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2016-05-07 14:51:47   •   ID: 1270

The Prądnik (KMG) complex in Central Germany revisited

Figure 1
Figure 1 shows some implements of the Middle European Micoquian (From Left to right: A "Mousterian Point", one flatt small biface / Faustkeilblatt and two bifacial scrapers. These artifacts were found during the 1950ies at Kleinheppach in S/W-Germany.

The Middle European Micoquian (Prądnik Culture , Keilmessergruppen (KMG) or Mousterian with Micoquian Option [MMO]) is characterized by bifacial tools, although a large monofacial (“Mousterian”) tool component may also be present.

From a technological view the Quina, Discoid or Levallois systems may be present in such ensembles. Even a combination with a laminar technological approach is possible.

The bifacial tools may be symmetric but are more often asymmetric and are often plano-convex in their cross section.

Bifacial tools consist of handaxes (sometimes with a trihedral concept (“Micoquian style”), but also cordiforms, very thin leaf-shaped handaxes (Faustkeilblätter) and very small handaxes ("Fäustel").

Towards the end of Lower Paleolithic a trend towards “asymmetrisation” of bifacial artifacts over the North European Plain and the bordering highland zone is observed.

This can, for be exemplified at Mesvin IV (Belgium; U/Th dates: 250-300 k.a) and Pietraszyn 49 in Upper Silesia, initially dated by TL at 130±10 k.a. - now more reasonable dated to early MIS3. which would fit more consistent to the local development of the entity.

A Micoquian camp of Inden-Altdorf near Jülich in the Rhineland (Germany) has been securely dated to OIS 5e. The artefact assemblage from Inden Altdorf includes typical Micoquian tools like Keilmesser, combined with Levallois flakes and cores, but also “Upper Palaeolithic” elements like burins, end scrapers, blades and blade cores, but no handaxes.

It is one of the rare Paleolithic sites where birch pitch residues were found on tools and offers evidence for the production of synthetic pitch for the use of composite tool technology from the Neanderthal world.

As already described in the blog, two flakes with birch tar residues from Campitello, Central Italy, dated before OIS 6 are the earliest indication for this technology so far.

During the first Weichselian interstadial (OIS 5c) human activities took place at the sandy shore of a shallow lake at the northern edges of the Geisel valley about 25 km south of the city of Halle (site Neumark-Nord 2/0).

The lithic assemblage contains many characteristic Micoquian artifacts Neumark-Nord 2/0 is at the recent state of knowledge one of the the oldest KMG-site in central Europe. According to the excavators, the tools especially the bifacially backed knifes showing affinities to the Micoquian of the Russian plains and the northern Caucasus.

Figure 2
During the early last Glacial (?), Königsaue A-C, Buhlen in North Hessen, Zwolen, and parts of Prodnik-Micoquien inventories in numerous Rock Shelters in Poland around the Karstic Landscape around Krakow are clear examples of an “asymmetric tradition”.

“Keilmesser” (Figure 2) represent a new conceptualization of asymmetry, reflected in many aspects of the lithic technology including a great variety of debitage methods.

The open-air site Königsaue is situated in the northern Harz foreland of Saxony- Anhalt and could be placed either in early MIS 3 (by C-14 data outside the calibration curve and well beyond a reliable cut-off of the method) or MIS 5a (on good geological arguments), the exact dates being a hotly debated issue. Three strata on an ancient lakeshore have been described.

Königsaue A and B are characterized by the Levallois technique with variable quantities of bifacial tools. 25 of 102 tools are bifacially shaped. KöA shows bifacial backed knives , leaf-shaped handaxes (Faustkeilblätter) and other bifaces, while a bifacial component at KöB is almost missing but clearly present (one Fäustel and a leaf-pointed artifact). KöC has also a blank production on prepared cores. Among the bifacial tools, there are small asymmetric Handaxes and bifacial scrapers. Eight of the bifacial scrapers have a Quina-like retouch.

Salzgitter-Lebenstedt, allready introduced during an earlier post - see: 1599 , is situated about 12 km southwest of Brunswick, Lower Saxony.

Stone artifacts have sharp edges and bones were found in anatomical connection in different geological layers suggesting low energy fluvial deposition with finds not exposed to marked post depositional processes. Radiocarbon dates on worked animal bone range from 45 k.a. calBP to ~50 k.a calBP and confirm a MIS 3 age.

The assemblage of Salzgitter- Lebenstedt includes unidirectional, and bidirectional Levallois concepts as well as the presence of non-Levallois blade / bladelet cores.

The site is well known for its handaxes, and other asymmetric bifacial tools. Leaf-shaped bifacial scrapers and Keilmesser are part of the the ensemble, which in addition shows, many unifacial scrapers as a "fond commun".

Lichtenberg is an open-air site in Lower Saxony. The TL-ages for the find layer initially indicated an age between 60-50 k.a. and place the site most likely in early MIS 3.

New geochrolological and multiple TL- data now indicate an age for the original find horizon (now called Lichtenberg I) to early MIS4 (GS 19 [71.3 ± 7.3] k.a. in a harsh steppe/tundra environment.

Deeper in the stratigraphy within the Mid-Eemian Interglacial (now called Lichtenberg II) some non- diagnostic Flint flakes were present, maybe the remains of a short time occupation, comparable with the Lehringen site (Weiss et al. 2022).

The ensemble Lichtenberg I consists of bifacial backed knives, leaf-shaped scrapers, handaxes and leaf-shaped handaxes which were often produced on frost fractured materials or natural cobbles that had already the shape of the desired tool and required less final shaping.

The most common feature of the Lichtenberg bifacial and unifacial tools is a convex cutting edge opposite a blunt edge or back, which shows that the Keilmesser-concept had been adapted to the local circumstances and raw material characteristics. Levallois concepts are visible in Lichtenberg, although most flakes in this assemblage seem to be the result of retouch or bifacial knapping.

The site Pouch/„Terrassenpfeiler“ is situated in the former brown coal quarry Tagebau Goitzsche – Baufeld Rösa- Sausedlitz, east of Bitterfeld (Saxony-Anhalt) was dated by OSL for the artifact bearing layer between 46-47 k.a. BP, consistent with C-14 data ( C-14: 40 –44 k.a. calBP). The inventory consist of scrapers, flakes with use-wear, backed knives, backed bifacial knives and leaf-shaped scrapers.

Blank production is dominated by uni- and bidirectional prepared core methods. Very interesting is the presence of backed knifes on flat flakes, similar to the backed knifes of the late MTA.

Many years ago, Lutz Fiedler described such artifacts in the late Mousterian in Buhlen also. The ensemble has numerous similarities to Lichtenberg, Salzgitter and Königsaue.

The central German record of such ensembles is only one small detail of a much larger “Micoquian interaction sphere” stretching over vast areas of eastern Europe (Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Krim peninsula and the Caucasus region) much larger than the „Mousterian“ regions in W-Europe.

Over Central Europe and the Eastern European Plain, Neanderthals knew about the asymmetric and bifacial Options of lithic production, using them highly versatile when it was necessary.

Surfing the Blog: 1631 , here 2016 and here: 1726 .

Suggested Reading:

Weiss, M. (2019). Beyond the caves: Stone artifact analysis of late Middle Paleolithic open-air assemblages from the European Plain. PhD Thesis, Universiteit, Leiden.

Provenance: Reinhard Family Collection