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2019-01-16 15:19:21   •   ID: 2063

A Châtelperronian Point from Brive Region

Figure 1
This is a wonderful 7,3 cm long Châtelperronien Point from the Brive vicinity, made from "silex jaspoïde de l'Hettangien from Puy- d'Arnac", which was often used during the Paleolithic of the Brive region since the Middle Paleolithic ("Chez-Pourré-Chez-Comte" ).

It comes from a late 19th century collection and may be from the Grotte de Bos -les-Ser. More about the Châtelperronian - see here 1492 .

Today the Corrèze is a department in south-western France, named after the river Corrèze which runs though it. Its capital is Tulle, and its most populated town is Brive-la-Gaillarde. The department is part of the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine. It is surrounded by the departments of Creuse, Haute-Vienne, Cantal, Puy-de-Dôme, Lot, and Dordogne.

Upper Paleolithic habitations near Brive is particularly concentrated in and near the Planchetorte Valley 3 km south of Brive, a small stream which runs north to join the Correze River just above its confluence with the Vezere. The Planchetorte Valley, often little more than 200 m wide is a Vezere valley in miniature, lined with caves and rock shelters eroded into local Triassic sandstone.

Most of these localities were excavated during the early 20th century by the Abbès Jean and Amèdèe Bouyssonie aided often by their pupils at the Ecole Bossuet. Little care was made to establish a proper stratigraphy and after the excavations, Archaeological material from different “foyers” was usually lumped together, creating a mix, that can only reconstructed by typology.

Anyhow there are ensembles from rare Châtelperronian and Aurignacian occupations and a more intense settlement during the Noaillian / Rayssian and Magdalenian. We will describe some of these sites, having in mind what was lost during the early Years of Prehistoric reserch.

  • Grotte de Noailles: Traces of an Aurignacian, followed by Gravettian with Noailles Burins, Gravettes, Flechettes, Font Robert Points

  • Grotte de Raysse: Noaillian and Raysse burins are the most prominent features in the collections

  • Grotte de Bassaler Nord: Excavated in 1954: Aurignacian with Dufour bladelets followed by a Noaillian with some Raysse burins

  • Grotte de Lacoste and Grotte des Morts : a mix of some Aurignacian elements and Noaillian

  • Grotte de Bos -les-Ser an unreliable mix of Châtelperronian and Aurignacian artifacts, which played an eminent role in discussions about the nature of the early Upper Paleolithic in the greater Aquitaine

  • Brive-la-Gaillarde – Galop, Grotte du Loup: Three strata of Châtelperronian followed by two strata of Aurignacian

  • Le-Puy-de-Lacan : three strata of Magdalenian. The lower strata with triangles indicating an early and middle Magdalenian and the upper strata are characterized by a specific burin, whose proximal end is modified into a long tip by a concave retouch.

    The retouched tip serves as the striking platform for the burin blow. This burin type is regarded as typical for the middle and late Magdalenian and usually referred to as Lacan burin (Mayer 2016)

  • Font Robert The site was excavated 1905 by M Pierre, the "vieux domestique" of the Thévenard family, at this time proprietors of the near Bassaler castle.

    The archaeological horizon, was said to be 20 cm thick, according to the excavators (M Pierre and Mdm Thévenard). Typologically we see a mix of Aurignacian, early Gravettian with the famous eponymous points and Noailles burins.

  • Grotte de Font-Yves During excavations in 1905, a new type of armature was detected from the site: la pointe de Font-Yves. Font Yves points, have a fusiform appearance and direct, bilateral semi abrupt retouches on both ends. Regarding the position of Font-Yves points at the late Aurignacian at Pataud, these artifacts are today seen as markers of an advanced stage of the Aurignacian (Pesesse 2010)

Suggested Reading: The most concise description of the Brive region during the Upper Paleolithic, although focused on the Noaillien in the region:

David N.C.: Excavation of the abri Pataud, Les Eyzies (Dordogne): the Noaillian (level 4) assemblages and the Noaillian culture in Western Europe. American School of Prehistoric Research, Peabody Museum, Harvard University, 37, 1985, 355 f.

2019-01-02 10:11:32   •   ID: 2062

Good Times for Northern France during MIS5

Figure 1
This are early 20th century findings from Fermanville, located on the north coast of Cotentin, halfway between Cherbourg and Barfleur.

Typologically you see Mousterian Points, the larger and elongated item is 9 cm long.

They are both made on thick blanks- the elongated point is most probably made by a laminar method, while the smaller point was made probably by a Levallois approach, but another unipolar convergent approach could also being present.

