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2018-10-19 18:35:51   •   ID: 2036

The Acheulean at Melka Kunture: 1,3 Mya of Lithic Record

Figure 1
Figure 1 and 2: These are early (1963) surface findings from Melka Kunture. They include one large triangular LCT-flake, retouched to a massive convergent scraper (11 cm long) and a Handaxe, 12 cm long respectively. The continuous retouche of the scraper is shown more in detail in Figure 3. Both artifacts are made from local Trachy-Andesiteis.

Melka Kunture lies in the upper Awash valley, 50 km south of Addis Ababa, at 2000m asl. The Awash basin extends for about 3000 km² at a height between 2500 and 2000 m a.s.l. It is delimited by several Pliocene volcanoes, the largest being the Wachacha and the Furi to the north, and the Boti and Agoïabi to the south. It is bordered to the east by the Ethiopian rift, part of the great rift system of eastern Africa.

Fluvial sedimentation (pebbles, gravel, sand, and clay) was frequently interrupted by volcanic activity, whose products are important markers for stratigraphic correlations between the different archaeological sequences identified so far.

Figure 2
Over 70 archaeological levels have been discovered so far, and more or less wide extensions of about 30 of them have been excavated.

About the local Oldowan see here: 1663

The Early Acheulean at 1,6 Mya. starts at Garba IV D. Here LCT appear for the first time in the Melka Kunture region, but they represent only 1.5% of the artifacts. LCTs were usually made from porphyritic rocks, Melka Fault lava and obsidian from nearby deposits.

The thick flakes obtained by discoid exploitation were processed into massive uni- or bifacially retouched scrapers through continuous and non-continuous retouches. There are convergent and dejete examples and Cleavers, seemingly not produced by a standardized technique.

With the exception of two cleavers, Handaxes are missed in the early Acheulean, and LCT retouching was limited to edge retouching, without any further shape modification of the blank.

Small and medium sized flakes, more prevalent in the record, were produced by a discoid chaîne opératoire. Typologically the small debitage products do not differ from the late Oldowan, but there is more diversity in the raw materials and technological skills that were used (for example: preparation of platforms, hierarchization of the cores).

Acheulean at Garba XIIIB at 1 Mya : the LCT chaînes opératoires are represented by bifaces and cleavers. All the cleavers are made of porphyritic basalt. The Kombewa method was the only débitage mode used on large flake blanks with a high degree of standardisation.

Figure 3
LCTs whose technical, morphological and dimensional features were extremely homogeneous point to a high degree of predetermination. Handaxes show mainly pointed, standardized and symmetrical specimens. Cleavers were either convex or oblique and their morphology was predetermined by the Kombewa technique .

During the Acheulean around 0,85 Mya, not only LCTs were more standardized, but also the small debitage was more sophisticated: At Gombore II OAM around 0.85 Mya Small- and Medium-Sized cobbles from lavas, followed by obsidian and porphyric basalt were used as raw materials. A bifacial discoid technique is prevalent, followed by debitage from irregular cores.

LCTs at the site are highly sophisticated, both in mastering the shape and geometry. The blanks were are usually created by the Kombewa technique.

Compared to Garba XIIIb the average removal count of these discoid cores is significantly higher per core, indicating a higher competence in mastering core geometry There are very few retouched flakes (denticulates and notches).

A later phase of the Acheulean is well represented and characterized by "twisted Handaxes" by several sites in the area of Gombore II (dated to about 0.8 Mya)- see here: 1509 .

The latest Acheulean site is Garba I, dated to ca. 0.5 Myr, while the end of the Acheulean sequence is represented, at Melka Kunture, by the site of Garba III, approximately dated to 0.25 Myr. This ensemble is already regarded as transitional towards the Middle Stone Age.

A fully developed MSA from Garba at ca 120 k.a. has already described in the Blog- see here: 1233

Suggested Reading: the very complex textes in the book: The Emergence of the Acheulean in East Africa and Beyond. Edited Gallotti and Mussi.

Surf the Blog: see here 1192 , here: 1233 , and here 2026