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2016-10-09 08:26:16   •   ID: 1521

Cordiform Handaxes during the Acheulian, MSA and the Middle Paleolithic

Figure 1
This is a small cordiform handaxe from Fontmaure The majority of handaxes can be easily classified according existing type-lists because there are only a finite number of possible technological solutions in the productions of bifacial tools.

Cordiform Handaxes, which are usually perceived as a “type fossil” of the “MTA” of S/W-France, appeared much earlier during the Paleolithic. The most possible explanation of this similar form of is convergence and certainly not cultural transmission. Here some examples:

Figure 2
Several Acheulean sites at Dakhla (Egypt) contain classical Prodniks with unifacial side scrapers and hundreds of handaxes from amygdaloids through cordiforms. Cordiforms are also part of the Acheulian ensembles at Kharga oasis (Figure 2). Geochronometric dating of the Acheulean deposits in the oases of the western desert suggest a minimum age of 350 k.a. while recent work on the geochronology of the fossil-spring tufas of the Kharga Oasis have provided U-series minimum ages of 300 k.a.

The site of Oumm Qatafa is situated on the left bank of Wadi Khareteitun in the Judean Desert, ca. 15 km west of the Dead Sea. The site was excavated by R. Neuville during 1928-1949, where he identified a sequence which spans the chalcolithic through the Lower Paleolithic. The Upper Acheulian (level D2 is characterized by 488 broad, ovate discoidal and cordiform bifaces. ESR dates obtained from level D2 indicate an upper date of ca 230 k.a. BP and thus an end for the late Lower Paleolithic in the Levant.

The assemblage of Cap Chatelier near Casablance demonstrates the production of predetermined flakes and cordiform thin small bifaces, flake tools  and a very few cleavers. It is older than isotopic stage 9 after new OSL dates obtained at top of Cap Chatelier section and about 350 k.a. old. Classical cordiform Bifaces have also been reported from several (non-dated) open air sites of the Moroccan Aterian.

The MTA of the Perigord during OIS3 is characterized by small (length: usually < 12 cm), finely retouched cordiform bifaces, by backed elongated flakes (knives) and by well developed “upper Paleolithic tools”, mainly end-scrapers and some burins. The MTA method of shaping bifaces is characterized by the creation of a bi-convex transverse section, which progressively becomes plano-convex by resharpening.

The so called MTA and similar ensembles  of N-France show some similarities with the MTA of S/W-France but are dated between OIS 5d–5a, on geological ground but the Handaxe site of Saint-Amand-les-Eaux is about 50 k.a. old (OIS3) dated with modern techniques. Other sites like Catigny (Oise) Versigny (Oise) Marcoing (Nord) Hamel (Nord) Tillet (Seine et Marne) are suggested to be earlier.

Fontmaure is geographically  situated between the older ensembles of N-France  and the younger ones of S/W-France. The age of this important site has not been established till now, although a OIS5-3 date seems to be the most reasonable.

Figure 2: Handaxe variability during the late African Acheulean: Gertrude Caton-Thompson: Kharga Oasis in Prehistory: University of London,1952.