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2021-07-01 15:06:22   •   ID: 2257

A short introduction into the Levallois Techniques

Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 1 shows a Levallois Point, re- fitted to a Levallois Core. Figure 2 shows separated pictures of the triangular flake-also called Levallois Point- and Figure 3 the corresponding Core.

This mode of Levallois Production is called linear or preferential Levallois technique (Boeda 1983)- see below.

Today Levallois-Perret is a town in the Île-de-France region. It lies some 6 km from the centre of Paris in the north-western suburbs of the French capital. It is the most densely populated town in Europe and, together with neighbouring Neuilly-sur-Seine, one of the most expensive suburbs of Paris.

In 1857 Boucher de Perthes was the first who described in nuce the Levallois technique by his findings from the Somme gravels, without coining a particular name.

Particular stone artifacts (distinctive cores and flakes) were recovered in large quantities in 1867 by Reboux from Levallois-Perret and were subsequently referred to as “Levallois Technique " by G. De Mortillet in 1883, who especially focused on the characteristic triangular and oval flakes. Mortillet already noted the close connection of these flakes with the Acheulian and Mousterian.

Some credit should also go to Victor Commont who first reconstructed this particular type of debitage in 1909. According to a definition, suggested by Francois Bordes in 1961, the Levallois technique is characterized by the manufacture of a "flake of a form predetermined by special preparation of the core prior to the removal of that flake". It was Bordes, who first mentioned that Flaking is exclusively done with a hard hammer.

Levallois flakes can be processed further by retouching, as seen in Figure 4, which show a scraper on a triangular Levallois flake from the Nievre Area in France.

Anyhow Bordes short definition was obviously too unspecific for a full technological characterization of Levallois. It became also clear that there is a plethora of techniques under the broad "Levallois" umbrella, that had to be described more in detail.

A new Generation of Archeologists (Boeda, Tixier, Van Peer, Kuhn...) used experimental data and refittings from high resolution Archeological records for a deeper understanding of Levallois.

Although these scholars disagree in some minor aspects, the main points of their characterization will shortly described here, following the Texts of P.A. Mellars (The Neanderthal Legacy 1996) and E. Boeda (The Definition and Interpretation of Levallois Technology 1995).

  • The classic Levallois reduction is clearly geared towards removing large flakes from a surface rather than a volume (Boeda 1995). The core is divided into two major asymmetrical convex "surfaces" and two corresponding "volumes" The lower face is used to prepare the continuous striking platform around the perimeter of the core, while the upper face is carefully prepared for the production of one or more Levallois flakes.

    The intersection of these two surfaces is defined by a plane of intersection. In contrast to Discoid Cores, Levallois Cores always show the existence of hierarchization of the two volumes-see 1705
  • Indeed some researchers maintain that one can still call a technique Levallois if only one essential is present: two hierarchically related surfaces separated by a plane of intersection

Figure 4
  • Levallois products split off along a fracture plane that is parallel or sub-parallel to the plane of intersection

  • The Lineal or Preferential techniques are strategies designed essentially for production of only a single major flake removal from the prepared core surface. In this sense the definition coincides with the classic definition of Levallois flakes presented in most of the earlier textbooks

    Where the preparatory flaking was carried out in a predominantly radial or centripetal fashion from various points around the core perimeter, the resulting flakes are oval or rectangular in outline and show clear traces of this radial flaking on their dorsal surfaces.

    In other cases, however, the preparatory flaking was oriented either primarily or exclusively from either one or both ends of the core, leading to the production of flakes with a more elongated or triangular form. A good example are Nubian triangular Cores

  • The process can be stopped after the detachment of one flake, but there was the opportunity to repeat the cycle of special preparation of the upper surface of the core to allow for the removal of further flakes from successively deeper levels in the core interior

  • The definition of Recurrent Levallois techniques lies in the clear intention, from the initial stages of core preparation, to produce not one but a repeated succession of flakes of predetermined shape and size from the same, carefully prepared upper face of the core (Boëda 1988).

    Figure 5
    Recurrent techniques can be Uni- or Bipolar. Unipolar techniques are characterized by the fact, that the subsequent Levallois flake is removed along the same axis as the first and in the same direction. Bipolar techniques are characterized by the fact, that the subsequent Levallois flake is removed along the same axis as the first , but in the opposite direction. Uni- and Bipolar Levallois Techniques were often used for the production of Levallois Blades, similar to the example, shown in Figure 5 (from the Charente)

  • Another recurrent technique is called Centripetal Recurrent. Here the Levallois flakes are removed in a variable sequence, directed towards the centre of the core Mellars 1996). This technique is more versatile, than the others mentioned above. Successive Levallois flakes (up to 10) can be detached from different parts of the core perimeter, with only a limited amount of intervening re-preparation of the core surface.

  • Nubian Cores from the African and Near Eastern MSA: The Nubian type-1 core method enables the production of Levallois points and pointed blades by means of a central ridge created from the platform opposed to the one from which the future Levallois flake would be struck.

    The distal ridge, which lies approximately along the axis of the core is created by striking two unidirectional divergent removals undertaken from the distal part of the core. A series of smaller flakes is then removed from the sides of the other end of the core and a facetted platform is prepared for the removal of the Levallois point.

    Type 2 cores are marked by an elaborated centripetal preparation arranged perpendicularly to the central axis of the triangular silhouette of the Levallois surface from which a Levallois point, unlike the ‘‘classical’’ Levallois points is struck (Guichard and Guichard 1964).

  • There are differing opinions as to whether the Levallois technique was really applied for the production of the intended end product, or whether the "preparation flakes" were the goal of the their makers. Well-why shouldn't both opinions be valid?

  • Another question that has not been finally settled is whether the Levallois technique is principally an expression of a qualitatively higher cognitive competence of its makers, compared with their ancestors- a „Quantum Leap“-, or just the consequence of a continuum of different core shaping strategies that began with Discoid cores already in the developed Oldowan.

  • The Levallois technique appeared around 300 k.a. both in Africa and Eurasia (MIS9) or even earlier (around 500 k.a. in South Africa at Katu Pan 1 and Wonderwork Cave ?)

  • Around 60-50 k.a. the technological approach changed from a planimetric to a volumetric conception at several sites in the Levant, the Nil Valley, the Balkans and the Eastern European Plain, as well at sites in the Altai region and further East in Asia. This was the beginning of the Initial Upper Paleolithic over a vast area.

    This evolution of lithic equipment may be related to the invention of new, more efficient, hunting strategies see here: 1494

  • Surf the Blog for more information about the Discoid Technique:

    here 1424 , here 2077 , and here 1705

    Suggested Reading around Levallois:

    P.A. Mellars: The Neanderthal Legacy 1996.

    Harold L. Dibble and Ofer Bar-Yosef (Eds): The Definition and Interpretation of Levallois Technology (Monographs in World Archaeology, Band 23) 1995

    Marie-Louise Inizan, Michèle Reduron-Ballinger, Hélène Roche Jacques Tixier: Technology and Terminology of Knapped Stone 1999

    Provenance: Collection Patric Favre (FR), Edouard Perez (FR), and Schweinfurth Collection (GER)