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2021-06-15 14:53:00   •   ID: 2256

The many Faces of the Jabrudian: One Entity or synchronous Technocomplexes?

Figure 1
Figure 1-3 (1 and 2: dorsal view; 3 ventral view) show a small (9 cm long) Handaxe, from the "Acheulo-Yabrudian", found Southwest of Mt Carmel in the Menashe Heights called Balad ar-Ruha in Arabic, meaning "Land of Winds", -see: 1460 and 1596 . The Biface was made from the typical local Flint.

This kind of raw material was occasionally used during the Yabrudian, mainly in Caves at the Mediterranean coastal plain (for example at Misliya Cave), while we do not know any examples of its use from the Levallois- Mousterian of this region.

Figure 4 is a typical Déjeté Yabrudian scraper (Rust 1950; Tafel 24,2), found at Nachal Me'arot (נחל מערות, Wadi el- Mughara), Figure 5 is a triangular scraper with demi-Quina Retouche (Rust 1950; Tafel 1,1) and Figure 6 displays a broad cortical blade, which was found together with the Handaxe of Figure 1-3, exhibiting a typical “Amudian” design (early Paleolithic blade with natural back).

This post aims a historical and critical review about the “Acheulo-Jabrudian” (also called “Acheulian-Yabrudian” or “Yabroudien” in French), including ensembles designated as „Pre Aurignacian“ and “Amudian”.

Beside a description of the major sites and their history, I will focus on the question if this post-Acheulian Entity, dated to c 250-420 k.a. BP, represents a single or several independent technocomplexes.

Figure 2
The Type Site-Yabrud will for ever be linked with Alfred Rust (1900-1983)- see 2022 - an important but professionally and politically controversial German prehistorian.

He was an adventurous figure who, through diligence and enthusiasm for Paleolithic research but also by direct sponsorship by Heinrich Himmler's „Ahnenerbe“, managed to gain an important position in German Paleolithic Prehistory between 1933 and 1950 despite a lack of formal academic training - a rarity in the German scientific scene.

Alfred Rust completed only elementary school and began training as an electrical engineer in 1915, becoming a master in this profession in 1926.

After WW I his interest in prehistory was awakened from 1923 in lectures at the „Volkshochschule Hamburg“, mainly held by the eminent Prehistorian Gustav Schwantes from Kiel, the teacher of many gifted and successful prehistorians.

Being an ultranationalist himself, the majority of his scholars, like Jankuhn, had a high affinity to the National Socialist ideology (the so called "Kieler Schule").

In order to gain a better understanding of the origins of the Central European Paleolithic and its possible roots in the Levant, Alfred Rust and a friend, at the suggestion of Schwantes, traveled by bicycle from Hamburg across the Balkans and Turkey to the Near East in 1930.

Figure 3
There they discovered by chance three large Abris of Yabrud- an quite ambivalent constellation and a real challenge and maybe a mission impossible for an untrained beginner.

The three large Abris of Yabrud are located about 80 km northeast of Damascus and about 20 km east of the Lebanese border and remain among the most important archaeological sites of the Near East, spanning the time between the late Acheulian, Yabrudian, Levallois-Mousterian, EUP and later Upper Paleolithic Entities until the local Epipaleolithic.

The Abris are located east of the mountain range of the Antilibanon at an altitude of about 1400 meters. Rust with help of local workers excavated at Jabrud between 1930-1933 and published first results of his extraordinary findings in 1932. At Abri I, Rust almost completely excavated Paleolithic findings throughout a stratigraphic sequence of 11.5 meters. The artifacts were sent by him to Germany and are now housed at the Institute of Prehistoric Archaeology – University of Cologne.

In 1942, after his habilitation, Rust was funded and appointed a corresponding member in the SS sub-organization „Forschungsgemeinschaft Deutsches Ahnenerbe“ and exempted from military and war service. It possibly will for ever remain unclear whether Rust was a convinced National Socialist or "only" an opportunist. Because of Rust's membership in Ahnenerbe, celebrations of his 100th birthday in Ahrensburg were canceled in 2000.

An extensive Monograph about the Yabrud excavations was published by Rust in 1950 and is still the basis of our knowledge about the Yabrudian at the type-site today, although better trained archaeologists, the first being F. Bordes, clearly criticized the idiosyncratic nature of Rusts nomenclature ("Prä Micro Mousterian, "Jabrudo-Mousterian"…).

Figure 4
With time it also became increasingly clear, that Rust assigned several Archaeological finds to strata in which they had not originally been found. Rust did not worry much about the distinction between Archeological and Geological strata. As Rust himself described in addition, several parts of the Abris were disturbed by later historic settlements.

While Both Rust and Bordes used Déjeté-Scrapers, relatively rare in Europe and Quina Retouches as hallmark for the Jabrudian, Jelinek (1981 in Chauvain and Sanaville), who worked both with the Material from Jabrud and Tabun, suggested that statistically, the Jabrudian is mainly characterized by a high Number of scrapers and various numbers of Bifaces (if at all).