As early as 1885, Middle Paleolithic findings from the area were published by the Société des Sciences de Cherbourg (Figure 2).

In the Lower Normandy, the earliest Middle Paleolithic settlements are associated with raised beaches and dated to MIS 9. They became more common during MIS 7/early MIS6.

Figure 2
Anyhow, occupations of the Early Weichselian (between 112 and 72 k.a.) are by far the best preserved and most numerous.

Sites from the Eem interglacial (MIS 5e) are rare due to taphonomic factors. MIS 5d (Herning interstadial) is characterized by the the production of Levallois points and blades from prismatic cores.

Ensembles from the grey forest soils, indicating favorable Boreal forests interspersed with steppes, MIS 5c (Brörup interstadial) and 5a (Ødderade interstadial) are characterized by the production of flakes, points, and blades. Points were produced by a non-Levallois convergent unipolar technique.

The steppic soil, which indicates cooler conditions at the end of MIS 5a has preserved many Middle Paleolithic sites, including some with MTA-bifaces like those from the archaeological level in the upper humic horizon of Saint-Just-en-Chaussee and the Molinons site.

More information about the MTA with large triangular Bifaces can be found here: 1536 , 2054 , and here 2027 .

A rich and genuine bifacial Mousterian reappeared not before MIS 3 (St Brice-sous-Ranes with a TL date of 40.6 ± 2.2 ka BP, St Julien de la Liegue). About the Bifacial Mousterian in N/W-Franc see here: 1179 , 1501 , 1665 , 1250 , 1585 ,and here: 1077 .

Anyhow, there are also again ensembles with bifaces typical of the Mousterian of Acheulean Tradition (Saint- Amand-les-Eaux, Ploisy) dating to MIS3.

The excavated submerged site of Fermanville-La Mondree, which is only one of several MP sites at Fermanville, is assigned to the end of MIS 5a with an OSL date of 69.7 ± 6 k.a. BP.

The blanks from the excavations were produced mainly by different modes of the Levallois technique (uni and bipolar) for the production of large flakes.

The Kombewa method is also contested. Scrapers, points and blades, similar to the items shown here are the secondary products of prepared core techniques at the site.

The beginning of MIS4 is marked by severe climatic deterioration. Northwestern Europe appears to have been abandoned by human populations between ca 68 and 60 k.a. BP.

Bad Times for „Le Nord“ are back again: please notice how politics have changed in France and read the Books of Jerome Leroy (for German readers note the last external link).

These books, more than any sociological analysis, help to understand the thinking of the Front National (FN) -a prototype of mental change in Europe to Authoritarianism and renewed Fascism.

2018-12-18 07:35:08   •   ID: 2060

MSA from the Shores of Lake Turkana

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Figure 2
This is a 7 cm long and elongated partial bifacial MSA Point made from yellow brownish patinated Chert.

It was found by Professor Phillip Schupp in 1949 and was part of a collection, which included ESA and MSA from the Omo valley also.

This MSA tool is a surface find from the Northern Rift Valley, NW Kenya, Africa, at the confluence of Lake Turkana and the Omo River.

The Omo-Turkana basin is hypothesized to have been served as a major refugium and a center of human evolution during times of aridity and ecological stress during the Pleistocene.

Decennia ago L.S.B Leaky called ensembles, characterized by Levallois-technique and bifacial Points of Lake Naivasha Bassin, further South in Kenya: "Kenya Stillbay".

A similar nomenclature was used by Clark for bifacial MSA ensembles further North near the Horn of Africa ("Somaliland Stillbay"). The idea behind such designation was a suggested migration of People using these stools from S-Africa to the Horn of Africa - or the other way round

Today Archaeologists do not deny, that bifacial MSA points and even larger bifacial foliates are a nearly Pan-African phenomenon (see here: 2024 ), but beyond a cuture historical approach, alternative explanations, like diffusion of ideas, repeated invention, functional properties on such highly curated artifacts, reworking actions and specific mobility patterns of their makers are more convincing as explanations of tool morphology and have to be considered.

In addition, the broad umbrella of a continent wide Stillbay, ignores an enormous techno-typological variability of bifacial Points over the Continent.

There are limited absolute dates for the Kenia Stillbay. At Malewa Gorge in South Kenya this industry has been recovered from beneath a tuff, originally dated to 240 k.a. During a re-dating program a more reliable age of 102 ± 16 k.a. (MIS5) was obtained.

In 1965 Withworth described a "Kenya Stillbay" from the Lake Turkana, near the find-spot of the point shown here.

The 1965 Turkana ensemble is characterised by Leaf points in abundance, with facetted bases, suggestive of their production from Levallois blanks.

