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2017-06-11 13:00:24   •   ID: 1613

The Story of Levallois Points

Figure 1
Figure 1 shows a perfect, elongated retouched Levallois Point from the Aquitaine. Within the Levallois concept, an important variability exists in the implementation of knapping operations. Production objectives can also be varied and getting oriented to the obtainment of Levallois points (débitage Levallois à pointes).

This production aims at the making of triangular flakes, which were used without further modifications (as knifes or more rarely as projectile points) or used as blanks and subsequently modified with retouches.

F. Bordes described for the first time the flaking of Levallois points, in different industries from northern France (Seine Maritime and Somme) and Jordan (the site of Abu Sif).

Later he described the production of Levallois points according to two modalities of preparation;

(1) preparation by unipolar convergent removals flaked from the striking platform of the future point (Classical preparation),
Figure 2

(2) preparation from cores, that were later called "Nubian cores". Triangular “Nubian” cores were first described in detail by the Guichards during the late 1960ies. The first type corresponds to a Levallois point with a preparation by two unipolar divergent removals from an opposite striking platform to that of the point (Nubian core Type I), and a second type with an elaborated centripetal preparation on a block of triangular morphology from which will be produced a Levallois point(Nubian core Type II). Figures 2 and 3 show examples from Nubian cores.

More recently, from the material found on the site of Umm el-Tlel (Syria), Boëda illustrated the diversity of the procedures implemented for the production of points. After analyzing the points and sub products, Boëda defined two main groups: the so-called “three hits” points ( “classical” points), which are distinguished from the “constructed” points in which different schemes coexist depending on the direction of the preparation removals.

Furthermore, Boëda had previously proposed around 30 theoretical patterns of Levallois “three hits” points’ production, from an experimental corpus.

The oldest Levallois points so far were found in South Africa. New data from stratified Fauresmith sites in S-Africa suggest that this industry, which combines small refined handaxes with technological components characteristic of the MSA (prepared cores, Levallois cores, blades, Levallois points, convex scrapers), maybe as old as 542–435 k.a. (Wonderwerk Cave MU4 , Kathu Pan 1).

In Africa the Levallois concept remained to be present at several early and late MSA sites until the Holocene, especially in West Africa and the Horn of Africa.

Figure 3
In the Levant, first Levallois elements (“Tabun D-ensembles” ) appear after 250 k.a BP in Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and the El Kowm region in Syria. They are replaced by “Tabun C and Tabun B” ensembles.

In the Tabun D type assemblages show a unidirectional and some bidirectional core reduction with little, if any, classic radial core preparation. Elongated blanks characterize these assemblages and the numerous blades generally have parallel or converging edges.

The Tabun C assemblages can be described as based on Levallois recurrent centripetal methods. Blanks tend to be relatively large and ovoid in shape.

Type B assemblages, on the other hand are characterized by high frequencies of convergent removals. It has been suggested that this represents a very specific reduction process and is best described as a unidirectional convergent recurrent method.

The blanks produced through this procedure are generally short, broad and triangular in shape resulting in high frequencies of Levallois points.

Anyhow this strict classification, derived from Cave Sites has been criticised by the results of new open air sites and the operational sequences are much more diversified than suggested some decennia ago.

The production of Levallois points is also attested in Nubia and Egypt during the Middle Stone Age although based on a much smaller data base and insufficient chronometric control, roughly between 300 and 50 k.a. BP.

Preparation types, especially the use of the Nubian-Type mode, are somewhat different from those encountered in Levantine deposits.

In the Horn of Africa, several sites have delivered MSA assemblages featuring Levallois points. This is particularly the case in Ethiopia at the Gorgora rockshelter (undated) using mainly a unipolar convergent management, and at Kone (undated) where Nubian type cores were present.

Industries that have shown a significant number of Levallois points are known in northern Somalia at Midhishi 2 (undated). Some points have been found at the MSA of Omo Kibish (120 k.a. BP) and are associated with Homo Sapiens.

