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2021-12-15 21:35:45   •   ID: 2290

The Beginnings of the Quina Debitage in the Old World

Plate I
Plate I shows the first scientific depiction of Quina Scrapers from the groundbreaking Publikation: Reliquiae aquitanicae by E. Lartet and H. Christy about the Paleolithic archaeology and palaeontology of the Pèrigord and the adjoining provinces of Southern France.

These heavyweighted, large-sized two volumes, which appeared in 1875, remain for me one of the founding documents of a new science (photograph from my own Library).

Figure 1
Earlier Posts of Aggsbachs Blog described different Levallois-Systems and their beginning during the Middle Pleistocene.

The first appearance of Levallois, conservatively estimated, is dated around MIS9, but with a possible earlier onset in South Africa around 500 k.a. BP.-see: 1715 .

So far, I have not asked for the beginnings of the Quina technique in a strict sense. This shortcoming should therefore be corrected in this post. A short description of the Quina Chaîne opératoire in S/W-France can be found here: 2249 .

The description of the Quina system is deliberately kept simple - this overview is not intended to include the many variations and ramifications described in the literature, but simply provides a general overview.

Kuhn (2013) highlights two possibilities of describing the life cycle of lithic artifacts:

1. A strategy based on exerting control over blank forms (“predetermination”) with comparatively limited subsequent shaping (e.g., Levallois, blade production). Artifacts may be transported, resharpened, and reduced, but the main strategy for producing fresh edges is the manufacture of new blanks .

2. A strategy involving minimal control over blank form but much subsequent shaping though retouch (Quina, Micoquian, etc). The main means for producing fresh edges is through re- sharpening, extending the useful lives of tools. Artifacts may be transported, but this is not always the case.

One can imagine, that a multitude of factors influenced the choice of Hominins in the preference of using one strategy over another.

Figure 1 shows three typical Quina scrapers from the Charente Region in France - the Quina "Heartland", characterized by the “Retouche écailleuse scalariforme” and a wealth of different scrapers.

It has to be mentioned that Quina ensembles were also found further North, for example in the Touraine - see: 1559 but become very rare north of the Loire valley.

Another "Outliner" from the Middle Pleniglacial, already on the margins of the Parisian Basin in the Sénonais is the Fond des Blanchards site, Stratum D, where an almost classic Quina system in the production of large Scrapers has been established.

Figure 2 displays a convergent scraper from Roc de Marsal (Dordogne), a small cave with several strata (Denticulated Mousterian, Quina Mousterian), dated by TL and OSL.

Here the Quina Mousterian layers were c 45 and 61 k.a old (Late MIS4 / early MIS3) and consistent with many other chronological data from Quina sites in the Perigord and Charente Region (Guerin et al. 2012).

For example TL and OSL methodologies at Chez-Pinaud Jonzac (Charente) places its Quina Mousterian into MIS 4, while the overlying Denticulate Mousterian which is followed by two layers with MTA were already of MIS3 age (Richter et al. 2013).

Figure 2
Figure 3 shows an excellent transversal Quina Scraper from the R. Daniel Collection, collected during the 1930ies at Pradelles at Marillac-le- Franc (Charente; near Angoulême), found during Daniels first excavations of the site, with a curved cutting edge ("Bogenschaber" in German). You may find very similar tools in the Sanndrine et al. Publication about the site (2006) in the attached files.

The Quina flaking system, produced thick large and often cortical blanks with an asymmetrical cross-section, or flakes with a dihedral asymmetric butt and with the typical "lisse à pans" (smooth faceted) butt. Quina Ensembles are characterized by a high number of reworked, transformed and recycled scrapers.

In this post, Sites with pure Quina debitage should be distinguished from those with the Quina concept appearing together with other concepts. The latter are clearly predominant, speaking for a high cognitive competence, versatility and flexible behavior of their producers - the Neanderthals.

Early Quina Sites: An important early Middle Paleolithic site in S/W-France, excavated and dated with modern Methods is Petit Bost. Level 2 of this multilayered open air site is dated to MIS 9/8 by TL, between 340 and 270 k.a. (Bourguignon et al. 2008).

This layer yielded evidence of bifacial shaping with "classical" Handaxes, but also Bifaces resembling those that were more similar to the “Acheulian Meridional” (sensu Bordes), Levallois and a fully fledged Quina system- not different from Quina sites in the Charente and Dordogne, dated much later to the last Glacial.

Quina Debitage at Petit Bost is characterized by some simple scrapers, sometimes with Quina Retouche and very convincing typical Quina core refittings.

So far it is unclear whether the different debitage modes are an expression of single or repeated visits of one group or have to be considered as a palimpsest left by different groups. It should be also mentioned, that solifluction processes affected and possibly mixed the layer.

An other early Quina system has been identified at the Baume Bonne site in S/E-France in the industries, now attributed to MIS 8 to 10 (Gagnepain and Gaillard 2005; Bourguignon et al. 2006).

During this first phase of site-use by humans, several operational sequences were present. Among them: "système par surface de débitage successif " (SSDS) , discoid and Quina systems were used.

The lithics mainly consist of scrapers (about 80%; simple scrapers, some double and convergent specimens) and about 5% of them are characterized by the “Retouche écailleuse scalariforme”.

