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2023-01-16 09:39:03   •   ID: 1622

Middle Paleolithic Points and the Principle of Elongation

Figure 1
These are elongated Mousterian Points on non-Levallois blades from the Calvados of unknown age. Non-Levallois and Levallois based Elongated Mousterian points, similar to those displayed her, were infrequent found during several Middle Paleolithic technocomplexes of France (mainly from OIS5-3  e.g. Goderville, Oissel, Bihoherel, Houppeville, Saint-Just-en-Chaussée; maybe older at Montguillain/Oise) and the Netherlands at the Maastricht Belvedere K-site some 250000 years old (OIS 7).

Note that the majority of the material from the sites mentioned above testify a Levallois chain operatoire.

In this context it is important, that the Levallois technique is more successful than the Clacton, Quina or discoid techniques in the production of elongated blanks as Soressi already demonstrated using the MTA layers from Le Moustier (Soressi 2007).

Angé is a Middle Paleolithic site, excavated with modern methods located in Central France and dated to the late MIS5.  

The retouched tools were rich in scrapers and elongated convergent points, very similar to the points shown here, which were in some cases used as projectile points and assigned to the Ferrassie Mousterian . The bifacial tools display similarities to those of the Keilmesser Group (KMG) of Central Europe.

Overall elongated points cannot be confined to a certain geographical place and period within a large time frame between OIS8-3 (the lower travertine at Weimar-Ehringsdorf is another good example, most probably from OIS7).

Figure 2
Gowlett recently published an interesting article about elongation as a principle of improving certain qualities of artifacts.

The principle of elongation was for several times and at several places established during prehistory by using elongated flakes/blades for the production of stone tools or by the production of leaf points.  

“In general, across Upper and Middle Palaeolithic industries, it stands out that the elongation in stone artefacts was desired for more than one purpose. In both projectile points and hand points, it appears to have a strong link with hafting, which obviously entails the cognitive abilities to combine materials, and probably knowledge of glue and/or twine, the latter clearly a prerequisite for bows. In the case of hand tools, elongation might relate to specific tasks, such as butchery or other cutting with need for a long edge. In the case of projectiles, the need for elongation is fundamental to their effective projection”

ELongated blanks with the most effective cutting edge in the Middle Paleolithic and MSA are definitely blades. Some early examples without completeness intended:

Africa / Asia: Five sites of the Kapthurin Formation in East Africa and the Kathu Pan 1 site in South Africa contained blade-like components that have been dated to about 500 k.a.

The Kapthurin group appears to be not related to the Levallois methods, since blades in series were manufactured using a unidirectional or centripetal method from a convex flaking surface. This surface was created by the intersection of two or more planes and appears to be similar to the Hummalian technique, as described by Boëda (1995). The first blade was detached from either the long natural edge or from an edge of a core that was only lightly prepared; the next few blades were then removed continuously.

On the Kathu Pan 1 site, blades were struck from a single platform, or more often two platforms; the cores appear to have been prepared and maintained by employing centripetal flaking. The assemblage seems to be related to Levallois, as defined by Boëda.

These descriptions indicate the diversity of early blade production in eastern and southern Africa. The various kinds seem to have been clearly distinct in a technological sense but related in their chronology.

Another African site showing blade elements, Haua Fteah in Libya, was characterized as “an archaic Leptolithic industry with virtual absence of Levalloisian traits’’ (McBurney 1967) and as belonging to the Pre-Aurignacian of the Near East.

Found under the Levallois-Mousterian levels and separated from the latter by a 0.5m sterile horizon, this set remains undated.

On the other hand, Grigoriev’s analysis of the published lithic materials displayed the possible use of the Levallois method and the Mousterian character of the tool-kit. Therefore the character of the industry remains uncertain.

The Early Middle Palaeolithic of S/W-Asia shows non-Levallois debitage and contains two industries: the Pre-Aurignacian and the Amudian.

The first was identified in levels 13 and 15 at Yabrud I in Syria and the second in a few sites: in Tabun, Abri Zumoffen/Adlun, Masloukh (Skinner 1970), Zuttiyeh (Gisis and Bar-Yosef 1974) and Qesem Cave. The Amudian from Tabun unit XI (Tabun E) has been dated to 264 +/-28 k.a and those from Qesem Cave may possibly have started more than 380 k.a and persisted to up to 200 k.a.

Both industries are often assembled together, although they differ in their core reduction strategies and tool-kits. While the tool-kit of the Pre-Aurignacian is characterized by burins and end scrapers, tha Amudian exhibits retouched backs opposite the long cutting of blades.

The more recent Early Middle Palaeolithic blade assemblages in the near East (“Tabun-D ensembles”) are positioned in the stratigraphy between the Acheulo-Yabrudian and the Middle Palaeolithic complex (e.g. Tabun IX, Hayonim lower E and F and Hummalian at El Kowm ) or above the Acheulo-Yabrudian (e.g. Abu Sif C-D), with other sites, such as Rosh ein Mor, Nahal Aqev and Ain Difla, Misliya cave, presenting full and short stratigraphical sequences.

These assemblages display the use of the Laminar and Levallois reduction strategies simultaneously and contain a high percentage of blades. They differ not only in the use of both reduction strategies, but also in the production of various tools; site type and site use; and chronology (between 260 to 160 k.a).

The goal was to produce elongated blanks, although not exclusively so. Short specimens are always recorded and seem to have been manufactured through a distinct core reduction strategy, generally Levallois in nature.

In Asia, Early Middle Palaeolithic blade industries had already been identified in Tajikistan and Georgia on both slopes of the Central Caucasus in the 1980s. For example, Weasel Cave in North Ossetia and Kudaro I, Kudaro III, Tsona, Djruchula, and Hviraty in South Ossetia.

These sites have been conglomerated under the name of the Kudaro-Djruchula group and are associated with the Tabun D-type industries, as they contain a large quantity of blades. The dating obtained from two occupation spans in Djruchula Cave, with assemblages presenting clear technological affinities with the blade industries of the Near East, has put their estimated age at between 260 k.a and 140 k.a.

The Khonako III site in Tajikistan is estimated to date from 200-240 k.a. In the Near East, the laminar phenomenon appears at the end of the Lower Palaeolithic immediately following the Acheulo-Yabrudian (Pre-Aurignacian and Amudian) and is then seen systematically in the early Middle Palaeolithic (Hayonim layers F and E, Abu Sif, Tabun D, Tabun E, Rosh Ein Mor, Ain Difla, Hummal layers 6 and 7, Nadaouyieh, Umm el Tlel) and later in the heart of the Middle Palaeolithic (Nahal Aqev, Douara IV, Jerf Ajla Unit E, and Hummal.

In Europe first blade-rich industies (Markkleeberg, Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme Baker’s Hole, Rheindahlen B1/B2 Biache-Saint-Vaast – niveau IIA ) can be dated to the Early or Middle Saalian s.l. (MIS 8 or 7).

During OIS 5 in Northern Europe, there are abundant evidence of a fully developed blade industry in France and adjacent parts of Germany (Wallertheim D, Saint-Germain-des-Vaux, Tönchesberg 2B, Riencourt-lès-Bapaume, Seclin – D7). Here again either Levallois and / or prismatic core techniques are present.

Shortly before the advent of the upper Paleolithic, the Neronian of the Mediterranean France and the MTA are examples of middle Paleolithic blade-rich industries during OIS3 . Elongated Levallois points are often the hallmark of these industries.

Provenience: P. Vabre Collection