razor sharp cutting instruments, and if secondary retouched, mostly reworked to side-scrapers, a major component of a local "Scraper rich Mousterian". These ensembles are most probably from the last Glacial, in analogy to the Yonne Valley, especially from the "Pléniglaciaire inférieur" (MIS4).

The piece of this post comes from the department of Aube-see here: 2183 and more precisely from the Forest of Othe.

Compared to other parts of the Aube Department, this area has never been the subject of systematic research concerning the periods of the Early and Middle Paleolithic.

The development of stratified sites was prevented by the absence of Abris, a sufficient loess coverage and stratified colluvial formations.

In contrast to the Archeological explorations by INRAP in the Yonne region, the Orthe artifacts were found during walking surveys (Boëda and Mazière 1989).

Figure 4
On the other hand, Le pays d'Othe is rich in easy to find surface scatters, which already draw the attention of Collectors to Paleolithic and Neolithic material, during the 19th century. (Boëda E., Mazière G.1989).

The region therefore remains more interesting for Amateurs than for serious Scientists - two different scenes- see- 2106 .

Suggested Reading: Pré et Protohistoire de l'Aube. Musée de Nogent-sur-Seine, 24 juin - 15 octobre 1989. CATALOGUE D'EXPOSITION; 1989., 1989

2020-06-06 16:16:15   •   ID: 2183

A twisted Handaxe / Core from the Aube Region in France

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This is a asymmetrical twisted cordiform Biface (11x6x0,5-2,5 cm) , made from high quality flint, most probably belonging to the MTA tradition.

It was found near Planty in N/E-France. Further examples of twisted Handaxes during the Paleolithic and possible explanations for their special Design can be found in this Blog here: 1509 and here 2080 .

Interestingly, the Biface was secondary used as a core, as seen in Figure 1b, where a thin flake, about 4,5 cm long was finally detached from the artifact.

From the "classic" MTA in S/W-France it is well known that Bifaces served both as versatile and multifunctional instruments and as cores - the signature of a highly mobile lifestyle of Neanderthals moving in an unpredictable and potentially dangerous landscape.

Today Planty is a small town with 242 inhabitants (2017), situated in the Department Aube in the region Grand Est (until 2016 called: Champagne-Ardenne).

The nearby Vanne river is an important right tributary of the Yonne river, which is itself a tributary of the Seine - certainly an important landmark during Prehistoric times.

Along the Yonne, rich Lower and Weichselian Middle Paleolithic findings, sometimes with a clear MTA and KMG-aspect, have been documented and already described in Aggsbachs Blog: here: 1172 and here 2179 .

Large scale excavations in the Vanne Valley revealed several extensive Weichselian Pleniglacial [MIS 4] sites (for example: Lailly Beauregard, Villeneuve- l’Archevêque, see: Depaepe 2007)

Here operational sequences were Levallois based with rare Bifaces of Middle Paleolithic morphology.

The region around Planty is an area rich of homogeneous flint of excellent quality, used since the Middle Paleolithic until the Neolithic. Several Neolithic mining production sites were present and studied by the INRAP during the construction of the autoroute A5, especially at Villemaur-sur-Vanne, about 10 km South of Planty.

The most important Early and Middle Paleolithic site in the Aube Region is Vallentigny, about 70 km East of Planty, where a large profile, that was opened during quarrying operations, was accessible for Prehistoric research during the second half of the last century (see R. Tomasson et al. 1963).

Despite marked cryoturbation phenomena, the Excavators discovered stratified ensembles in place, some accompanied by mammal bones, giving one important benchmark for the chronology of the terminal Middle Pleistocene and the Upper Pleistocene of the sector.

Geochronical observations of the terrace architecture of the Aube that were recently made at Brienne-le-Château and Bar-Sur-Aube, about 70 km east of Planty and nearby Vallentigny, are also helpful for the understanding of the Archaeological record.

Four stepped fluvial terraces along the Aube River Valley have been dated using the Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) method applied on optically bleached quartz.

The obtained chronology indicates that the deposition of the terraces system was initiated during the Middle Pleistocene, i.e. later that in other valleys of Parisian Basin area (Cher, Creuse, Somme), in which the oldest fluvial sheets are coeval of Lower Pleistocene times.

This pattern raises the question of the preservation of the alluvial sheets, of the Aube river course at that time or even of its existence.