Porc Epic Cave (Ethiopia) at the southern Afar Rift of Ethiopia is uncertainly dated at ca 80 k.a (Obsidian hydration method). Porc Epic produced a well stratified MSA assemblage featuring Levallois and blade core products, denticulates, and bifacial/foliate and unifacial triangular points. Levallois points are well attested at the site.

In the East African MSA, tools are characterized by points with unifacial and bifacial retouch on non-Levallois and Levallois blanks, partially made from Nubian cores. This is the case at Gademotta (ETH-72-8B before 276±4 k.a BP; ETH-72-6 after 183±10 k.a BP) and at Kulkuletti (200–300 k.a BP) and Aduma ( ca 60-80 k.a. BP).

Sahle recently recently published an well structured paper about the multilayerd site of Aduma regarding the hottley debated question about the appearance of complex hunting devices during the MSA in East Africa:

"At Aduma (Middle Awash, Ethiopia), morphometric, hafting, and impact damage patterns in several lithic point assemblages suggest a shift from simple spear technologies (thrusting and/or hand-cast) to complex projectiles. Broadly dated to 80–100 ka, lithic points from later phases of the Aduma succession represent a particularly strong candidate for projectile armatures most comparable to ethnographically known spear-thrower darts, lending support for previous suggestions and warranting further investigations- see external links

Figure 4
Other examples of Levallois points come from Melka Kunture (Garba III), Gorgora and in Somalia at Gogoshiis Qabe (undated). A difference between Levallois points from the East African MSA and those from the Levantine Middle Paleolithic is a much less systematic production of Levallois points during the East African MSA.

Much emphasis has been invested into the MSA industries of the Arabian Peninsula, during the last years. The production of Levallois points in Hadramawt, in the east of Yemen, for example presents an extraordinary diversity of reduction patterns, as recently described by Crassard and Thiébaut. More about the Arabian Peninsula and ongoing research see here: 2284

The Levallois technology in W- Europe seems to be present as early as MIS 10 at Mesvin IV in Belgium and appeared  at several sites during early OIS 8 (Orgnac 3, Baume Bonne, Bankers Hole, Crayford), is present during OIS7 at Biache-Saint-Vaast II and Maastricht-Belvedere, and very common during OIS6.

After OIS6 other techniques become more important (discoidal  techniques, Quina technique, laminar technique), but the Levallois technique never disappears until the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic.

In the North of France, several assemblages from open-air deposits have shown a production of Levallois points. They are dated between MIS7-3. Limited microtraceological studies point to a predominant use as cutting tools, but we have to remember that the sites in N-France are mostly base camps with a lithic ensemble biased towards the domestic use of these artifacts.

Like the majority of the Levantine assemblages, the classical production scheme (unipolar convergent) is the more common; for instance, the lithic material from the site of Houppeville, the B assemblage from Le Pucheuil, the N2b layer at Bettencourt- Saint-Ouen or the sector 1 at Le Petit-Saule.

Only the collection from Therdone site (89-67 k.a. BP) differs from these series by a greater diversity of methods.

In S/W-France, Levallois points are omnipresent during the last Glacial, especially during the MTA and M. typique. 

In the Rhone Valley, some industries have points that are morphologically close to the Levallois point (at Mandrin, at Néron layer III: 43 ka BP and at Abri du Maras), but their realization seems to be far from the Levallois concept, according to Slimak.

Figure 5
In Central Europe, the use of the Levallois-technique is more restricted (Markleeberg, Salzgitter, Königsaue B, Lenderscheid (Figure 4), Rheutersruh and Wahlen in N-Hessen;  "Taubachian" sites of central Europe (Taubach, Kulna, Lehringen, Weimar); several Micoquian strata of the Sesselfelsgrotte (G-strata), Balve IV; (Ensembles between OIS6 or 7 and 3). Overall the frequency of genuine Levallois points in these industries is low.

