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2019-03-31 12:05:22   •   ID: 2091

Lithic Caches during the Paleo- and Neolithic

Figure 1

Figure 2
A Cache is a collection of similar items and/or ecofacts that are deliberately set aside for future use, as opposed to discareded, abandoned, or lost.

Figure 1 and 2 show a "Neolithic" cache of scrapers (ca 4 k.a. BP), found in Ténéré / Niger concentrated in isolation in the desert, during the 1960ies by a mining- engineer.

The pieces are made from a very fine and homogeneous quarztite, commonly used for such artifacts over wide areas in the Sahara.

The pieces are up to 10 cm long and show a flat unifacial invasive retouche and a high degree of standardisation.

Additionally they do not show any use traces or reworking or other evidence of specific function (the designation as scrapes remains dubious).

Caches during the Paleolithic and Neolithic could related for several several strategies:

  • provisioning places in anticipation of predictable needs. This includes the provision of specialized tool-kits

  • their purposefully position in the landscape with a symbolic intention or as a territorial marker

  • their use as trade and / or exchange comedies

  • their use as ritual offerings

Here I report some examples of caching, a behavior that seems to get more and more important over time and finally unaccountable since the Bronze age of the old World.

ESA: The beginnings of caches could be very old. In East and North Africa, especially in the Sahara, large Handaxe scatters over vast surfaces may be explained by provisioning places with tools ready usable at repeated kill-sites-see 2076

While this remains an assumption, a cache consisting of 29 Handaxes were reported by Garrod from Tabun D (Mt Carmel).

Barkai er al. detected two caches with 13 artifacts each, among them Levallois cores and Handaxes at Mt. Pua, an early quarry site in N- Israel.

MSA: A very interesting ensemble of stone balls was found in the Amudian layers at Qesem Cave in Israel (Barkai et al. 2016). Here stone balls were found mostly concentrated in depot like locations in the south-western part of the cave in the lower part of the stratigraphic sequence. Anyhow, the activities that took place here remain enigmatic.

A depot of approximately 60 spheroidal stone balls which formed a regular cone 75 cm high and 1,50 m in diameter was recovered from a fossil spring at the site of El-Guettar in Tunesia.

Mixed in with it were a large number of retouched flint tools and manufacturing waste together with many teeth, splinters and pounded fragments of bone. They had diameters ranging between 4·5 and 18·0 cm.

The smaller and more regular were at the top while the stone heap base, larger, were only roughly spherical. Most of these spheroids were natural, and only a few had been regularized by picking.

Notably, the excavator did not find such pebbles in the immediate vicinity of the deposit. It is suggested that the pile could indicate some ritual / symbolic behavior.

Upper Paleolithic: Surveys at the Ikh Tulberiin Gol River valley (southern tributary of the Selenga River, Northern Mongolia) near the well known Tolbor sites revealed a late Pleistocene Paleolithic (non-dated) cache of 57 unused large fakes, not associated with a habitation or logistic activity site.

The authors stated that: Based on the context of the discovery as an isolated nd and technical-typological features of the artifacts, the assemblage is interpreted as a cache of tool blanks that was purposefully and symbolically positioned on the landscape relative to the primary mountain pass by Upper Paleolithic hunter-gatherers (Tabarev et al. 2013).

An unique Solutrean Cache, was found during the late 19th century at Volgu in the Saône-et-Loire . The site is situated near the confluence of the Arroux and Loire Rivers, about 60 km west Le Solutre.

The cache was discovered while digging a canal from Digoin to Gueugnon. Chabas (1874), an engineer working on the canal, reported 12 artifacts buried side by side on edge, and aligned roughly North-South about 1m deep in sandy clay alluvium.

Thirty years later, it was reported that as many as 17 artifacts had been discovered, with four disappearing before authorities were notified. Currently, 15 are known to exist at different museums.

The 15 extant artifacts of Volgu are very fine specimens of typical Solutrean laurel leaf bifacial points that combine unusually large overall size with unusual thinness.

The origin of the lithic raw material has been tentatively identified as four varieties of flint from the Turonian chalk sources near Gien, France about 150 km away.

Complete laurel leaf bifaces from Volgu range from 23, 4 to 34,3 cm in length, and from only 0.6–1.2 cm in thickness. A ritual / symbolic context seems to be possible, especially because the points are to fragile to have been served as utilitarian tools.

Levantine Epipaleolithic: P.C Edwards reported that "sickle, 21 flint lunates for tipping spears and evidence of the hunted quarry – gazelle bones – lay together by the wall of a Natufian building.

The author deduces that these objects were contained in a bag and constituted the versatile working equipment of a hunter-gatherer
" (Edwards 2007.

Neolithic: Excavations at Motza near Jerusalem revealed a large Neolithic site that was continuously inhabited from the Early PPNB until the Pottery Neolithic period. A unique blade cache containing 58 highly sophisticated bipolar blades was excavated.

Similar examples of long- blade caches is known from the European Neolithic. One example comes from a funary context at Varna / Bulgaria.

The most famous mass production of extraordinary long blades, which were used to produce Neolithic daggers in Europe, is known from the Grand Pressigny area, dating to the mid 3th millennium cal. BC.

In 1970, a cache of 134 to 138 fresh blades was discovered at “La Creusette” and carefully excavated. In general the PPNB and Grand Pressigny caches are interpreted as trade depots maybe of highly prestigious tools.

Paleoindian / Clovis Caches: Currently about 25 Clovis caches have been published, and there are surly more, not reported but being part of private collections. During Folsom times there is a sharp decline in the number of caches.

Cached Clovis artifacts often show a high degree of skills and sophistication of their makers, especially in the mastery of large thin fluted points.

Bifaces, Blades and bone rods are another aspect of some caches. Furthermore, exotic raw materials are often present and several caches are associated with red ocher.

Some Paleoindian caches are found in strategic points of the landscape (cliffs, rock-shelters, river bends, etc.).

A ritual background is often suggested, when a cache is found in isolation, while other caches are part of larger residential areas and may have been rather part of exchange and trade systems.

A nice overview about Paleoindian caches is found in the last external link.