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2018-11-12 16:32:21   •   ID: 2051

Flexible Stones: The Anatomy of a Middle Paleolithic Tool

Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3
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

Figure 1
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.

Figure 2
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. Figure displays an irregular shaped double scraper from Badegoule.
Figure 3


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).

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.

Figure 4
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 scraper" served as bladelet cores (Figure 4)

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)

Figure 5
“Spoon scrapers” first appeared at Ehringsdorf (OIS7) and were common during the Aurignacian (Fig. 5:  Aurignacian near the Mont Circeo in West-Italy south of Rome) .

Cortical scapers are made on a cortical blade or flake and are known from the Solutrean in S/W-France and as tabular scrapers from the Levantine Bronze age. The cortical Scraper on Figure 6 is from the Solutrean at Laugerie haute.
Figure 6


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.

Figure 7
During the earlier stages of the Aurignacian in France and Central Europe (Figure 7: 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 8 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 8


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.

2018-11-08 15:28:32   •   ID: 2048

Erg Issaouane / Algeria and the changing views on the African Neolithic

Fig.1
The Issaouane Erg (also called Issaouane-N-Irrararene) is a sand sea, covering approximately 38,000 km2 in Algeria's South East and part of the Sahara desert.

Erg Issaouane is situated east of the northern outposts of the Tassili n'Ajjer and finds its continuation in the Ubari sand sea, already introduced in this blog- see here 2002 , flanked by the Libyan erg of Murzuq.

NASA's Earth Observatory notes that three types of erg dunes, displayed in Figure 1 (NASA public domaine) exist at Erg Issaouane:

"The most common landforms in the image are star dunes and barchan (or crescent) dunes. Small linear dunes appear at top left. Star dunes are formed when sand is transported from variable wind directions, whereas barchan dunes form in a single dominant wind regime. The superimposition of two dune types suggests that wind regimes have changed through time".

The formation of stationary mega dunes can take hundreds of thousands of years to form; mesoscale dunes form on the mega dunes over thousand of years and smaller ones may arise, which migrate over the bigger ones during very short time intervals.

Figure 2
Paleolithic findings from Erg Issaouane are rather rare. They were found as small isolated scatters of ESA / MSA artifacts similar to the richer findings in the Murzuq.

The "Neolithic" is much more common. It was never described monographically, while we have a good overview by Aumassip (see external links) about the "Bas Sahara" further North. Anyhow this account was published 32 years ago.

The Sahara underwent a major population increase between 10,5 and 5,5 K.a.BP. and the climatic amelioration seems to be the prime factor driving broad-scale population dynamics (Manning 2014).

Figure 2 shows a 13 cm long, flat bifacial artifact with oblique basis, similar to examples described from the Bas Sahara and quite different from MSA-foliates of the Sahara-as seen here: 2032 .

Grinding stones, top stones and pestles are scattered all over the surface of the Sahara together with the ubiquitous inventory of Neolithic sites: Polished axes, arrowheads, backed pieces and microliths.

Figure 3 shows an colorful topstone (108 x 73 x 44 mm), that was found in isolation at Erg Issaouane more than 40 years ago. It would have been used to grind grains for cooking or to grind other organic and inorganic material, like minerals to make pigments.

The the transitions between topstones and small zoo- and anthropomorphic carvings are fluid.

Figure 3
Such sculptures have been found in the Tassili n'Ajjer and the Admer Erg, but are also known from the Issaouane sand sea.

Camps wrote in 1982: "To date, some thirty-eight of these Neolithic animal sculptures from Tassili n'Ajjer, the Admer Erg and the Ahaggar are known and some anthropomorphic cult figurines from Tabelbalat, Issaouane and Ouan Sidi are included in this total.

They were found outside and to the north of the area of greatest concentration, made up of the Tassili n'Ajjer and the Admer Erg.

Among the animals represented, cattle are far more numerous than sheep, antelopes or rodents. They all observe quite strict stylistic rules, essentially based on bilateral symmetery on each side of an axis, usually marked by a crest which, on some of the sculptures, runs from the muzzle to the end of the back"
.

