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2019-02-17 12:30:00   •   ID: 2077

Going Discoid at Lake Turkana and Elsewhere

Figure 1
Figure 2
Lake Turkana is famous for its very old ESA artifacts and Hominin record.

At Lomekwi 3, in the West Turkana region of Kenya, the oldest-known stone tools worldwide so far have been reported (Harmand et al., 2015). These artefacts, from 3,3 Mya, are assigned to the "Lomekwian industry", based on distinct typo-technological characteristics (different from the classic Oldowan).

The Acheulian of Kokiselei at West Turkana, Kenya is among the oldest sites of this entity worldwide and about 1,76 Mya old.(Lepre et al., 2011)

In addition well preserved and stratified Holocene sequences capturing changes in African fisher-hunter-gatherer strategies through a series of subtle and dramatic climate shifts are known.

As a result of this rich Archaeological record, little importance reconnaissance has been invested in the MSA of this region. Only with the "Out of Africa 2" theory and early Homo Sapiens findings in the nearby Omo Basin the focus of interest has changed.

Compared to the Omo-Region, MSA sites at Lake Turkana, are still too little known. Located at East Turkana several Middle Stone Agesites are known: (FwJi1. Fwli2 and Iwhi 3), near Ileret, while two localities, named FxJi 61 and FxJi 66 are near the southern end of the Karari Ridge (Shea and Hildebrandt 2013) Reconnaissance missions are ongoing and detected further sites, for example the Nakechichok 1 (GdJh 5) site.

Tyron et al. reported, stratified sites from associated with the so called Kapedo Tuffs, dated to late MIS6/ Early MIS5 (Tyron et al. 2008) and focused on raw material availability as a key factor for the operational sequences of the local MSA. Different Levallois and Discoidal techniques were described by the excavators.

This discoidal core (Figure 1 and 2) is a surface find from the Northern Rift Valley, NW Kenya, Africa, at the confluence of Lake Turkana and the Omo River, similar to discoid cores from the Kapedo Tuffs - further information about another completely different lithic artifact from this region can be found here 2060 .

The discoid core and the Levallois core are sophisticated prepared technologies of the Old World Paleolithic. The discoid core was classified into two sub-types, namely the unifacial and the bifacial classes.

Discoid exploitation is more often systematically bifacial than unifacial (see Boeda 1993): two fairly similar symmetrical surfaces created by removals were used as striking platforms and flaking surfaces, simultaneously or with alternate series of removals.

Uni-or bifacially flaked discoids appear earlier in the Archeological report, than other prepared core variants. Even during the Neolithic they did not loose their importance.

In Africa, discoid technology has a considerable time depth. The Gona site (Omo Region, Ethiopia), dated to 2,6-2,5 Ma by 40Ar/39Ar and by paleomagnetic stratigraphy, reveals one of the oldest Oldowan ensembles in the world.

The EG10 and EG12 lithics were deposited in fine-grained sediments and excavated within a primary geological context. Discoids are incorporated in the AH-10 unit.

In S-Africa, discoid cores in quartzite have described from the Oldowan of Sterkfontein. At Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania beginning near the base of Bed I, ca. 1,85 Ma, there are "Oldowan" (Mode 1) assemblages characterized by “choppers, polyhedrons, discoids, scrapers, occasional sub- spheroids and burins, together with hammer-stones, utilized cobbles and light-duty utilized flakes” (Leakey, 1971).

Discoid cores persist to play a role during the Acheulian. Examples are known from Melka Konture (Garba IV D, Ethiopia) within a LTC-Early Acheulean at 1,6 Ma.

Discoid cores in variable quantities are omnipresent in the East and South African late Acheulian and Middle Stone Age record, the latter is attested since 500 k.a.

In S-Africa, the Fauresmith industry which combines small refined handaxes with technological components characteristic of the MSA (prepared discoidal and Levallois cores, blades, Levallois points, convex scrapers), maybe as old as 542–435 k.a. (Wonderwerk Cave MU4 , Kathu Pan 1).

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, while Discoid cores are rare. 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).

At 250 k.a., at the Koimilot (GnJh-74) MSA site, west of Lake Baringo, in the central Rift Valley of Kenya discoid cores are predominant, but some Levallois cores also appear.

Western Asia: Early human peopling outside Africa is well established in the Near East, including the Caucasus, at 1,8 Ma at Dmanisi, Georgia and 1,0-1,4 Ma at Ubeidiya, Israel.

While only one example of a discoidal core comes from Dmanisi, discoids, spheroids, heavy- duty scrapers; bifaces, including trihedral picks are part of some of the Ubeidiya ensembles.

In South Europe, the unique findings from the Sierra de Atapuerca sites offer a chronological sequence that allows to evaluate the evolution of technology at a local scale during the Early and Middle Pleistocene.

The Mode 1 ensembles Atapuerca occurred at 1.2 Ma, and are represented in level TE9. A second phase is represented by the level TD6, dating to before 800 k.a.

This phase is characterized by by new subsistence and technological strategies, although the lithics are still Mode 1.

After a hiatus of about 300 k.a. the occupations of Galería and TD10 dating between 500 k.a. and 300 k.a., revealed the first discoidal prepared cores associated with H. Heidelbergensis.

Discoid core technology is also linked with the West European Acheulian. A good example is the Acheulean Settlement at the La Noira Site, a 770 k.a. old Occupation in the Center of France.

In larger parts of Europe, the Middle Pleistocene MIS 9–7 period is considered as a time of shift from the Lower Paleolithic to the Early Middle Paleolithic and therefore defined by a decline of Acheulian bifaces and an increase in the number of prepared core technologies- a technological system which remained stable during MIS 3-5.

Provenance: Ph. Schupp Collection (before 1940)

Surf the Blog for more information: see here 1424 , here 1705 , and here 1085