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2016-07-13 16:54:19   •   ID: 1201

A strange Scaper from the Somme

Figure 1
Figure 2
This is a flat cortical flake with "Quina" retouche coming from the Somme valley. Such tools in the North European Plain are rare. The artifact would much better fit into the Middle Paleolithic of the Aquitaine.

We should ask for parallels in the archeological record of N/W-Europe: In general the Early Middle Paleolithic record in N/W-European is characterized by the Levallois technique between OIS 7/6.

OIS5a: The forests in Northern Europe at the Eemian climax (OIS 5a) seem to have been “green deserts” for human occupation (Gamble 1986), because they were less suitable places for food collecting and offered less possibilities for hunting compared with open landscapes.

The archaeological record from OIS 5a in N-Europe is limited. It is however possible, that river valleys were ecologically more diverse, thus rich in plant food and animal species, such as in Untertürkheim, Lehringen, Rabutz and Taubach. The Levallois technique is most prevalent.

OIS 5c-5d: It seems that Paleolithic people preferred open, “mosaic” environments, which characterize the transitional periods between OIS6/5 or the landscapes after OIS 5a and before OIS4. In N/W-Europe, numerous sites have been excavated dating to OIS 5c-5d. These ensembles seem to have several technological features in common:

First of all, most of these lithic assemblages were mainly characterised by the presence of “medium-sized” Levallois core reduction strategies.

Secondly, several lithic assemblages also include an important number of blades (MIS 5d/c and a) , which were produced by either the Levallois and /or prismatic core reduction technique. Villeneuve is a special case, because it shows a combination of laminar techniques and a bifacial “Micoquian” component.

Thirdly, the assemblages are usually small. Most formal tools were side-scrapers.

Sometimes cordiform or triangular bifaces were also present also (part of the poorly dated “early Weichselian MTA” sites of Northern France).

OIS 4 and 3: During OIS 4/3 Middle Paleolithic assemblages are very rare in the United Kingdom and in the Netherlands. This may be due to erosional processes or or the environment was too harsh for a repopulation of these regions.

In contrast many sites from this time interval in Northern France and  Belgium, were excavated during the last 25 years. Technical systems show a high diversity: Discoid, Levallois often with a large sized character, MTA and sites with a "Keilmesser / Micoquian" character.

A very interesting Middle Palaeolithic settlement of «Le Fond des Blanchards» was discovered in 1996 in a gravel quarry of the Yonne valley (Paris Basin, France).

The strata under discussion come from an alluvial sequence, the Gron formation, which a thickness of c 3m . The settlement yielded several prehistoric levels attributed to the Lower or Middle Weichsel Pleniglacial. (MIS4/3). Especially subunit cC is characterized by the Quina technology, which is much more diversified than in S/W-France and also includes a Levallois component. The end product of discrete operational sequences are flat, partial cortical flakes, with Quina retouches – tools very similar to the scraper shown in this post (see p 466 in the publication; pdf in external links).

It seems, that analogies for “our strange" Cortical scraper indeed exist. I would propose either a pre-Eemian or a MIS4/3 date for this tool.

Such scrapers were found within in the context of an Acheulian combined with non-Levallois flake tools at the “Atelier Commont” at the Saint Acheul type locality. The “Atelier Commont” overlies the Garenne Formation (OIS 12–11) at Saint-Acheul and may be dated to  be MIS 7 or 8 k.a. BP. On the other hand, similar scrapers are not completely absent on open air sites during the middle Weichselian on the North European Plain.

Beyond the already discussed Fond des Blanchards site, the open air site Veldwezelt-Hezerwater (Limburg, Belgium) shows two clusters of ensembles with Quina tools from the last Glaciation: the so called The TL and the WFL locus, dated to MIS 4/3, is characterised by the presence of large Quina tools, witch are larger than the scraper presented here.

The excavator of the site supposed that Quina tools in a Levallois system were reliable safeguards against the risk of tool breakage, a  “secret weapon” of  people, living in hazardous environments. This seems to be a good argument- but I suggest that the scraper in this post is, although non-Levallois and cortical, is not thicker or more stable than Levallois products.