But back to the basic theme: what was the Saharan "Neolithic"?

Early Scholarly discussions about African agricultural origins were profoundly influenced by the implicit and poorly defined concept of the Neolithic ("The age of Polished stone") which, originally developed in Europe and the Middle East, was uncritically transmitted to Africa.

Figure 4
Outside Africa the Neolithic is defined by the use of domesticated plants, often followed by animal domesticates.

The equation of the Neolithic with plant production led to expectations that polished tools (Figure 4), ground-stones and pestles (Figure 3), and pottery in Africa should be associated with domestic plants.

But decennia of research (for example at Adrar Bous, Nabta Playa, Wadi Kubanniya) did not find early domesticates, but ironically produced one of the best documented evidence for an intensive use of of wild plants (wild grasses, legumes and tubers) by our ancestors.

These observations were recently been re-confirmed by Mercuri et all. for the Takarkori rock-shelter in southwest Libya.

Here extensive Archeobotanical finds indicate that, during the the Holocene green Sahara period, from 9500 to 5500 cal BP, encompassing foraging communities followed by Pastoralists, cultivation did not lead to domestication.

Figure 5
Interestingly, many of the remains were from species that we would consider "weedy" – invasive, opportunistic plants that people at the site would have cultivated and managed but never domesticated.

The use of such plants highlights their potential value as reliable food resources in the face of climate change and desertification and thus the successful adaption of Homo Sapiens to different habitats.

Figure 5 shows a plant, that later would become important as a domesticate in Africa: ''Sorghum bicolor'' from Leonhart Fuchs New Kreüterbuch; 1543. Basel.

2018-11-07 06:29:55   •   ID: 2047

Big Man - Big Fool- Waist Deep in the Big Muddy

Figure 1
This is a decorated dagger, 21 cm long, with six-fold riveting perforation, from the Early Bronze Age of S-Germany, about 4 k.a. old. In general, such items are seen as attributes of the early Bronze Age elite. This elite had clearly a martial ideal.

We rarely think about the fact, that social stratification as the standard global political model of our times, is not natural and the consequence of a long complicated historical process.

There (are) / were alternatives: An acephalous, non-stratified, society lacks political leaders or hierarchies. Typically these societies are small-scale, organized into lineages, that make decisions through consensus decision making rather than appointing permanent "big man" to settle the societies affairs.

Most hunter-gatherer societies were acephalous. Even today, agricultural rural societies, for example in South Ethiopia are organized without a central hierarchy state structures and political elites.

Mechanisms that prompted social stratification, inequality and warfare, were already described in this blog here: 1669 .

I personally suggest that the global standard model in the long term will have disastrous implications for humankind.

Donald Trump, the prototype of an erratic Big Man, a Homophobic Racist and notorious Lier, some minutes ago (7.11.18, MEZ 6:29) gave a very positive spin to the 2018 midterm election results, despite the Democrats are likely to take control of the House of Representatives. Unfortunately these election will not stop Trumps Hate agenda.

Figure 2
Figure 2 shows a famous drawing of Otto Dix (Photographed with permission during 2014 in Mannheim) displaying the program of another "Big Man" as emanation of the seven deadly sins: envy, greed, lust, wrath, sloth, vanity and gluttony.

The Motive of this Post "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" is a story, written by Pete Seeger, as an allegory about President Johnson's engagement in the Vietnam war during the 1960ies.

This simple story is about a training platoon in Louisiana during World War II. The platoon follows their captain into the middle of the Mississippi river in the middle of the night, even though the sergeant questions whether this is really the best way to go.

"Don't be a Nervous Nellie," eggs the captain. And just after that, the captain is devoured by quick sand. Big oops.

The eminent Guitarist Marc Ribot has now updated the Pete Seeger Song: "The Big Fool," comes with a thrilling guitar and Seeger's song "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" mutates to an angry lament about the Trump era. I agree...

