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2022-04-30 14:58:04   •   ID: 2326

The Middle Paleolithic of the Gargano Promontory: Still a lot of Work to do....

Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 4
Figure 5
These Artifacts were collected from a Surface scatter in the Gargano. They are made from excellent Gargano Flint and are of considerable size (up to 10 cm).

About the Gargano Region see here: 1467 , here: 1683 and here: 1684 . For me the Gargano is one of my favorite places on earth, by any standard, an area of great beauty and variety.

The use of Gargano Flint is documented since the local Acheulian, over the Middle and Upper Paleolithic, but reached it’s maximum in the late Neolithic.

An archaeometric project, running since 1986, allowed the discovery of a large network of at least twenty mining sites, active from the Early Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age (Tarantini et al. 2013).

All tools, even the Quina- like transversal Scraper in Figure 3 were made by a Levallois Chaîne opératoire. The Double Scrapers from Figure 1, 2, and 5, show scalariform retouches, while the Levallois-Point in Figure 4 has fine continuous marginal retouches. The platform of all artifacts is extensively facetted.

In Figure 1 an exhausted centripetal Levallois core is displayed, the most common core-type from this site. Complete cores were absent, therefore I am unable to define to what extent the overexploitation of the cores may have altered their original volumetric structure (Some complete cores may have been discoidal).

According to the French Terminology the Ensemble may represent a Ferrassie Type Middle Paleolithic- see here: 2265 .

Most of the Middle Palaeolithic evidence of South Italy still lacks a reliable chrono-cultural framework mainly due to research history (see below).

Anyhow progress has been made during the last years. Both the number of new sites, often with high-resolution stratigraphy, absolute dating approaches and techno-typological evaluations have significantly progressed.

Several Chaine Operatoirs are known from the Mousterian of southern Italy: Firstly Different Levallois modes of production, which are quite late compared to other European regions and run from from MIS 5 (Riparo Paglicci level 1), over MIS 4 until MIS 3 were they were most commonly used.

Quina Production is attested from MIS 6 and 5. Dicoid Techniques are characteristic for MIS 4 and finally Blade Ensembles, appeared late during MIS 3 (Aureli and Ronchitelli in Borgia et al. 2018).

The Gargano promontory offered numerous Abris and Caves in a carstic environment for Neanderthals to settle. Multilayered Sites with excellent preservation of organic material are common.

We can assume that a large number of Paleolithic sites were submerged on the coast after the last ice age and are waiting to be discovered.

According to Sestini, the Pleistocene coastline was up to 15 m lower compared to the current conditions (Sestini 1999).

During a visit of the region, about ten years ago, I noticed a lot of untouched Abris in the Foresta Umbra, never used for Agricultural purpose, with an enormous potential for successful prospection.

The Middle Paleolithic is well represented in various stations such as Grotta Spagnoli and Grotta della Palombara in Rignano Garganico and Piani di San Vito in Monte Sant'Angelo, and were partially excavated after WW II.

As far as I can judge, the descriptions and the concrete finds in the older literature on the Middle Paleolithic of these sites do not really fit together, so that many sites have to be re-evaluated.

In general, I have the subjective impression that these inconsistencies are the result of a mixture of the methodology of Laplace and Bordes under the authority of Cesnola and have rather contributed to confusion than to enlightenment.

However, a new generation of researchers now seems to have caught up with the international standards. Grotta Spagnoli is the only Middle Paleolithic site in the Gargano, that has been reevaluated and published so far.

The Grotta Spagnoli complex is formed by two caves, a main one (Spagnoli A), easily accessible, and a secondary one (Spagnoli B), which is almost completely filled by a multilayered site.

The excavations of Grotta Spagnoli B revealed three strata, homogeneous from a techno-typological approach.

They are dated to MIS4 and show cores, that exhibit a Levallois concept, alongside with Discoid, and Kombewa techniques (Carmignani and Ricci 2017).

The scraper and point-component was quite similar to the items, shown in this blog, while the absence of denticulates in the surface scatter of my collection may be explained by collection bias.

Unfortunately, there is little published so far, that could contribute to a better understanding of the Middle Paleolithic in the Gargano. A large number of already excavated sites and new untouched abris and caves, as well as open air sites still need to be (re)-investigated in the with modern methods - a task for a lot of archaeologists to come.

Proveniance: Collection Baronetti / Milano (IT)

Suggested Reading:

R. Vaufrey: Le paléolithique italien; 1928

Arturo Palma di Cesnola: Le Paléolithique inférieur et moyen en Italie; 1996

M. Mussi: Earliest Italy. An overview of the Italian Paleolithic and Mesolithic; 2001

I. Borgia, V. and E. Cristiani (eds.): Palaeolithic Italy. Advanced studies on early human adaptations in the Apennine peninsula, 2018