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2022-07-18 07:47:13   •   ID: 2341

A Middle Pleistocene Handaxe from the Valle Giumentina /Abbruzo / Basilicata / Italy

Figure1 ; Wikimedia Commons
The Abruzzo, situated in the center of the Italian peninsula and today with over one-third of its territory protected by the government is considered one of Italy’s greenest regions.

Characteristic of the region are the wildernesses of the large national parks (Gran Sasso, Majella, Sirente Velino as well as the National Park of Abruzzo).

The originality of the landscape is unique and will immediately enchant you.

Where else in Europe can you see animals like the brown bear, wolves, chamois, fallow deer as well as lynxes and otters.

The area encompasses deep river valleys and karst plateaus and presents a great morphological and altitudinal variety (from 130 to 2793 m).

The sea, the hills and mountains are the three most constitutive elements of this landscape.

During the coldest periods of the Ice Age, the Adriatic Sea was transformed into a wide plain with grazing Herdes of animals, created by the sinking of the sea level, reaching as far as today's Croatia.

During Middle Pleistocene warm episodes, even middle altitudes up to 1500 m were part of the habitable oecumene (Negrini; personal communication 2018).

Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 2 and 3 show the dorsal and ventral Sides of a rather crude ("Abbevillian") Handaxe, made from local high quality Flint, from the Valle Giumentina, a Middle and Upper Pleistocene open-air archaeological in-situ site located in central Italy (Abruzzo), on the Adriatic side of the peninsula in a deeply incised Valley (Foto courtiously by W.Hernus).

First Excavations were carried out in the 1950s by A. M. Radmilli and J. Demangeot and revealed in total nine stratified levels of human occupation and thousands of lithic artifacts in good preservation. This observations were confirmed gross modo by Nicoud et al. recently.

The long stratigraphy of the deposit (more than 25 m thick) and the convincing Archeological sucsession finally helped to establish Valle Giumentina as an essential reference of the Lower and Middle Paleolithic of the Abruzzo Region, Italy and even Europe.

The excavations of Valle Giumentina revealed the frequentation of the inner Apennine by early Neanderthal human groups, between approximately 300 and 40 k.a. BP.

According a culture historical interpretation and due to the long lasting and exceptional influence of G. Laplace on Italian researchers the lithic industries were initially attributed to the "Acheulian", "Clactonian" (Figure 4) and "Mousterian". More about the Person of George Laplace can be found here: LAPLACE

Of course, from today's point of view, these entities were abitrary and characterized by the idea that they were linked to different populations.

These groups were defined mainly by the presence or absence of Handaxes (a typological trait) and by a Levallois/non-Levallois dichtomy (a technologic trait).

Handaxes were present in in level 37 and therefore diagnostic for an Acheulian. On the other hand tools on thick flakes in levels 20, 24, 30, 33, and 42 were supposed to be of Clactonian origin and the Levallois flakes and scrapers in the upper levels 45 and 46 were supposed to represent a genuine Mousterian.

Recently, technical studies have shed more light on the complexity and therefore the fragility of these cultural ensembles.

Figure 4
However, they still reflect the multiplicity of technical expressions of Early and Middle Paleolithic Hominins over the entire Italian Peninsula and are currently interpreted by landscape, raw material procurement based and functional approaches.

During the last years renewed excavations refined these earlier observations by conducting: „a high-resolution pluridisciplinary study of the sequence (sedimentology, micromorphology, bioproxies, tephrochronology) and dating techniques (Ar/Ar, ESR, OSL).

Six levels of volcanic ashes have been found. Results depict an evolution of the Valle Giumentina basin in four phases, from a lake environment to its drying.

Eleven archaeological layers have been identified, in both glacial and interglacial periods, during stable environmental conditions (soils).
(Villa et al.2026).

Further contributions already presented the preliminary results of the ongoing excavation of Layer 42- ALB incorporated within an ancient paleosol: "This is a paleosol located at 4 m depth, at the top of a lacustrine deposit directly below the coarse deposits associated with the last major erosive event. Faunal remains consisted essentially by Cervus elaphus. The lithic series is characterized by a specific flake production system: only a part of the block is reduced, and platforms and surfaces are not prepared. Several methods are used, including the SSDA are frequent.

Numerous blanks are transformed by intensive or marginal retouch. Functional objectives are multiple, as shown by different tool structures and use-wear traces. Valle Giumentina 42-ALB is a butchery site used brie"y but frequently during warmer substages occurring during an overall cold period. The “Clactonian” industry of Valle Giumentina is often considered as simple or expedient: we demonstrate its real technical complexity and its func- tional signi!cance. Comparisons are made with other European sites"
(Nicoud et al 2016).

Certainly we will hear more from this exciting site during the next years…..