These discoveries are essential because "these industries dating from the early Middle Paleolithic, where Quina debitage is attested, are still rare and should undoubtedly be the subject of revisions, both on the methods used and on the association with other debitage systems" (Bourguignon et al., 2008).

Figure 3
The Rhodanian, occasionally called Charentian oriental in earlier publications, superficially resembles the classic Charentian in the Aquitaine. The Rhodanian facies is found in the Rhone valley, Gorges du Verdon, Gardon and the Ardèche- see 1648 and 1649 .

Made on thick flakes, scrapers often show a retouche Quina or Demi-Quina. Anyhow, although the end products are similar to genuine Quina, the Chaîne opératoire is different, also calling for a different name- see 2245

Here i will only briefly discuss the Mousterian inventories of the Italian peninsula. While the Levallois technique is widespread throughout the entire peninsula and shows diversified modes of production, an orginal Quina Mousterian is less common.

Examples for northern Italy are the MIS4/MIS3 dated sites of Nadale Cave (Jéquier et al.2015) and at the reference site for the late Middle and early Upper Paleolithic in Northern Italy at Fumane.

Although the Pontinian is sometimes subsumed as a Quina-Mousterian, its Chaîne opératoire is quite different from the original French definition and deserves its own name- more on that entity- see here 1468

In Spain, the site of El Castillo is part of the emblematic cave system of Cantabria, with a Quina Mousterian in Stratum 20E, immediately before the advent of the Upper Paleolithic and dated to 49 k.a. Cal BP. A typical Quina Mousterian lithic assemblage is found at the Axlor site, in the Basque Country, dated at the OIS3 (44 k.a. Cal BP).

More than 20 sites with a classic Quina Mousterian have been identified over the Iberian Peninsula. However, many sites have not been evaluated by recent excavation and absolute dating programs. Therefore I can only refer to the work of Ignacio de la Torre et al. (2013) who shows the great potential of the Iberian Peninsula in this respect.

So far I don't know of any Quina site older than MIS4 in Spain or Portugal, but that could change quickly, considering the wide range of possibilities, present in these countries.

In Central Europe, the Quina Technique is sometimes implemented within the Central European Micoquian, mainly dating to MIS3 and therefore later than the classic Quina Mousterian in S-W- France.

Quina debitage was especially detected at the older strata of the Sesselfels Grotto G-Complex, at Kulna in Moravia and the Pradnik sites in Poland and are part of the "Altmühlgruppe" - certainly a late Middle Paleolithic rooted in the Micoquian.

Figure 4
The Hungarian site of Erd (MIS4) shows similarities with Pontinian, most likely due to its similar raw material, which consists of small pebbles.

Quina and Jabrudian Techniques. Interestingly, the Quina Technique from S/W-France and the technique used in the production of scrapers in Jabrudian ensembles are very similar. Figure 4 shows typical Dejete racloirs from Israel. More about the type station of Jabrud in Syria and the Jabrudian in the Levant see: 2256 . This entity is 250-400 k.a. old (MIS11-MIS7) and therefore clearly earlier than the Quina System in Continental Europe.

The “salami slice" technique was often used in typical Quina inventories in S/W- France, but this method seems to be more rare in Jabrudian ensembles. Unfortunately explicit studies do not exist on this topic..

However, another way of producing thick and cross-sectionally triangular flakes is found in both Quina and Jabrudian ensembles:

Here the flaking of long oval flint pebble started by removing one major preparatory flake from one end of the nodule, creating a striking platform. This striking platform was used during the next steps for the removal of one or more elongated thick flakes extending vertically down the face of the nodule.

Several of the flakes produced in this way could have been used directly as blanks for further knapping actions. Typically first generation blanks retain a substantial part of the cortex, while cortical remnants are missed on subsequent blanks.

Thick flakes of the Quina / Jabrudian system, in contrast to thin Levallois flakes, are suitable for the application of further retouches. The working edge was therefore heavily transformed before it was used. This transformation is usually performed by the “Retouche écailleuse scalariforme” as seen in Figure 4.

Beside simple scrapers, the typical Quina or Jabrudian racloir types are transverse, convergent, double and déjeté. Dejete racloirs form 1-5 % among Quina tools but may reach 30% among Jabrudian ensembles. The most typical Jabrudian artefact is a side-struck, cortical, thick racloir with three edges modified by invasive Quina retouch.

Once again, the question arises whether the Jabrudian and theWest European Quina systems are technical convergences or indicate cultural transfers.

As long as large parts of Turkey and the Balkans are poorly studied, it will be difficult to answer this question.....

Suggested Reading:

J. Enzel and O. Bar-Yosef: Quaternary of the Levant: Environments, Climate Change, and Humans; 2017

L. Bourguignon: Le Moustérien de type Quina : nouvelle définition d’une entité technique, thèse de doctorat, université Paris X, Nanterre, 3 vol.

V. Borgia and E. Cristiani (Eds): Paleolithic Italy-Advanced studies on early human adaptations in the Apennine peninsula; 2018

L.Slimak: Artisanats et territoires des chasseurs moustériens de Champ Grand; 2008


Van der Keulen Collection / BE and the Levenstein Family / Israel