On the other hand, the evolution of the system follows the general model proposed for several rivers of the northern Parisian Basin (Seine, Somme, Yonne), each sheet corresponding to the depositional balance of a Glacial/Interglacial cycle
(Voinchet et al. 2015).

While deposits of the 50m terrace are about 600 k.a.old, the lower terraces are dated to the Middle Pleistocene (Fy-b; ca 300 k.a. BP; Fy-b ca 165 k.a. The lower terrace has a late MIS6 and MIS5 age).

At Vallentigny, during excavations carried out in an operating quarry (Miskovsky, 1963; Tomasson & Tomasson, 1963), alluvial deposits have delivered an industry from the Lower Paleolithic and remains of horse and woolly rhinoceros, attributed by Guérin to a “Rissian” form (cited by Tomasson, 1996).

These alluviums, according to their altitude, can be matched with the Fx-b deposits and are therefore 300 k.a. old. These layers layer are characterized by elongated, mainly cordiform Acheulian Bifaces (see attached files).

The sequence of colluvial and sometimes pedogenised silty cover deposits covering the alluviums of the Vallentigny site has delivered a Mousterian industry, with cordiform Bifaces and a fauna including aurochs and mammoth (Tomasson, 1996). The Lithics, according to the ESR measurements are from MIS5 or even younger.

Therefore we can assign the twisted cordiform Handaxe of this post to the Middle Paleolithic with bifacial Handaxes (or MTA) of MIS5-3 age, well known from the local context-for example from Moussey (Aube; distance: 40 km), Congy (Marne; distance: 70 km) or even the iconographic MIS3 "Atelier" de Bifaces of Saint-Amand-les-Eaux (Nord, distance ca 270 km).

2020-05-25 09:23:33   •   ID: 2182

Prehistoric Awls

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Figure 1 and 2: This is a bipointed meticulous polished bone awl from a pile dwelling site of Lake Constance.

Because Bi-pointed awls are known since the early Upper Paleolithic in the Old World a pre- Neolithic age of the item can not be excluded.

Figure 3 displays a more simple awl from the Terramare Culture at Maggio near Bologna, Italy (courteously by W. Hernus; about Terramare see here: 2092 ).

The awl, shown in Figure 1 and 2 has an elegant flat form, a length of 7 cm, and a pointed tip on both ends. Anyhow this tool could also be a projectile, a clothing pin or a fishing hook-see here: 1411 .

While the use as a small projectile or a clothing pin can not be excluded, fishing hooks usually exhibit a drilled hole or a notch on the shaft / medial part of the artifact and therefore are unlikely.

Anyhow Mortillet in his Placard Monograph described an almost identical piece as "hameçon". Only Microtraceology of our piece could settle the Problem of a correct functional designation of the piece.

Functionally and supported by micro wear studies, awls were pointed tools for making small holes in inorganic and organic materials, but could also have been used to create decorative incisions on pottery.

A major purpose of Awls during the Paleolithic was certainly the piercing or drilling holes to sew together clothes from animal skins, before the revolutionary advent of sewing needles-see here: 1677

There is no no standard typology available, describing bone awls, but according to several researchers morphologically awls may classified into:

  • Splinter awls wich were made from bone splinters that were sharpened at one end but remain otherwise without modification

  • Cylindrical awls on small long bones, for example on the radius or ulna of different small species. like birds. They were usually fully polished and oval or round in cross section : Figure 3

  • Bipointed awls: Morphology as shown in Figure 1 and 2

Figure 3
First polished bone artifacts, which are suggested to be awls are known from the Still Bay and Howiesons Poort levels at Blombos Cave and Sibudu in South Africa (77-64 k.a. BP.

The fine polish of these tools is suggestive for a non-utilitarian purpose, for example their use as a part of exchange systems along the South African cost and its hinterland (d’Errico & Henshilwood 2007).

After 40 k.a. BP Awls were a constant feature in the Archeological record all over the old world.

Anyhow, the evidence of such artifacts is dependent on the environmental milieu of their embedment and therefore, they have been mainly found in anaerobic, basic milieus, such as bogs and pile dwellings-like the example shown here.

2020-05-12 09:34:23   •   ID: 2180

News from Bacho Kiro Level 11 (I) the Type Site of the IUP in S-E Europe

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I was always covinced, that this 9 cm long Blade with facetted base from an old Bulgarian collection was something special.