Suggested Reading: Tagungen des Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte Halle (Saale) Band 18: Überschuss ohne Staat – Politische Formen in der Vorgeschichte Hrsg. Harald Meller, Detlef Gronenborn und Roberto Risch; Halle (Saale) 2018: Far the best about the Archeo-Ethnology of Alternative trajectories of social Organisation.

2018-11-01 15:42:54   •   ID: 2046

Symbolic Significance of Graphic Patterns during the Paleolithic ?

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This is a single beveled, 12 cm long bone sagaie from the Solutrean from the Fourneau de Diable site in the Dordogne. It shows parallel lines with a "zig-zag"-pattern. While early 19th century researchers** interpreted such graphic expressions as property marks, a symbolic interpretation seems to be equally or even more probable.

A symbol means something, whose meaning is determined by arbitrary relationship. This relationship is a socially construction, a convention which implied a shared ideological understanding.

Engravings in stone or organic materials can never be proven to be of symbolic significance per se.

Alternative explanations, for example the use of graphical signs or as property marks, are also possible. The discussion, if Paleolithic People, used Symbols remains open for Discussion.

Christopher S. Henshilwood and & Francesco d’Errico defined criteria, that can be used to support a symbolic use of engravings during the Paleolithic.

(i) an absence of obvious functional reasons behind the production of the engravings;

(ii) consistencies in the media on which the engravings are made;

(iii) the preparation of the surface prior to engraving;

(iv) the degree of neuromotor control inferred from the analysis of each line;

(v) the type of tool used;

(vi) the use of the same tool for the production of the entire pattern;

(vii) the consistent organisation of the sequence of motions articulating the marking action;

(viii) the regularity of the resultant pattern; (ix) the presence of engravings on a number of objects rather than on a single one;

(x) the repetition of the same motif on more than one object;

(xi) variations within what is perceived as the same basic motif;

(xii) the production of a variety of different motifs;

(xiii), temporal continuity in the production of engravings on the same media; (xiv) persistence or change in the production of motifs through time;

(xv), production of similar engravings on the same media at a number of sites;

and (xvi), similarity in the media used for engraving by prehistoric, extant and/or historically known groups
.“

Figure4
To begin with the Near East: A bone engraving dated to ca 130 k.a.was reported from Unit III at the Levallois-Mousterian open-air site of Nesher Ramla (Israel), already introduced here: 1433

The bone is a mid-shaft fragment from an aurochs . The surface exhibits 6 parallel incisions oriented perpendicularly to the bone axis. A non-utilitarian background was proposed by the excavators.

Indeed there is also increasing evidence from Still Bay and Howiesons Poort sites in South Africa supporting a symbolic interpretation of graphical patterns, which fulfill much of the criteria cited above.

Diepkloof rock shelter (Western Cape) yield more than 400 Fragments of engraved ostrich eggshells, possible used as containers, which are dated to the Howiesons Poort. The hatched band was the most common motive.

The Howiesons Poort of Klipdrift in South Africa’s southern Cape region has 95 pieces of ostrich eggshell engraved with a variety of geometric motifs. The patterns are similar to those at Diepkloof and include cross-hatching and sub-parallel lines. Similar findings are known from Apollo 11 (Namibia).

Incised ochre slabs are known from Blombos, the most significant of this slabs -now introduced into many textbooks-comes from the Still Bay layers and shows cross-hatched motifs . Other slabs of engraved ochre, generally in the form of small pieces, has been recovered from Blombos assemblages with ages of between 100 and 75 k.a.

Other sites in S-Africa are also important: Klasies River Cave 1 has an MIS 5 layer (ca 100 to 85 k.a.) yielded a fragmented ochre pebble bearing a sequence of sub- parallel linear incisions. Klein Kliphuis produced a refitted piece of engraved ochre, and fan-shaped motifs were incised on some Sibudu ochre pieces (Wadley 2015).

In Europe, mainly in the South-West, Engravings with possible symbolic significance, emerged at ca. 50 k.a. and became common after 40 k.a.

