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2020-03-03 16:59:41   •   ID: 2155

Time is on my side (Sir Michael Philip Jagger)

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The post presented here, highlights the importance of chronologies to the archaeological treatment of time.

The 19th-century Paleolithic chronologies of Lartet, de Mortillet, and Breuil are not simply lists of periods but rather the expression of differing conceptions of the relations between hominins, adaption strategies, the archaeological record, and time.

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We will never know if our early Paleolithic ancestors had a time concept, comparable with the linear time concepts of Humans during historical periods.

Did they think in terms like yesterday / today/ and tomorrow?

Did they discuss concepts like technological modes of knapping, the properties of raw materials and concepts of innovation ?

Did all these conceptualities make any sense for them?

Figure 1 shows an Oldowan chopping tool / core from Reggane in Algeria, probably > 1,5 my BP, Figure 2 displays a Yabroudian scraper, made by a thick flake and a Quina -like technique from Israel (200-400 k.a. BP), and Figure 3 two Levallois Points made from a prepared core (ca 50 k.a) BP from Israel (Kebara Cave / Nt Carmel).

The pictures continue with a Upper Paleolithic scraper, from a robust blade from the "Aurignacian V" (ca 23 k.a. k.a. cal BP) from Laugerie haute, a denticulated sickle, made from an elongated bladelet, from the S/E European Neolithic (about 6 k.a. BC), Neolithic Microliths made from small and thin bladelets, from the Western Sahara (about 4-3 k.a. BC) and a polished Battle Axe from Central Europe shortly before the Beginning of the European Bronze Age.

These examples display a general trend of the Old World Paleolithic- from simple "Pebble Tools" to Flake tools, followed by Blade and Bladelet tools to polished artifacts.

In retrospect the evolution of stone tools could easily confused with an inevitable process and indeed Archeological reconstructions, explicitly or implicitly sometimes come dangerously close to unscientific teleological concepts.

Instead, Prehistory is an open process and the design of stone tools depends, among other things on:

  • Cognitive Capacities of the Genus Homo during its evolution (social, emotional and technological)- see last external link


  • Accumulation of skills and knowledge and their transmission-verbal or not-verbal


  • Changing functional needs, while hominins entered new ecological niches or were faced with new climatic challenges


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The increasing variability of lithics over time could be easily expressed as an exponential diversification of specialized tools.

First Mode-I tools come from Lomekwi in Kenya which were incorporated in sediments about 3.3 million years old.

More sustainable evidence of Mode I industries from East Africa was found at several sites in primary context at Gona, in the Hadar region of the Afar triangle in Ethiopia, dating to 2,6 – 2,5 m.y.

Earliest Handaxes also come from East Africa Especially from Ethiopia. For example, the Konso site In Ethiopia is currently dated to 1,75 m.y

The first Flake tools were present since the Oldowan, more specialized flake and blade tools in Africa and the Middle East are as old as 400 k.a. BP.

Although blades appeared in East Africa as early as 400 k.a. ago, typical "Upper Paleolithic" bladelets and sophisticated blades became the main lithics at ca 50-35 k.a.B.P.

Let's take the Upper Paleolithic as an example: A time bracket of about 15 k.a. for development of the Initial and Early Upper Paleolithic seems to be incredible long in terms of our contemporaneous linear time conception.

The evolution of IUP and early EUP technological features needed about 400 generations over a vast space (from the Negev, over Turkey, Syria, Bulgaria, Moravia, the Siberian Altai, Mongolia and northwest China..) to become the prevalent mode of lithic production.

Dispersal of people, ideas or convergent evolution may have triggered this processes.

The end of technical traditions is also extremly variable. For example Chopping tools in Asia were present until the Holocene and MSA artifacts in East Africa continued to be made until the latest Pleistocene / Early Holocene, while they had disappeared in other regions c 30-40 k.a. BP. see here: 1637 and here: 1532