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2019-09-09 12:43:20   •   ID: 2125

The Reappearance of European Bifaces during MIS 3

Figure 1
Figure 2
The European Middle Paleolithic started about 250 k.a. ago and is characterized by different methods of prepared core techniques, a decrease of Bifaces and an increase of diversified unifacial artifacts.

But Around MIS3 a significant reappearance of bifacial tools is noted in many regions.

Figure 1 and 2 display a 7 cm long, plano-convex, flat Bifacial tool, from Saint-Brice-sous-Rânes (Orne department; France).

Figure 3 and 4 show a small, 9 cm long, biconvex, elongated Handaxe from Le Bois-l'Abbé at Saint-Julien de la Liègue, a commune in the Eure department in Haute-Normandie; France.

This tool exhibits a site-specific yellow-red and glossy patination, which is present on ca 80 % of all tools from this Multi-workshop site.

An MIS 3 date has already established for the Saint-Brice-sous-Rânes site and is also suggested for the Saint-Julien de la Liègue sites.

Further information about the sites the can be found here 1601 ,here 1665 and here: 1163

Ruebens described several late Middle Paleolithic complexes with bifacial tools in continental Europe:

-Mousterian of Acheulean Tradition (MTA)in S/W-France

-Keilmessergruppen (KMG) in Central/ East Europe

- Mousterian with Bifacial Tools (MBT) in N/W-France

Figure 3
Figure 4
Microtraceological evaluation showed, that these late bifacial Neanderthal Tools were highly curated and repeatedly resharpened and recycled. They were used for a variety of activities and with varying prehension modes.

Anyhow, beside the presence or absence of "Keilmesser" and to a lesser degree of „Blattspitzen“ there is no single artifact, or a tool-kit, that is specific enough to discriminate between MTA, MBT and KMG.

Cordiform Handaxes are present in MTA, MBT and KMG ensembles. The same holds true for bifacial scrapers and "Faustkeilblätter" (symmetric or asymmetrical flat artifacts with a finely retouched point, one side is covered by retouches, the other side is only partially retouched).

A critical and highly polemic text about Reubens database and methodology was published by Bob Gargett some time ago (see last external link).

In Reality, the broad Uniformity of bifacial tools during MIS3 is hidden behind different research - traditions, different classification Systems and the subjective, researcher dependent classification of bifacial artifacts.

The first tool in the post (Figure 1&2) would be named "Faustkeilblatt" according to a Central European nomenclature. Moreover it would appeare as a typical KMG-artifact. At the Lichtenberg KMG-site in N-Germany an almost identical piece was excavated.

In France it would be simply called: small flat Biface. Indeed the tool comes from the "MBT heartland" and not from a KMG context.

In Central Europe the second tool (Figure 3&4) would be called "Middle or early upper Paleolithic Leaf Point“ (Blattspitze) and indeed similar items are known from the Szeletian site Vendrovice in Moravia.

In France it would be classified as an elongated small Handaxe. Again the site has no Szeletian or KMG characteristics.

Although in Western Europe Handaxes became rarer after MIS 9, they never disappeared from the Archaeological record.

The Reappearance of Bifaces and bifacial tools en masse during MIS 3 remains enigmatic and can not simply linked with settlement systems, environment, or site function.