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2017-12-06 20:05:29   •   ID: 1693

Curved or Straight and Backed : Azilian / Federmesser of the North European Plain

Figure 1
This is a 4,5 cm long pen-knife (Federmesser) from the Leudal area in South Limburg / NL, an area already introduced during an earlier post (see 1303 ).

The Federmesser complex is part of the Pan-West and Central European Azilian. The length is within the normal range of such artifacts from the Leudal area and larger than the average Federmesser in the German Middle Rhine area—at Kettig for example, the points  are significantly shorter, with an average length of 28mm).

After the end of the "Golden Age" of the Upper Palaeolithic (Gravettian); during the maximum ice advance of the Last Glacial Maximum, North Western Europe was an ice desert and abandoned by human populations. Humans would not return the area for a period of several thousand years.

After the LGM, recolonization of N/W-Europe started from Refugia in the South and maybe from Central- North Europe ( Thüringen/Poland/ Moravia). It has been widely accepted, that the North European Plain was recolonized after the LGM first by humans of the Magdalenian technocomplex.

However, their expansion may  have been an episodic process, taking several thousands of years. Several explanatory “push” and “pull” scenario have been proposed for explanation of this scenario. During the late Magdalenian we find several modifications of the original  toolset like the Long-blade Magdalenas in the Paris basin, the Creswellian in N/W-Europe, the Hamburgian, the“facies Cepoy-Marsagny”.

The Azilian has long been considered an abrupt event. Recent work shows that the development of this technocomplex was not sudden but occurred progressively. Whereas for the Paris Basin this process is comparatively well investigated and commonly termed “Azilianisation” , the passage from the Magdalenian, Creswellian and Hamburgian to the Late Palaeolithic industries in North- Western and Central Europe during the late Azilian remains poorly understood owing to a general lack of stratified and well-dated sites.

The “Azilianisation” process of cultural change began during the GI-1e/d (end of the Bølling) with the Early Azilian (Bipointe - Phase), not present in the Netherlands or in the German Rhine area. This early transformation probably finds its roots at the end of the Magdalenian during the GS-2b-a (Oldest Dryas) or is rooted in Epigravettian traditions transferred via the Rhone valley.

The finalization of this process is the so-called Late Azilian,  lasting from the Allerød until probably the  first half of GS-1 (Younger Dryas). In the Netherlands and Belgium the appearance of the Federmeser-groups marks a major shift in subsistence strategy and settlement patterns.

We notice a shift from large game hunting to a more broad spectrum subsistence. Sites become more numerous, reflecting both demographic success and the tendency toward more permanent occupations. Compared to the Magdalenian, the Federmesser Groups used a more simple, less standardized lithic technology materialized in Azilian points and short end-scrapers.

The symbolic culture of the Magdalenian was radically transformed into another system of ideologies and beliefs as mirrored in the known examples of Azilian "art" production, focused on abstract graphic production Anyhow, recent discovery of 45 engraved schist tablets from archaeological layers at Le Rocher de l’Impératrice attests iconographic continuity with the late Magdalenian, together with special valorization of aurochs. This discovery again points to a gradual change between the Magdalenian and Azilian.

The amber elk figure from Weitsche (Lower Saxony) is another example of figurative art, maybe foreshadowing the famous amber sculptures of the Scandinavian Mesolithic.

In the Leudal area projectile point types are largely indicative of the typical late Federmesser-assemblages, with straight backed points and curved backed points being the dominant types. These these are sometimes found together with Creswellian and Cheddar points, Tjonger/Gravette points and  Krems points- a (secondary?) spectrum of mainly surface ensembles, which gave these ensembles the name: Creswello-Tjongerian. 

Figure 2
In southern Netherlands and Belgium these projectiles are accompanied by domestic tools, like unstandardized burins and small flake-endscrapers. Figure 2 is from: Hermann Schwabedissen: Federmesser-Gruppen des nordwesteuropäischen Flachlandes : Zur Ausbreitung des Spät-Magdalénien; Neumünster : Wachholtz, 1954.

And for the Paris Basin-read Boris Valentin: Productions lithiques magdaléniennes et aziliennes dans le bassin parisien: disparition d’une économie programmée