Avraham Ronen (1980) who reexcavated Jabrudian strata in Tabun, gave a definition of a non- biased sample, which remains valid for both the Jabrud and Tabun Material:

The Jabrudian is a flake based Non-Levallois industry, rich in various scrapers with prevalent scalar ("Quina") retouche. These scrapers are often transversal, déjeté, convergent, triangular, simple convex, sometimes small and irregular. Limaces are also present. The bulb of percussion was often removed, Handaxes are usually rare or even missing, but can also be very numerous such in the case of Misliya cave.

Already mentioned by Rust, but only systematically evaluated by Israelian Scientists is the characteristic "Tabun Snap". This snap was created by a blow on the dorsal and proximal face of Jabrudian flakes.

Its purpose is neither thinning, nor to obtain secondary small flakes. Most likely, the snap was created to shorten the original artifact (Shifroni and Ronen 2000).

In Rusts Publication the early Paleolithic layers of Abri I (Statum 25-17) never included more than 200 retouched tools per stratum. A selection bias may be present, affecting especially "atypical" and small pieces.

The designation of the layers by Rust oscillates between Jabroudian, Acheulo-Jabroudian, Jabroudo-Mousterian (!) Acheulian and Prä-Aurignacian; -a Blade industry without any Biface.

Figure 5
Rust took the sample of Stratum 25 as archetypical for the Definition of the Jabrudian. His Definition ultimately met the current definition of Ronen.

Stratum 24 has a similar composition, but also exhibits some small Handaxes without any indication of a relocation from under or overlying strata.

Stratum 23 with not more than c 50 retouched artifacts is characterized by small Handaxes and some scrapers. One large elongated handaxe shows an typical late Acheulian character. Rust also found some tanged instruments, maybe an indication for hafting . He called the stratum: "Late Middle (!) Acheulian.

The composition of Stratum 22 with about 200 retouched artifacts is similar to stratum 24, without any Bifaces and therefore called Jabrudian by Rust.

Stratum 21 consists of 19 retouched tools only and shows Jabrudian features.

Stratum 20 can be qualified as Jabrudian, but based by only 60 retouched tools only. One Handaxe was present.

Stratum 19 with about 30 retouched tools and one Handaxe ("Acheulo Jabrudian ") by Rust essentially does not differ from the "Jabrudian" of Statum 20. About 30 retouched tools were collected.

Stratum 18: This layer also resulted in only a few retouched artifacts (around 50). It was labeled Micoquian by Rust, although none of the 8 bifaces had a Micoque morphology. Some scrapers show Jabrudian character, although this is denied by Rust. He called the small Inventory: " Micoquian".

Stratum 17 contained a small Jabrudian sample.

Stratum 16 and more upper in the stratigraphy Stratum 13 were used to define the famous "Pre-Aurignacian" sensu Rust. The term should not be used any more, because this ca 270 k.a. old complex has nothing in common with the Upper Paleolithic Aurignacian. For Rusts Cultural Historical approach, this entity indicated a first "Wave" of H. Sapiens populations from the Levant to Europe.

Anyhow it was already known at Rust's times, that a blade industry from the Late Early Paleolithic existed on the other side of the Antilibanon from the Excavations of D.E.A. Garod at Tabun, where a similar industry was incorporated in Layer E -see 1106

Together with unmodified blades, the ensemble compromise 73 modified tools in Stratum and about 50 retouched tools in Stratum 13. Blades with marginal retouches, Burins and Borers along with thick (Aurignacian like; Core like) scrapers and endscrapers are common.

There were some sub pyramidal cores, indicating a non Levallois operational sequence in blade production. No typical Upper Paleolithic cores were found. The broken tip of a handaxe was suggested as derived from an underlying stratum and secondary used as a core.

Contemporaneous laminar Industries of the Levant at Qesem Cave and interstratified into the Jabrudian at the Tabun E Complex are called "Amudian" since Garrod's times, because they lack similarities to the Aurignacian and mainly consist of naturally backed and / or non retouched blades (see below).

Stratum 14 is a typical Jabrudian, consisting of ca 100 retouched tools.

Figure 6
The relatively large Ensemble of Stratum 12 was called End-Acheulian by Rust and consists of well executed pointed, mainly sub-triangular handaxes and simple scrapers. Strata in higher position at Jabrud Abri 1 show an evolution to a Levantine Levallois-Mousterian.

I must confess that besides the unacceptable political attitude of Rust, the scientist Rust at Jabrud drew important and lasting conclusions from his work under difficult working conditions.

In sum and regarding all limitations , mentioned above, Rust showed that:

  • "Pure" Acheulian and Jabrudian strata are interstratified and may have been, for some time, contemporaneous

  • The designation of a "Acheulo-Jabrudian" is justified. There seems to exist a significant Bifacial component in some Jabrudian ensembles; although even Rust already noticed a double patinations of some handaxes in Jabrudian layers, suggestive of a certain mixing of pure Jabrudian and Acheulian strata

  • Rusts observations were also confirmed by the latest excavations by Ronen(2006): At Tabun some strata bear Handaxes which are typically smaller, thicker, less carefully made with more extensive cortical remains than Acheulian Bifaces-see the example shown in this post. In addition "Faustkeilblätter"-similar to those of Central Europe during MIS3 are present.

