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2014-03-15 17:56:35   •   ID: 1135

The Early Nubian Complex in the Nil Valley during MIS6/5

Figure 1
These bifacial foliates (the longest is about 12 cm long) and a thick scraper were found together with Nubian cores many decennia ago and are associated to the early Nubian Complex.

Many Nubian Complex surface scatters in upper Egypt/Sudan were detected by the Combined Prehistoric Expedition in the Sahara Desert led by F. Wendorf from 1962-1999. As early as 1964/ 1965 the Guichards reported about a lot of non-stratified assemblages with Nubian cores, thick scrapers and bifacial foliates in the area that would later be flooded by the Aswan dam.

The early Nubian Complex since then was suggested to be characterized exactly by this artefactual spectrum. Nearly 50 years after, there are some stratified sites, that substantiate this view.

The site of Sai 8-B-11 in northern Sudan contains a succession of occupation levels comprised within a sedimentological sequence that spans the end of the Middle and the early Upper Pleistocene. Located on the southeastern pediment of a Nubian Sandstone inselberg, the site reveals itself at the present surface by a large concentration of artifacts eroding out of Nilotic silt deposits. Excavations have shown that this Upper Pleistocene floodplain covers a sequence of alternating gravels and sands filling up an ancient depression of Middle Pleistocene age in which early Middle Stone Age assemblages are stratified.

The two lowermost levels at AI 8-B-11 can be attributed to the Sangoan because of the presence of core-axes and distinctive flake reduction strategies. They are radiometrically dated to ca. 200 k.a. BP The Sangoan levels are interstratified with late Acheulean clusters. In contrast to the latter, the behaviors documented in the Sangoan including pigment exploitation, grinding activities, specialized lithic production and possibly symbolic uses of color, show a remarkable degree of complexity.

This strata are followed by a Lupemban similar to that of Arkin 5 / 6 and und 6 Taramsa 8 (with lanceolate foliates) and topped by a MSA with small foliates, dated to OIS6 and are already connected with the so called "Nubian Middle Paleolithic", a particular form of the Levalloisian.

Nubian Complex industries are characterized by a highly standardized method of a preferential Levallois reduction method, a regional variant of the preferential Levallois method for producing Levallois-points from triangular cores.

Figure 2
There are two sub-types of Nubian Levallois core preparation, referred to as Nubian Type 1 and Type 2 Fig.2). The Nubian type-1 core method enables the production of Levallois points and pointed blades by means of a central ridge created from the platform opposed to the one from which the future Levallois flake would be struck. The distal ridge, which lies approximately along the axis of the core is created by striking two unidirectional divergent removals undertaken from the distal part of the core. A series of smaller flakes is then removed from the sides of the other end of the core and a facetted platform is prepared for the removal of the Levallois point. Type 2 cores are marked by an elaborated centripetal preparation arranged perpendicularly to the central axis of the triangular silhouette of the Levallois surface from which a Levallois point, unlike the ‘‘classical’’ Levallois points is struck (Classical points are usually produced by a preferential Levallois point production with unidirectional convergent preparation; Guichard and Guichard 1964).

Nubian Levallois core preparation strategy is technologically dissimilar to the Levallois point-producing industries found at nearby Levantine Levallois-Mousterian sites, which are broadly characterized by preferential unidirectional-convergent and centripetal reduction systems.

The early Nubian Complex is distinguished by a higher frequency of Nubian Type 2 cores in conjunction with bifacial foliates, thick scrapers and handaxes. It is suggested that the foliates are a heritage of the Lupemban and some researchers have even suggested that the Aterian is rooted in this early Nubian complex.

The Palaeolithic sequence from Sodmein Cave in the Egyptian Eastern Desert, near Quseir, contains seven stratified archaeological levels from the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic. It offers an additional view to the early Nubian Complex.

A huge multilayered hearth occurs in the lowest archaeological level (MP5), associated with only a few artefacts.  Within the hearths were burnt bones of large mammals, such as buffalo and elephant, as well as those of some species indicative of the presence of open water (e.g., crocodile).

This faunal assemblage is quite similar to that of the Lake phases 1 and 2 at Bir Tarfawi and Bir Sahara in the western desert, dated to the last interglacial.

Among the lithics at Sodomein was a Nubian1 subtype Levallois core. Also present was a fragment of a  thin, bifacially flaked tool. MP5 was TL dated to 118+/-8 k.a. (OIS 5e).

Figure 4 and 5 shows the artifactual spectrum of an early Nubian surface scatter from the Guichard publication:

Figure 4

Figure 5