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2022-11-26 17:36:43   •   ID: 2360

The Last Acheulean: or what happened to Nature publishing?

Figure 1
Figure 1 shows a very regular discoidal Handaxe from a surface site in the Menashe Hills near Haifa in Israel -already introduced into the blog-see: 1460 . Figures 2-4 display Handaxes from Swanscombe (MIS 11), Algeria (Middle Pleistocene) and the Northern European Plain (MIS 3).

In "Springer Nature", Alastair J. M. Key et al. recently published their view about the interesting issue of the ending of the Acheulean over the old world as a distinct technocomplex.

Although the authors took every effort to avoid data bias and used some impressive statistical methodology, they stumble over even the most significant methodological problem: the definition of the Acheulian. This issue virtually invites multiple data bias.

The Acheulian technocomplex in the publication is defined by the authors as follows:

"We defined a site as belonging to the Acheulean cultural tradition based on two factors: (1) the presence of large bifacially flaked cutting tools (handaxes and cleavers) and an absence of Levallois technologies, and (2) the original authors describing a site also assigning it to the Acheulean. We are aware that not all individuals will be happy with this definition." .........

First, Handaxes are not always made from LTCs.

Secondly: Why should the Levallois-technique not be an integral part of the late Acheulian?

Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 4
In Key’s view, most of the classic Handaxe ensembles of Northern France, the late Acheulean Ensembles in Africa and the Near East would have to be excluded from the Acheulian tradition-and here the definition of the authors becomes almost grotesque.

Maybe we should ask other questions?

We could ask about the persistence of the faconage technique in the Paleolithic. In doing so, we would get locally different answers:

In the Levant, the Acheulo-Yabrudian ends around 250 k.a. and is replaced by a purely unifacial Levallois Mousterian, followed by Upper Palaeolithic technocomplexes without a bifacial component.

From West-Europe to the Caucasian mountains we notice that the bifacial option was always present until the end of MIS 3 (MTA, bifacial Mousterian, KMG / Micoquian options). Bifaces only disappeared with the onset of the Aurignacian sensu lato.

Easy to recognize that a particular definition has a great influence on the particular answer. The answers differ according to the questions, which are themselves biased.- see: 2336 . The reviewers of "Nature" could also have noticed these simple facts. Hopefully this publication remains an exception...

A fragmented Archaeological record still needs some kind of periodization. Perhaps it would make more sense to develop periodization of the Paleolithic according to cognitive competences of its makers, that can be derived from stone tools, instead of using again old typological or technological concepts ?

PS: For decades I read the Archäologisches Korrespondenzblatt, a great journal of best quality both of the articles and of the paper on which the contributions were printed. It was so cheap that everyone could afford it.

Unfortunately, this is now over but as a great comfort: All these contributions have been digitized and the journal is now available in open access!- see here: Korrespondenzblatt