Some early examples, probably made by Neanderthals at ca 50 k.a. were detected during the last years. Geometric Engravings prolified during the Aurignacian, shortly after 40 k.a. and are found on the walls, ceilings and floors in caves and rock shelters, as well as on portable art objects - please see here a star like pattern on a flint artifact 1014 .

They are found in isolated locations at a rock art site, either singly, or in groupings. They are also found in association with animal and human imagery.

Strange enough, it needed more than 150 years after the first recognition of Paleolithic engravings until in 2010 Genevieve von Petzinger, a Canadian researcher, initiated a systematic survey of Paleolithic geometric signs.

One of Petzinger's key observations is that almost three-quarters of all the main prehistoric abstract signs were introduced during the Aurignacian. This early complexity does not look like the start of a tradition, but rather like a well elaborated system of motifs. It points to a considerable time depth for their invention, adaption and dissemination.

The zigzag sign, we are taking about, was one motif during the Paleolithic, mainly used on organic material, but also during later Pre- and Protohistoric times -for example at Catal Huyuk Neolithic Archeological Site, Anatolia, Turkey.

In contrast to its use in other forms of ancient art, zigzags appear in only 5 percent of French cave sites. In parietal art, Zigzags are found during the Solutrean and the Magdalenian.

The meaning of this signs remain obscure, anyhow it is unlikely that they have a graphic character and in my view are certainly not the Shamans report of optical phenomena produced by the neurology of hallucinations, as suggested by some rock-art "researchers".

**First suggested in Lartet & Christy: Reliquiae Aquitanicae. London u. a. 1865–1875:

"Fragment of a stem, oblong in section, probably of a Dart-head, with a continuous ornament of incised chevron marks on one edge , and on the other edge a local patch of five oblique, parallel, slight notches. These latter may be an Owner-mark. From La Madelaine."

2018-10-22 07:15:05   •   ID: 2045

Quina production from Le Roc de Marsal in the Dordogne

Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3
These are three artifacts from Roc de Marsal Cave: Nr. 1 is a convergent scraper with steep and scalariform retouch, the second artifact is a small transversal scraper with Quina retouche and the third a non-Levallois flat triangular flake with continuous retouches on all sides.

The tools are made from local raw materials and alluvial pebbles. They are good examples for the Quina technique in the Dordogne.

The Quina Method is a Non-hierarchical recurrent exploitation of two surfaces intersecting at a low angle. Two methods of Quina production: débitage en tranche de saucisson, and a second more complex unnamed variant have been described.

The Quina flaking system produces thick and often cortical blanks with an asymmetrical cross-section, or flakes with a cortical, dihedral asymmetric, or with a ‘lisse à pans’ (smooth faceted) butt.

The Quina system is characterized by particular processes of tool retouching, resharpening and recycling.

Roc de Marsal is a small cave, is situated in the Dordogne, SW France, about 6 km southwest of the village of Les Eyzies in a small tributary of the Vezere Valley.

First excavations were made by Jean Lafille, an amateur archaeologist, during the early 1960ies, who also found the famous Neanderthal child in 1961 and immediately informed F. Bordes and H. Movius. The human remains were removed as a complete block of sediment encompassing the child remains and later analyzed in the Institute de Paléontologie Humaine in Paris.

During recent excavations, 13 distinct strata have been identified. Layers 9 - 2 are Late Pleistocene in age and contain significant concentrations of Middle Paleolithic remains:

Layers 9 through 7 have TL-dates around MIS 4 and are characterized by Levallois products. Retouches are rare. They are also characterized by well preserved combustion features. F. Bordes earlier designed these layers as denticulated and typical Mousterian.

Layer 7 shows a diminutive Levallois Chaîne opératoire (Asinipodian, first identified by F. Bordes at Pech de l'Aze IV).

The upper part of the sequence (Layers 4-2), dated to late MIS 4 and MIS 3 is characterized by Quina lithic technology (both in terms of technology and typology) with faunal remains that are strongly dominated by hunted reindeer. Horse is the second most frequent hunted species.

