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2022-09-10 17:14:50   •   ID: 2348

An early Masterwork: Keilmesser from Murzuq / Lybia

Figure1 ; Keilmesser
Today the Erg Murzuk covers an area of 71000 km² and lies almost entirely in the southern Libyan municipality of Murzuk. The provincial capital of Murzuk lies on the northern edge of the erg. To the north, a small part extends into the municipality of Wadi al-Haya. In the southwest, individual small foothills of the sand desert extend into Algeria (Djanet province) and Niger (Agadez region).

Figure 1 and 2 display a thin and partially backed 10 cm long classic Keilmesser / Prodnik from Murzuk/ Lybia, a highly sophisticated stone tool already introduced into the Blog- see here: 1270 , 1631 , 2016 and here: 1726 .

According to the actual Nomenclature the tool is called: Keilmesser of the Königsaue Type, referring to the lower stratum of the Type-site in Central Germany - see here: Königsaue .

Figure 2
Such tools are highly curated artifacts used by mobile foragers for different tasks.

According to microtraceological studies they were used for a variety of activities (cutting, sawing, draping..).

After several cycles of rejuvenation (up to seven cycles), the tool shown here, is only 4 mm thick at the thinnest point. Whether it was hafted or used freehand can no longer be determined due to a thick „desert patina“. In any case, freehand use is possible without any problems.

Such pieces are very rare in the African MSA but they do occur. In this context I would like to remind the site ET-72 (Dakleh Oasis; Figure 3) published by R. Schild and F. Wendorf in 1977, which belongs at a minimum age to MIS7 (or MIS9).

During the 1960ies Schild and Wendorf conducted fieldwork in the Western Desert, especially at the Oasis of Dakhla, where a number of Late Acheulean spring vent localities were excavated and yielded a huge – far the largest in Egypt – assemblage of various bifaces, debitage, cores and light tools. Especially backed and double backed handaxes were clearly outside from the known typology, established by F. Bordes.

The important Polish Archaeologist Schild immediately recognized such items being very similar to Prodniks (Keilmesser) from his Motherland, which he discussed in depth in the Monograph - still one publicatory highlight of the Combined Prehistoric Expedition in Egypt (Figure 3).

Figure 3
While "Keilmesser" are attested at Dakhla in large quantities, they are otherwise rare outside the sphere of the Central and Eastern European Micoquian (MIS5-3).

In Europe they were found in intact stratigraphy at La Cotte de Saint Brelade (MIS 7/6) and Mesvin IV (MIS 8) within an early Middle Paleolithic context, and in Africa they are recognized from the Sahara - either within a late Acheulian or early MSA enviroment - for example from Kharga Oasis and Lybia. A famous published example is known from the Yabrud rock shelter in the Antilibanon in Syria.

Apart from the spatial separation between North Africa and Europe, the rarity of such artifacts in Africa already shows that "Keilmesser" in the MSA are a classical convergence phenomenon regarding their later common appearance during the Micoquian in Central and East Europe.

Suggested Reading:

G. Caton-Thompson:The Kharga Oasis in Prehistory (London, 1952).

R. Schild and F. Wendorf: The Prehistory of Dakhla Oasis and Adjacent Desert. (Wroclaw, 1977).

F. Wendorf and R. Schild: Prehistory of the Nile Valley. (New York and London, 1976).

F. Wendorf, Schild, A. Close, et al, Egypt during the Last Interglacial: The Middle Paleolithic of Bir Tafawi and Bir Sahara East . (New York, 1993).

Proveniance: Collection Wagner (GER)

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