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2014-09-26 11:11:47   •   ID: 1192

Levallois technique at Melka Kunture and the old World

Figure 1
Compared to the Oldowan and the Acheulian, the MSA at Melka Kunture MSA is poorly known. We have unfortunately no final reports about the MSA at Garba III and only some, partially contradictory short communications about the site and the MSA from the nearby Gondar locality, without any detailed description and illustration.

Garba III is dated to late OIS6 or early OIS5. The basal MSA levels from Garba III show some small handaxes and cleavers together with uni- and bifacially retouched points. The recurrent Levallois flaking method (centripetal and unipolar) on smaller blocks of obsidian was well established. The unipolar method, which is predominant, was recognized in more than half of the Levallois blanks according the reevaluation of the site and publication by Mussi et al. in 2013.

Figure 2


The sequence is characterzised by an abundance of relatively thick denticulated tools, with either semi-step retouch or with a retouche écailleuse.

Scrapers, on rather thick blanks, are less numerous, with either minute or écailleuse retouch which often grades into denticulation. The production of points, often abundant at other early MSA sites in Ethiopia, was clearly not the intention of the knappers.

The oldest traces of Levallois in Africa were found in South Africa if we rely that the data are not disturbed by post depositional processes (a pretty malign Polemic against the early age is found in the second external link). Radiometric ages from Fauresmith sites in S-Africa suggest that this industry, which combines small refined handaxes with technological components characteristic of the MSA (prepared cores, Levallois cores, blades, Levallois points, convex scrapers), maybe as old as 542–435 k.a. (Wonderwerk Cave MU4, Kathu Pan 1; MIS 13/12).

Levallois was one important approach at site ETH-8-B at Gademotta (Ethiopia) dated to > 235 k.a. and a similar age has been reported for site REF-4 at Kharga Oasis, Egypt (preferential and recurrent Levallois cores)

Levallois flake production has been documented both in the Acheulean and Early MSA sites in the Kapthurin Formation in Kenya at ca 200- 300 k.a. BP (Tyron et al. 2005). However early MSA flakes are systematically smaller than the Acheulean ones, more versatile and the spectrum of raw materials increased during the MSA compared to the Acheulean.

“The shift to finer-grained raw materials that hold a sharper edge, seen at MSA sites, may represent a design choice more suitable for the manufacture of smaller, lighter tools”, maybe optimal for hafting.

Not only the South but also the North of the continent remains interesting: The early Homo Sapiens bearing strata from Jebel Irhoud in Morocco show the application of the Levallois concept already at ca. 300 k.a. BP, soon after MIS 9. Interestingly in Africa the Levallois concept remained to be present at very late sites until the Holocene.

In the Levant, first Levallois elements (“Tabun D- ensembles”) appear after 250-200 k.a BP /MIS7 in Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and the El Kowm region in Syria.

Anyhow, at this moment there is no secure evidence that the Levallois technique started from Africa and moved via Arabia or the Levant to Eurasia. Rather this technique was repeatedly developed (and forgotten) over a vast area.

Guado San Nicola (Monteroduni, Molise; Italy) was recently dated to the MIS 11-10 boundary by the ESR and 40Ar/39Ar methods and provided an ensemble of relatively unstandardized Levallois products within an Acheulean context. Anyhow, the Levallois technology in W- Europe did not appear before early OIS 8 (Orgnac 3, Baume Bonne, Bakers Hole, Crayford)

A fully developed Levalloisian was recently detected at Nor Geghi 1, Armenia (OIS10/9e boundary), which is at this date indeed “the oldest Levalloisian” in Eurasia- until the thrilling next excavations anywhere will revise this statement-I suggest.

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