Eastern Europe: The southwestern part of East Europe (Ukraine, Moldova and Romania), including the region between the Dniester and Prut rivers, is comparatively rich in Middle Palaeolithic sites. Absolute dates are still not numerous and their reliability is under question.

The period from MIS 5 to MIS 3 witnessed coexistence of several variants of the Middle Palaeolithic, including the Eastern Micoquian and Levallois-Mousterian.

Kabazi in the Crimean Peninsula and the Molodova site offer the the most important informations about the local Levallois-Mousterien during the last glaciation.

The Crimea, although a “Cul-de-Sac” during the Paleolithic, contains the richest concentration of Middle Paleolithic sites in Eastern Europe. More than 100 Middle Paleolithic sites are documented at present, among which are 30 multi-layered stratified sites The Crimean Middle Paleolithic seems to cover a time range from 127 k.a to approximately 29 k.a. BP, though the majority of the Crimean Middle Paleolithic occupations date to MIS 3.

The Western Crimean Mousterian (WCM; Levallois Mousterian with relatively high mobility) and the Crimean Micoquian (Bifacial component, non-Levallois, and lower mobility) co-existed during at least 15,000 years during the end of MIS3.

A detailed analysis of the WCM showed a special method of Levallois technique, which seems to correspond to an intermediate position between the classical Levallois method with centripetal preparation and the Levallois method for uni-directional convergent points.

Interestingly although the Crimean Levallois-Mousterian had a high laminar index and exhibited extraordinary elongated Levallois points, the reduction system never evolved towards a Leptolithic industry comparable to the Emiran / Bohunician.

The Middle and Upper Paleolithic site of Molodova is located on the Dniester River in the Chernovtsy province of Ukraine, between the Dniester River and the Carpathian mountains. Molodova I has five Middle Paleolithic Levallois-Mousterian occupations (called Molodova 1-5) and three Upper Paleolithic occupations. The Mousterian components are dated to >44 k.a. BP based on charcoal radiocarbon from a hearth.

The Molodova V site shows a very similar Levallois-Mousterian, which has been technologically described in some detail. Interestingly, the Levallois reduction strategy of Molodova V repeats the strategy of reduction and the typology of Levallois cores and Levallois end products as found in the Middle Palaeolithic level II/8 of Kabazi II in all details.

Upper Paleolithic "Levallois Points":  Elongated Levallois points (Figure 6) were the desired end product of the Bohunician / Emiran technology. The reduction strategy of these entities may be, according to P. Skrdla-a highly productive Archaeologist- reconstructed as follows: the core was shaped as a typical upper Paleolithic prismatic core with a frontal crest and two opposed platforms were created.

Figure 5
Consequently a series of blades was removed from both opposed platforms in order to form the frontal face of the core into a shape (triangular, elongated) which allows Levallois point production. Although the end product (Levallois point) has affinities to the older Middle Paleolithic Levallois technologies, the volumetric concept is fully Upper Paleolithic and not a "transitional" industry!

The Bohunician / Emiran  dates roughly between 45-32 k.a. BP. This technology was first independently described at Boker Tachtit 1 and at Brno Bohunice in  Moravia in the 1970ies. Ensembles similar to Boker-Tachtit 1 were found in not only in the Levant (Üçağızlı and Ksar-Akil)., but also in Bulgaria (Temnata  TD2/6,  Bacho Kiro 11), near Brno (Bohunician at Brno Bohunice, Stránská skála Ss-IIIa-4, Brno Líšeň , Tvarožná, and Želeč), in Moravia (Rataje, Ondratice, Mohelno) in eastern Slovakia (Nižný Hrabovec), in the Ukraine,at Obi-Rakhmat Grotto, situated 100 km northeast of Tashkent in the  Republic of Uzbekistan and in the Altai (Kara Bom).

Suggested Reading and First description of the Bohunician: Karel Valoch, 1976. Die altsteinzeitliche Fundstelle in Brno-Bohunice. Studie AU CSAV IV/I. Academia, Prague. Really a Milstone in Lithic Analysis!