    Another Handaxe-rich Acheulo-Jabrudian site is Mislija cave on the western slope of Mount Carmel. Beside the Characteristics of Jabrudian Handaxes described above, Zeidner et al. noted a gradual transition from genuine handaxes, through „Unifaces" fully worked on one face only to genuine Jabrudian scrapers.Such ensembles are also observed at Bezez Cave (Lebanon)

  • Jabrud is not the only site of the Jabrudian in Syria. During the last decades a lot of ensembles were found in El Kowm (11 sites notably at Hummal, Nadaouiyeh and Umm el Tlel), and in the Dederiyeh Cave. Unfortunately we still are missing to a certain degree monographs about these localities

Blade Industries as an Intra Jabrudian Episode: It was early recognized, that in the Levant, the manufacture of blades appeared quite early, not only in the "Preaurignacian" of Jabrud rock-shelter I, but also and the "Amudian" at Tabun and Abri Zumoffen / Adlun; (Garrod and Kirkbride 1961); Zuttiyeh (Gisis and Bar-Yosef 1974) and Maslouk (Skinner 1970) and considered as late Lower Paleolithic.

At Tabun, the Amudian is intercalated within Yabrudian strata, according to recent publications, the blade component is increasing step by step within the Jabrudian sequence, just to disappear and to be replaced again by the Jabrudian, in contrast to Jabrud, where Rust mentioned an abrupt appearance of the Preaurignacian in stratum 16 and its re-appearance in stratum 13.

Anyhow this sharp demarcation maybe the result of secondary sorting of the material by Rust himself. At the Libanese site of Abri Zumoffen (Adloun I) the Amudian assemblages present a significant flake component of the Jabrudian type.

Based on extrapolation from TL dates, the Amudian layers at Tabun cave appear to date to the later half of the Middle Pleistocene, between 270 and 330 k.a. BP and therefore broadly contemporaneous with the Preaurignacian at Jabrud.

Another common feature with the latter entity is the simple mode of core preparation, different from the Upper Paleolithic and the absence of any Mousterian artifacts.

In Contrast to the Pre-Aurignacian, the Amudian is typologically different. Naturally Backed Knives, Backed knifes and Burins together with some endscrapers are are common, while "Aurignacian-like" characteristics are nearly absent. An interesting observation is that laminar items were generally only lightly retouched, compared to the Preaurignacian at Jabrud.

The most important Amudian site, excavated by up-to-date methods is Qesem Cave. Here almost all lithic artefacts throughout a stratigraphic sequence of 7.5 meters, within a time-frame between c 200-420 k.a., BP belong to a pure Amudian industry.

Only one area contemporaneous with an Amudian ensemble belonged to a "pure" Yabroudian (Barkai et al 2009). The excavators interpreted this finding as an indication of an activity-specific mode of resource exploitation and subsistence activities at c 296 k.a. BP.

In addition only 12 Handaxes were randomly located within the 7,5 stratum. The Flint for their production differed from the raw material of the Amudian and no flakes from a genuine Handaxe production were present at the site.

Barkai suggested that the Bifaces were not a genuine part of the Amudian, but recycled tools from the Acheulian, which is known from the vicinity of the cave. Anyhow this remains speculative. The imported Bifaces could instead be part of the common “Savoir-faire” of the “Amudians”, which was rarely used.

The rich material at Qesem allowed a detailed reconstruction of the Chaîne Opératoire of the Amudian from surface quarrying to discard. They interpreted the serial production of blades (mean length about 6 cm) as a sophisticated variant of a prepared core technique over an almost incredible long time at one place, that was repeatedly visited by a specific group of hominins, (presumably archaic H. Sapiens). Most of the blades were used in cutting, butchering and defleshing activities on soft tissues.

Regarding that blades were present in small quantities at almost all "Acheulo-Jabrudian" sites, the focus of the inhabitants of Qesem seems to belong to the repertoire of the same people, and make an incoming new population to the Levant improbable.

Insofar the "Acheulo-Jabrudian-Amudian" seems for me to be rather one entity than three independent technocomplexes.

Surf the Blog:

Posts about the (Acheulo)-Jabrudian (Yabrudian / Yabroudian) please see here: 1709 , here 1423 , here: 1171 , and here: 1545

Suggested Reading

D. A. E. Garrod and D. M. A. Bate (Eds): The Stone Age of Mount Carmel Vol I; 1937

A. Rust Die Höhlenfunde von Jabrud (Syrien); 1950

A. Ronen, M Weinstein-Evron (Autor) Modern Humans: The Yabrudian and Micoquian 400-50 K-years Ago; 2000

Derek A. Roe (Ed): Adlun in the Stone Age: The excavations of D. A. Garrod in the Levanon, 1958-1963; Vol I and II; 1983

Important for the Amudian!: Ron Shimelmitz: Blade Production in the Middle Pleistocene (Thesis; Tel Aviv University 2009)- pdf via the Net