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2022-09-09 09:27:37   •   ID: 2347

MSA Large Blades from the Edeyen Ubari

Figure1 ; Wikimedia Commons - Public Domain
Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 4
Figure 1 displays the Mandara Lakes, located in Gaberoun, an oasis in the eastern zone of the Ubari Desert in Western Lybia.

It is one of the oases that were already present, along with a network of habitable watercourses, during wet phases of the Middle Pleistocene - see: 2002

The long pointed and bilaterally retouched blade in Figure 2-4 was found along with MSA / Aterian tools decennia ago. With 17 cm it is oversized, a rare but not uncommon phenomenon of the local MSA in this part of the Libyan Sahara.

It is unlikely that it was selectively introduced from the Holocene surface into a pure MSA ensemble. In addition the Blade was made from quarzit, the most common material during the late Middle Pleistocene, while during the Epipalaeolithic and Neolithic such artifacts were usually made from Flint.

Similar MSA implements were reported from Tit Mellil (Morocco) by Vaufrey in 1935. He called these tools: "Racloir double en Lame". Obviously he couldn't imagine an MSA with real blades....

Breuil in 1956 showed several examples of large (> 10 cm) blades from the Bir el-Ater Type locality in Algeria and several other Maghrebinian sites, housed in the Bardo Museum in Tunis, with almost identical morphologies (Figure 5).

Kleindienst et al. described such tools from the Kharga Aterian Unit in fresh condition, radiometrically dated around 100 k. BP (see attached files).

In short, Aterian artifact assemblages have been described as having a strong Levallois component, bifacial and unifacial points, high frequency of blades, a high proportion of sidescrapers made on blades, and pieces typical of the (European) Upper Paleolithic (Tixier, 1959, 1967) - see here: 1273 , here 1052 , and here: 1272

Even more interesting in terms of an Evolutionary and Cognitive approach is the non-lithic element of the Aterian which includes worked bone, shell beads, use of pigment and structured fireplaces (Scerri 2021).

The blade phenomena of the Aterian has never been studied in depth. Especially we lack of any details about their technological characteristics. From the illustrations, that can be found in literature, both a Levallois and unipolar semitounant production seems to be demonstrable...

However - regarding our example a Levallois Chaîne opératoire-approach in it’s production can be ruled out. The blank was detached from an unipolar prismatic core.

Figure 5
About Early Blades:

Until very recently Blades were suggested to be one important hallmark of a "Modern Behavior", - part of the already outdated „Human Revolution“ - approach - but Blades appeared early in Human Evolution and already during the late African ESA / Early MSA transition- See here: 1522 , 1091 , 2334 , and here: 1622 .

Suggested Reading:

Musée d'éthnographie et de Préhistoire du Bardo. Collections préhistoriques. Planches. Album no 1. Préface de l'Abbé H. Breuil. Museum - Bardo (Tunis) 1956.

Provenance:: Wagner Collection (GER)