According to the records it was found as a single surface find at the Dryanovo river near Bacho Kiro in North Bulgaria- the Type site for the IUP in South East Europe (the „Bachokirian“).

Beside some intentional or post - depositional notches, flat retouches are confined to its apical part.

The ventral part is partially covered with a thin and hard stone matrix, the artifact is covered by a whitish patina.

The morphology of the artifact resembles items from the IUP/EUP of the Levant but has neither affinities to the Aurignacian, characterized by often thick blades with a lateral retouche, or the Gravettian with its long, straight and narrow blanks, nor resembles the Levallois-point like Bohunician stone tips.

Interestingly, the tool morphology of our point clearly resembles the smaller (max 6 long) pointed Blades from Manot cave (Israel) and the pointed Blades (length up to 11 cm) from Level I at Bacho Kiro cave (Kozlowski's level 11), shown in a paper published recently- see external links.

Regarding the IUP of Bulgaria, genuine blade technology progressively replaced the Levallois chaine operatoire, which seems to be nevertheless still present at Temnata VI and Bacho Kiro 11 (Kozlowski's excavations).

However, typologically Middle and Upper Palaeolithic types (for example heavily retouched side-scrapers and Mousterian Points) persist in these assemblages.

Apically retouched, mostly broken pointed blades, similar to the artifact of this post, are also characteristic for the earliest Upper Paleolithic of Bulgaria.

After the groundbreaking modern excavations at Bacho Kiro, carried out by a Bulgarian / Polish team (Kozlowski 1983), new Excavations by Bulgarian Archaeologists and a team of the MPG in Leipzig took place since 2005.

About the Material of the new excavations, Tsanova et al. (2019) stated that the ensemble of the IUP level is characterized by

"1) selection of fine-grained aptian flints which come from sources in Ludogorie region between 90 and 180 km northeast of the cave;

2) pointed blades (some of them potentially functioning as tips on projectiles based on diagnostic macro-fractures);

3) variability in the size of blades with small blades produced in continuity; 4) bladelets obtained also by reflaking tools and blanks;

4) reduction method and technique close to Levallois;

5) a high degree of retouched tools and shaping flakes, reduction by reflaking (rédebitage), fragmentation and retouch, according to different modalities: on anvil percussion (splintered pieces), on the ventral face of a flake (Kombewa), on the edge of a tool (burin blows);

6) micro wear traces on pointed blades and retouched blades associated with wood cutting, splintered pieces with bone and antler working, and on endscrapers associated with skin scraping;

7) absence of Aurignacian technology (lithic, osseous). Layer I also contains a large faunal assemblage accumulated anthropogenically and personal ornaments made of animal bone and teeth"

But even more important are the results of an extensive C-14 dating program and the analysis from human remains of the taphonomic minimally disturbed Level I at Bacho Kiro I:

"The extensive IUP assemblage, now associated with directly dated H. sapiens fossils at this site, securely dates to 45,820–43,650 cal BP (95.4% probability), probably beginning from 46,940 cal BP (95.4% probability).

This is the oldest date for a H. Sapiens Population that entered Europe during MIS3 so far and the first unambiguous indication that at least one of the so called: "Transitional Industries" was made by this Species.

Surf the Blog: Discussion about the IUP/EUP: 1603 , here 1495 , and here: 1557

2020-05-09 16:29:07   •   ID: 2179

Convergent Scraper from the Yonne Valley

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This is a 9 cm long Convergent Middle Paleolithic convergent scraper made on a Levallois flake- a single surface find from a brickyard at the Yonne river.

German Typologists would possibly call such an artifact as „Bogenspitze“ (sensu Bosinski)

The Yonne in Northern France is a left-bank tributary of the Seine.

The Yonne Valley and its tributaries are rich in Lower and Middle Paleolithic site- see 1172 and attached external links.

The craper was made on a thin flake which exhibits marginal-semi-invasive retouches. Both edges are slightly convex and end in a well executed point.

If this scraper was initially a single scraper and consecutively reworked into a convergent tool, remains unclear, the overall design, in my view, speaks for the second hypothesis.

The age of the artifact covers a long period of time (MIS 8-3) and can not be seriously determined.

In N/W Europe such scrapers were present during MIS7, for example at Maastricht-Belvedère [K], Rheindahlen, Biache-Saint-Vaast and Weimar Ehringsdorf and part of an early Middle Paleolithic, chacterized by different prepared core techniques.