This technological trait brought the proposed unity of a pan-East / South African Stillbay ad absurdum.

The original Stillbay points of South Africa are made by façonnage and not by debitage techniques, and were produced by pressure flaking of heat treated material, often Silcrete. Levallois production was not part of the operational sequence.

Interestingly the 1965 ensemble was made from the same yellow-brownish flint, used for the specimen shown here.

The elongated point of this post was made from a blade- similar to examples from Omo Kibish- see 1668 and to the morphology of Jerzmanovician Leaf points of N/W- Europe.

Secondary retouching has removed the stiking platform and therefore it remains unclear if the original blank was Levallois or a product of uni- or bipolar blade technology, which is contested from the Kenyan MSA since its beginning (at ca 300-500 k.a.).

Suggested Reading:: Early reports of the Somali / Kenya "Stillbay". outdated but important by their illustrations...

L. S. B. Leakey: The Stone Age Cultures of Kenya Colony; Cambridge 1931.

Clark, J.D., 1954. The prehistoric cultures of the horn of Africa. Cambridge University Press.

Please note: this is my Christmas Gift for You- see you again on 15.01.2019!

2018-12-16 10:37:49   •   ID: 2059

At the Somme again: Saint-Sauveur - Middle Paleolithic from MIS 5d.

Figure 1
This is a heavily reworked Biface of MTA/MAT morphology found at Saint-Sauveur before 1930 by Dr. Bargues from Paris.

Paleolithic implements from Saint-Sauveur (Somme) in N- France, five km N/W from Amiens, have been recognized since the 1870ies and first described by Victor Commont.

Middle Paleolithic artifacts from Saint-Sauveur come from the youngest alluvial formation of the Somme Valley terrace system, the so called Etouvie Formation, which per se points to a recent Pleistocene age (last Interglacial / Glacial cycle).

The next alluvial formation, the low terrace complex appears to be older than the Last Interglacial (MIS 5) and is currently dated to MIS 7. Other terraces at the Somme-see here: 1306 and here: 1627 .

The intensive work of French researchers in N- France during the last 30 years, especially by Members of the INRAP, enabeled the establishment of a detailed pedostratigraphic and chronostratigraphic framework of MIS 5-2, that allows definitive dating of in-situ archeological horizons and the evaluation of relations between Palaeolithic occupation and environment (Locht et al. 2015; attached file).

Using this framework, takes into account specific superimposed loess and paleosol sequences. Their thickness varies from 5 to 40 m in Northern France and about 100 profiles have been evaluated en detail, many of them show the complete record of at least the last Interglacial and Glacial and others even a succession until MIS 11.

Figure 2
The middle Paleolithic of Saint-Sauveur was embedded during the the first cold stage after the Eemian interglacial (Herning stage I substage 5d).

Since the 1980s, thermoluminescence (TL), optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) and infrared stimulated luminescence (IRSL) dating are available providing reliable ages (or age estimates) with an accuracy of up to 5 and 10% for the last glacial record.

More recently, luminescence dating has also become a robust dating technique for penultimate and antepenultimate glacial loess allowing for a reliable correlation of loess/paleosol sequences for at least the last two interglacial/glacial cycles in Northern France.

C-14 data become unreliable at sites >50-55 k.a. cal PB, even using the best preserved material , sophisticated pretreatment and calibrated AMS dating.

Beside TL, and ESR, other isotope techniques have become important in dating materials embedded together with Archeological artifacts.

U/Th dating of Saint-Sauveuris is in line with the stratigraphical observations: (95,5 ± 4 Ka : M. Laurent, 1993).

The richness of the Archaeological record and advanced dating methodologies, together with the density of sites, left by Neanderthal societies in N-France, allows the reconstruction of diversity of subsidence strategies, settlement patterns and lithic diversity, during short time slots of 1-5 k.a.- which is quite unique in European Middle Paleolithic research.

2018-12-13 09:45:08   •   ID: 2058

Are You Experienced ?

Figure 1
Skill: The ability to do something well; expertise. (Oxford Dictionary). A skill is the ability to carry out a task with determined results often within a given amount of time, energy, or both (L. Lambard).

When knapping a Levallois point, (according to principal considerations of Bamforth and Finlay 2008), it is assumed that producing a triangular sharp artifact was the Paleolithic knappers deliberately choice.

In Levallois Point production, skillful production can be defined as a creating a plain, thin, symmetrical, Y-shaped object without being twisted or showing an offset of the axis, that can immediately be used, without secondary retouches.

Figure 2
If retouches are made, they should show a meaningful pattern.

