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2018-10-19 18:39:31   •   ID: 2038

A Thick retouched Levallois Point from Bir Tarfawi

Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3
This is a small, 5 cm long and rather thick triangular "Levallois Point" with lateral retouches. Figure 1 shows the artifact from the ventral side, Figure 2 displays the facetted base and Figure 3 continuous retouches on one margin of the point.

Note that this Levallois point is conceptional very different from the points from the Levallois-Mousterian in the Levant and Europe, where delicate, sometimes elongated items are present: see here 1613 . It resembles similar points from the Nubian Complex.

Important data from the Western Oases on the Egyptian Middle Paleolithic / MSA come from Bir Tarfawi and to a lesser part from Bir Sahara East. These two basins have yield a sequence of five humid intervals with MP/MSA tools.

The last four cyclic humid phases, characterized by permanent lakes and separated by periods of aridity were present at Bir Tarfawi between 175-75 k.a. BP.

"Grey Lakes 1-3 and Green Lake" took place in the same basins. The earliest phase occurred in the "White Lakes", a separate and higher basin, dated to ca 175 k.a. with some reservation.

Gray Lake 1 with the important Site BT-14 is dated to MIS 5e (ca 130 k.a.), while the Green Lake was represented the last Pleistocene humid phase at 75 k.a. After MIS4 (ca 60 k.a.) hyper-arid conditions were present. The area was virtually abandoned during the periods of hyperaridity that separated the lacustrine events.

It is suggested, that the lakes existed in a savanna or wooded savanna landscape which supported large animals such as rhinoceros, giant buffalo, giraffe and giant camel but also wild ass and various antelopes and gazelles, hare, porcupine, and wild cat.

Fish were present in the lakes, including species that today are found only in the Nile, Chad and Niger basins, evidencing that the lakes were occasionally part of a regional drainage system.

There are several Middle Paleolithic /MSA sites, that are associated with the lake deposits.

Sites occur in a variety of settings, each with distinctive assemblages of artifacts and apparently used in different ways.

It is interesting that during these 100 k.a. neither the ways of raw material procurement / processing nor the settlement system changed. The Nubian Levallois technology was restricted to specific MIS5 scatters.

Most of artifacts are made of quartzitic sandstone of various colors and textures. Workshops for these materials lie 3–5km east of Bir Tarfawi, where outlines of pits and trenches are still present on the surface and the surrounding area is littered with thick flakes and other workshop debris, but almost no cores or tools.

The basic system of lithic production was the classic and Nubian Levallois debitage. The main tool classes comprise scrapers, "Mousterian Points", denticulates and notches.

The only evident changes are the presence of bifacial foliates around 130 k.a., and of stemmed ("Aterian") tools, which were found on the surface and were tentatively dated to the end of the Green Phase under already arid conditions about 70 k.a. Neither of these is likely to have been a local development.

The apparent differences in the faunal content among sites in different settings may reflect variations in activities carried out at the sites. Sites embedded in fossil hydromorphic soils, characterized by low artefact densities, indicate limited use, probably comprising several brief phases and these only during very dry years.

Sites embedded in beach sands were accessible for a greater part of the year, but probably not during the season of highest water, presumably in summer.

Suggested Readings:

Gertrude Caton-Thompson, The Kharga Oasis in Prehistory (London, 1952).

The Prehistory of Dakhla Oasis and Adjacent Desert (Wroclaw, 1977).

Wendorf, Schild, Close, et al, Egypt during the Last Interglacial: The Middle Paleolithic of Bir Tafawi and Bir Sahara East (New York, 1993).