At Biache and Ehringsdorf lithic ensembles, which included convergent scrapers were associated with the remains of Early Neanderthals.

Further information about the Levallois-Mousterian in N/W-Europe and adjacent areas can be found here: 1564

Use-wear evidence over European Lithic ensembles indicates that convergent and pointed tools were used for different tasks like:

1) cutting work on soft, semi-hard and hard materials, depending on the overall design of the tool. 2) As classical scrapers 3) As piercing tools.

In addition V. Rots showed, that many of these tools were hafted at Biache-Saint-Vaast- even if the morphology of the tools allowed a free-hand use.

Suggested Reading: Rots, V: Prehension and Hafting Traces on Flint Tools: a Methodology ; 2010

2020-05-01 08:40:23   •   ID: 2175

Early Mesolithic Microliths from La Fère-en-Tardenois

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These are typical triangular microlithic points from Fère-en-Tardenois, the Type-site of the French "Tardenoisian".

After C. J. Thomsen had in 1836 revived the idea of the Latin Philosopher Lucretius 99 BC – c. 55 BC) deviding Prehistory into the three ages of Stone, Bonze and Iron, there was only one Stone age, but when the discoveries of Boucher de Perthes had been recognized by the scientific community, John Evans in 1859 pointed out that this age must be divided into two, one in which the fauna was extinct and the material culture was made of chipped stone and a second in which the fauna was recent and polished tools appeared.

Later on, John Lubbock suggested that these two periods should be termed respectively the Paleolithic and Neolithic ages. It was soon noted, however, that these ages did not pass into one another, but that between them there was a "hiatus"

Subsequently, the term "Mesolithic" was created in the late nineteenth century from the need to label chipped stone ensembles of the early Holocene, that were characterized by Microliths and a postglacial fauna without evidence of domestication. The Mesolithic filled the gap between the Paleo- and Neolithic.
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The Tardenoisian was first described by G. de Mortillet in 1896 and is a Mesolithic Technocomplex named after sites found in the environs of La Fère-en-Tardenois in northern France (department of Aisne).

It needed decades until the the Mesolithic was accepted as a topic of serious scientific engagement. Systematic work in France and Central Europe essentially began only after WW II. For Northern France the systematic evaluation of Mesolithic sites by J.-G. Rozoy (1972 et 1978) and J. Hinout (2002) remains essential.

A similar role played W. Taute (1934-1995) for the Definition of the Mesolithic ("Beuronian") in S/W-Germany. During his excavations of the Jägerhaus cave near Beuron on the upper Danube he succeeded for the first time in recording the early Mesolithic stages in a reliable sequence.

In the Scandinavian countries Mesolithic research remained always in the focus of Interest since JA Worsaae's (1821-1885) times
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In Northern France the Mesolithic record is usually limited to excavations carried out in a sandy environment with secondary mixed ensembles or even to surface collections. This unfortunately also holds true to the many ensembles around La Fère-en-Tardenois.

Therefore ongoing research on non disturbed in-situ ensembles in the Somme basin which, beside a detailed stratigraphy, include also organic remains have provided a much more sophisticated picture of the Mesolithic in N-France. Regarding the Early Mesolithic of this region, reliable C-14 dates are now available:

The Mesolithic typochronology of northern France was examined by a series of radiocarbon dates obtained from sites with single occupations. Some difficulties still persist in dating the earliest stage and the Mesolithic characterised by trapezes.

Lithic assemblages characterised by points with unretouched base and some adzes or axes, typical of northern Europe, are dated between 9500 and 9300 BP.

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Assemblages with numerous points with retouched base (Tardenoisian points or Horsham points; Beuronian ?) and crescents are dated between 9100 and 8600 BP.

Crescents are replaced by triangles around c. 8500 BP.

Assemblages with backed bladelets and mistletoe points appear around c. 8200 BP
(Ducrocq 2009).

Regarding these data, the points of the present post are at least 9100 and 8600 BP old, but it is important to note, that according to Erwin Cziesla ,isosceles triangles with dorso- ventral base-retouche-identical to the smaller point in this Post-were also present during the next 4000 years over a wide area of Germany, between the rivers Seine and Rhine, eastern France and the Low Countries until the Mesolithic / Neolithic boundary.