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2018-08-09 22:23:01   •   ID: 1425

Standing on the shoulders of giants: Refitting Strategies and the Levallois Concept

Figure 1
This picture comes from an encyclopedic manuscript containing allegorical and medical drawings (South Germany, ca. 1410);this work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.

I always liked this metaphor, because it also describes the rank of any specific scientific work, which usually owns a lot to the ideas of good teachers. 

This also holds true for some concepts of Paleolithic archaeology, like the Refitting  and the Levallois concept.   Unlike other  and better known archaeologists of his time, Flaxman C.J. Spurrell (1842–1915) concerned himself with questions of taphonomy, of context, of methods of artifact manufacture and and refitting.  

Whilst Spurrell’s archaeological and scientific tastes were wide-ranging, his work as an early Paleolithic archaeologist stands out by the approach he took to investigating the material he recovered.

He experimented with flint knapping (Spurrell 1884), and appears to have been the first person to investigate how artefacts were made by refitting them (Spurrell 1880).

Such concepts got lost during the early 20th century, but were renewed by Harper Kelley a Harvard Archeologist and Africanist naturalized by the French state in 1917 (Figure 2). He was “Directeur de recherches” at the  C.N.R.S, “Directeur du laboratoire d'ethnologie” at the Musée de l'Homme and a member of the “Conseil de la S.P.F.”.

Harper Kelley cooperated with the Abbe Breuil for several decades after the First World War and had, compared to his friend, a much more rigorous methodological approach to Paleolithic materials. It is peculiar, that no biographical notes about Kelly can be found in the web.

Figure 2
Contribution à l'étude de la technique de la taille levalloisienne” (via; Figure 2)  is an excellent publication from 1954 about the Levallois technique in general and refitting experiments in particular, which were applied by Kelley to material from Northern France.

In this publication almost all issues that play a role in the current debates about the Levallois concept (E. Boëda; H. Dibble; P. Van Peer) are addressed, but clearly the actual authors go in their practice and argumentation beyond Kelley's approach.

Such concepts have become an important procedure during the last 25 years in the evaluation of the operational sequences, the integrity of the excavated strata and the reconstruction of  "phantom"  pieces, which have been exported from the site.

Figure 3
Techno -typological considerations and refitting concepts were never applied to the rich Levalloisian material from Lenderscheid in Northern Hessen, mainly detected by the local teacher A. Luttropp in the 1940ies and now stored at the Hessisches Landesmuseum at Kassel.

My small collection (Levalloisian flakes, cores and blades), which comprises about 100 pieces unfortunately is not suited for such an approach (Figure3).

More about the Lenderscheid site han be found here : 1624 , here 1712 , and here 1733