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2016-06-16 03:10:05   •   ID: 1304

Swiderian Projectile points from the Kraków region, southern Poland

Figure 1
The Swiderian is recognized as a distinctive Eastern European culture of Reindeer hunters during the Dryas III contemporaneous with the Ahrensburgian  and late Bromme Complex. Allthough orientated to the East, the Swiderian also extended to North/Western Europe.  

Recent radiocarbon dates showed that some groups of the Swiderian-Ahrensburgian Complex persisted into the Preboreal. The Swiderian developed on the sand dunes left behind by the retreating glaciers embracing the areas of Poland, Lithuania, the Polessye Lowlands, White and Central Russia and the Ukraine, mainly along the Vistula, Niemen and Pripet valleys.

The type-site is Świdry Wielkie in Poland. The diagnostic artifact is a tanged arrowhead (Sawicki's "Swiderian blade"). They were skillfully struck off from slim, uni- or bipololar cores. A typical example is shown in Figure 1.

Swiderian points are strongly formalized. The blade blanks are long and narrow, often in the form of a willow leaf. The tang may be symmetrical or asymmetrical. Two types of points are known and differ mainly in terms of the method of shaping their proximal (basal) circumference.

Willow leaf points are symmetric in their shape and do not have a pronounced tang. The base is characterized by a removal of the bulb of percussion on the ventral face by flat, inverse pressure flaking, probably important for a perfect hafting (Figure 2 and 3).

Swiderian tanged points are more complex. They show a relatively short, pronounced tang and may or may not show the baso-ventral surface pressure flakes, already known from the Willow Leaf points (Figure 1).

Figure 3
To obtain a Swiderian point the focus of attention was payed to the primary stone working, and the subsequently retouching of the tool blank had only an auxiliary role and did not change the blank form very much. In contrast, the Ahrensburgian, Bromme and Krasnoselye retouching was deeply invasive and secondarily applied to comparably rough and imperfect flakes and blades.

Beside these arrowheads, the lithic material is dominated by endscrapers and simple (diedre) burins. Though the Ahrensburgian and Swiderian tradititions had the same roots, they were principally different from each other regarding the production of arrowheads.

The preferred raw materials of the Swiderian people in Poland were large nodules of the best varieties of Jurassic and the chocolate flint from the Świętokrzyskie (Holy Cross) Mountains in Central Poland. Use of the chocolate flint by Swiderian groups is of particular interest: flint of this kind is found at some 300 out of 700 Swiderian sites and dominates sites up to 200 km from its source, with isolated examples found up to 750 km away.

An example made of this material is shown in Figure 1. This item is also of interest due to its dimensions (7 cm long and 0,5 cm thick), that make its use as a arrowhead unlikely. In addition it shows an unusual elaborated dedicated tang and pronounced lateral semi-abrupt retouching. Maybe this item was used as part of larger propelling system (Spear, Javelin, dart).

Anyhow it has to be remembered that “In western Poland and eastern Germany one can distinguish a large “transitional zone” with numerous assemblages containing Swiderian as well as Ahrensburgian or Brommian points” (Burdukiewicz 2011, see external link). Therefore statistical and stylistically features between these technocomplexes should not be exaggerated too much…

In contrast the two other "Willow Leaf" examples shown in Figure 2, 3; one with a impact burination fit with their dimensions (symmetric, with no dedicated tang, flat, 4,5 cm long) well into the normal spectrum of Swiderian arrowheads.

Regarding Swiderian points, Kamil Serwatka recently discussed in depth the "mass/velocity relationship" as an independent factor of the functional characteristics of projectile weapon systems beyond the well-known quantitative ballistic parameters such as the tip cross-sectional area (TCSA) and tip angle. The paper is available as external link-enjoy!

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