Skill in production begins with the choice of homogeneous raw material, which should be knapped by by material-sparing techniques.

Figure 1 shows three Levallois Points, two are unretouched and the last (Nr. 3) is retouched, from the Rouffignac area (Rouffignac-Saint-Cernin-de-Reilhac, Département Dordogne), made by Neanderthals during MIS5-3, that apparently fulfill the definition of skilled production.

Figure 3
The point shown in Figure 2 is quasi the archetype for a symmetrical point.

The middle point in Figure 1 has some offset of the distal axis without compromising the suggested aim of the knapper. Finally the point shown in Figure 3 has some retouching towards the apical side, most probably a secondary reworking of the tip.

All Levallois points from this set are thin, symmetric and plain and are made from typical homogeneous regional flint, that is abundant in the Vezere Valley and its vicinity.

About theoretical and practical issues, how to define and identify skill in the Archaeological record, the basic text of Bamforth (attached link) is still of relevance. It is not an easy task to extract such informations from refitted debitage, which is obviously characterized by multivariate influences.

Important indications for less skillful stone tool production are “successive step or hinge terminations, overshot flakes, flakes with an undesired morphology, percussor marks attempted too far from the platform edge or on platforms of unsuitable angles.

Of particular interest to this study is that cores knapped by novice or intermediate knappers tend to have a higher rate of unsuccessful flake removals and produce flakes of smaller size
" (Muller and Clarkson 2016).

Another research method to measure different levels of skills is the experimental replication of stone tools which has been widely used to investigate different levels of skills and the transmission of Know-how to others.

Stout et al., used fMRT and experimental knapping of "0ldowan" and "Acheulean" artifacts, found that knapping operations "affected neural activity and functional connectivity in dorsal prefrontal cortex, that effect magnitude correlated with the frequency of correct strategic judgments, and that the frequency of correct strategic judgments was predictive of success in Acheulean, but not Oldowan, toolmaking.

Skills are the matter of research:

  • on an individual level: some people doing things better than others

  • on a group level: members of social some groups are trained better in specific skills than members of other groups

  • on an evolutionary level: specific skills of hominins depend on their cognitive background: The background of H. habilis was another than the Background of H. Heidelbergensis

Figure 4
A distinction is commonly drawn between practical knowledge and knowledgeable practice; between what has been termed savoir-faire- the practical knowledge, influenced by experience, motor skill and age -and knowledgeable practice connaissance - the cognitive level of an individual.

Skills have to be learned. We do not know how ‘teaching’ different from teaching in the modern sense, took place. Aside the very high levels of sophistication, expressed in Daggers from the late Neolithic of Scandinavia or in Solutrean points, which indicate a certain degree of specialization, the learning of more common and less complex techniques depended on the cognitive maturity of an individual, the motivation for Self-learning and learning that involved teachers instructing one or several learners.

Figure 5
It is generally assumed that the teachers came from more experienced family core group members (father / mother / uncle / aunts..).

The last Figures (Figures 4-6) show three Levallois Points from a Middle Paleolithic open air site at Plazac (Dordogne), that were found in immediate proximity to each other during a field walk in the 1950ies. They look as if they were made by one knapper from one raw material block.

They are made from flint that has been broadly used during the Paleolithic in the Vezere Valley. Tools made from this flint normally are qualitatively not different from tools made from other flint varieties- good examples are known from Le Moustier or La Rochette.

Figure 6
The artifacts from Figure 4 show, compared with the first series, a poor performance of the knapper.

The raw material is more inhomogeneous with the consequence that Nr. 3 in Figure 4 is not a Levallois point in the strict sense, because the tip is compromised by a burin like cortical edge.

Nr. 1 and 2 are quite thick and clumsy. In consequence the knapper tried to regularize the lateral edges by abrupt retouches and additionally produced a nonconformance notch, seen more in detail on Figure 5. If retouching was made to improve the scraping / cutting properties-it failed because this operation resulted rather in a bilateral backing.

Figure 6 shows a lateral view of the the three points, especially demonstrating the relative thickness of the blanks and the retouches.

Could the raw material be the limiting factor for poor results? Eren et al (2011) in an experimental study showed, that the raw material did not significantly influence the results of Levallois reduction by an experienced / skilled knapper.

My interpretation would be, that a Novice in flint knapping at Plazac chose a non-optimal block of raw material and had a lot of trouble to produce regular thin and "elegant" points, comparable two those of the first series from the nearby Rouffiniac.

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

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 and 3 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 2
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 3
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 towards 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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Figure 2
Figure 3
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

Figure 1
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)

Figure 1
Figure 2
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

Figure 1
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.