The faunal remains are typical for Quina assemblages from Southwest of France, especially those from MIS4. According to data from other Quina assemblages, it seems that reindeer was selectively hunted by Neanderthals for example at Roc-de-Marsal and Les Pradelles.

Whether Neanderthals buried their dead is heavily debated. The three years old Neanderthal child from Roc de Marsal (RdM 1; ESR date around 85 k.a.) was found almost complete and articulated, but there is no further evidence for a deliberate burial. The late H. Dibble, who made the last excavation of the site since 2004 stated:

On the weight of the available evidence, we suggest that the Roc de Marsal infant be removed from the list of accepted examples of intentional Neandertal burials. The artifacts that were found in association with the burial are in no way distinct from other artifacts found in the Lower levels of the site and the same is is true of the faunal remains.

The position of the body itself on its ventral surface, with its legs lightly flexed beint the back also does not immediately suggest any special treatment. The fact that the body was found in a cavity once represented the strongest argument in-favor of such a ritualistic interpretation, but the new excavations indicate that this depression is almost certainly of natural origin.

These facts, including the overall lack of any unique or out-of-the-ordinary circumstances surrounding the body, do not support the notion that it represents an intentional burial


Surf the Blog: see here 1420 , here 1648 , here: 1649 , here: 1190 and here 1201

2018-10-19 18:45:02   •   ID: 2042

Grooved Abraders / Stone Polishers

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

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

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

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

Grooved Abraders were for example used:

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


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

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

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

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

From De Beaunes data it is evident, that Polishers are known since the Aurignacian II at Poùligny-Sâint Pierre (Indre) and became more common during the Gravettian.

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

Many of the abraders have some similarities with the Neolithic piece shown in this blog in Figure 1.

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

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

2018-10-19 18:43:02   •   ID: 2040

Ambitious Attempt - but do you have really skills and competence ?

Figure 1
Figure 1 displays a Leaf point from Fourneau de Diable, broken with a missing triangular fragment. The original item, if it would have been finished, would have been about 12 cm long.

This middle Solutrean Leave Point seems to have been intentionally broken, showing a pattern of delibarate breakage. It does not show the stigmata related to projectile use, instead the point was not finalized and seems to have been destroyed by the knapper.

Jacques Pelegrin has recently pointed to a possible social context of this breakage pattern: He used experimental data for the definition of intentional violent breakage and compared the results with a set of 324 large Laurel-Leave point fragments from Laugerie haute. 31% of the set from Laugerie showed a "violent breakage" pattern.

Regarding the “exaggerated” diligence, that was used in the production of Solutrean Laurel-Leave points, Pelegrin argues, that the successful shaping of such wonderful implements may have helped the knapper to obtain a recognized status in his society.

Rather than finalizing a non-perfect, not- symmetrical point may have prompted the manufacturer to prefer the deliberate destruction of the artifact to avoid attracting unpleasant attention as a person with limited "savoir-faire".

Figure 2
Figure 2 shows "perfect" examples from Fourneau de Diable from: D. Peyrony : Les gisements préhistoriques de Bourdeilles (Dordogne). Archives de l'Institut de Zaléontologie humaine, mémoire 10, Paris, Masson, 1932.

Suggested Reading: Jacques Pelegrin.Jacques Pelegrin. Les grandes feuilles de laurier et autres objets particuliers du Solutréen : une valeur de signe. Le Solutréen.. 40 ans après Smith' 66 : actes du colloque de Preuilly-sur-Claise, 21 octobre-01 novembre 2007, Archea; FERACF, pp.143-164, 2013, Revue archéologique du Centre de la France 47.

Surf the Blog: see here 1626 , here 1607 , here: 1144 , here: 1268 and here 1141




Resources and images in full resolution:

2018-10-19 18:39:31   •   ID: 2038

A Thick retouched Levallois Point from Bir Tarfawi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are several Middle Paleolithic /MSA sites, that are associated with the lake deposits.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggested Readings:

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

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

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