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2014-05-05 06:42:04   •   ID: 1149

Ksar Akil Scraper and the Ksar Akil Chronology

Figure 1
Ksar Akil scrapers are usually made on cortical flakes and exhibit a micro-serrated scraping edge. Platforms or butts include plain, missing, or faceted types. The working edges generally extend beyond the distal areas to include about half or more of the flake's margin. They range in size from approximately 40 mm to 70 mm in length. The example shown here has a diameter of about 4,3 cm. The example shown here is without any doubt a Ksar Akil scraper, but with only poor developed microdenticulation. 

Ksar Akil remains the most important stratigraphy for the Upper Paleolithic of the Levant, although we lack of really up-to dates for the EUP from actual excavations.

All Lebanese Upper Paleolithic key sites near Antelias (Antelias cave, Abu Halka cave, and Ksar Akil rock shelter) are located north of Beirut near the Mediterranean. Until the 1950ies the coastal plain in this region was dominated by orange groves and banana plantations. A number of caves, including the cave of Antelias, were unfortunately destroyed during the 20th century by quarrying. In the 1990's a law was passed to preserve the modest remains of the once picturesque landscape- but for many natural (and archaeological) monuments this came too late. The Ksar Akil site was rescued from burial under the sludge of gravel-making machines in 1964 by the Department of Antiquities.

Ksar Akil is a rock shelter on the right bank of the Antelias River (Nahr Antelias) approximately 3 km from the coast. It is a large Abri below a steep limestone cliff. Paleolithic industries were first noticed by the catholic Father Zumoffen in 1900. The first " digs " were made by treasure hunters in 1922 to the enormous depth of 15 m. Systematic excavations were performed by Doherty and Ewing in 1937-1938 and again during 1947-1948.

The publication of the results was delayed by the Second World War. Renewed research by Jacques Tixier in 1969-1975 was interrupted by the Lebanese Civil War. At Ksar Akil, excavations showed occupational deposits reaching down to a depth of 23,6 meters with one of the longest sequences of Paleolithic flint industries ever found in the Middle East (Middle Paleolithic, Early upper Paleolithic, Middle Upper Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic).

The first level of 8 meters contained an Upper Levallois-Mousterian, by no means evolving to the Initial Upper Paleolithic at the site. The following layers 25-21 in Ksar Akil and corresponding strata at the Abu Halka and the Antelias cave exhibited layers of the

Emiran (Ksar Akil Upper Paleolithic I). It is an Upper Paleolithic Industry: Blades were manufactured by recurrent Levallois cores, that were later transformed into volumetric cores for the production of Levallois points and Upper Paleolithic tools. Endscrapers are common and completely replace the side scrapers, found in the Mousterian levels. Burins are rare. Emiran points (elongated Levallois points with its proximal end thinned by fine inverse lamellar retouch) and Chanfreins (blades with a bevel, which has been formed at the distal end by a transverse blow resembling a burin blow, but probably functioning as a scraper-edge) are highly characteristic for this industry.

The Emiran points are known from the Lebanon and some sites in Israel, including Boker Tachtit (47-42 k.a. BP). Chanfreins are more isolated to the Lebanese coast and known from the EUP at Haua Fteah cave (Cyrenaica, northeast Libya).

The Emiran lithic industry at Ksar Akil ( levels 20-14) is followed by the Ahmarian (Ksar Akil Upper Paleolithic II). The Ahmarian industry is characterized by the dominance of bladelets and blades from uni- or bidirectional cores, high frequencies of pointed blades and flat scrapers, and a lacks of carinated scrapers / cores.

This phase at Ksar Akil is characterized by a gradual decline in the Levallois-like techniques of blade production, and concomitant increase in a form of blade technology employing opposed-platform prismatic cores . Dominant tool forms are endscrapers and a variety of retouched and pointed blades (Ksar Akil and El Wad Point). Burins are extremely scarce. Bone and antler tools are not reported. Remains of an AMH ("Egbert"; now lost) from Stratum 17 are indirectly and by ambiguous C-14 data dated to ca 40-45 k.a. BP.

The following strata can not be easily compared to other sites in the Levant (Ksar Akil Upper Paleolithic II). Twisted and curved debitage for the production of El Wad points is common during III A (levels 13-11), while the blanks for their production in levels  10-8 (III B) tend to be regular in profile.

Ksar Akil Upper Paleolithic III (levels 7/6 (5) with rare El Wad points resembles the  Aurignacian, known from elsewhere in the southern Levant.

The following strata (beginning with stratum 4 have assigned to the "Epipaleolithic".

First examples of Ksar Akil scrapers were found during Turville-Petre's investigations at Emireh in the Galilee by Garrod at el-Wad. Tixier, at Ksar Akil, recovered similar scrapers in Stratum 4/5 (C-14 data: 29-30 k.a. BP) and called them "grattoirs de Ksar 'Akil". Other specimens are known from Tha'lab al-Buhayra (Wadi al-Hasa in west-central Jordan; 24-26 k.a.) and Boker D (Negev; 25-27 k.a.).

Stray finds and single examples from Ksar Akil scrapers come from several places in Lebanon and the important Yabroud site in Syria. Modern excavations, faunal analyses, ethnographic analogies and microtraceological observations at Tha'lab al-Buhayra indicate that Ksar Akil denticulated scrapers may have effectively worked as defleshers  for scraping away tissue, fat and membranes during initial skin processing. Therefore the term "scraper" is fully justified for such items.

Figure 2: Ahmarian and Aurignacian tools from Antelias collected by Zumoffen at the beginning of the 20th century.

Figure 1