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2023-11-21 11:17:54   •   ID: 2366

Lincombian-Ranisian-Jerzmanowician (LRJ) in 2023: It was Homo sapiens stupid!

In my limited family collection, I hold only one 6 cm long artifact from the Lincombian-Ranisian-Jerzmanowician (LRJ) industry (Figure 1 and 2), already introduced in the blog- see here: 1603

Figure 1
It has to be stressed, that the definition of the LRJ is unfortunately solely based on one “fossile directeur” -the so called blade point-, manufactured on substantial, triangular cross sectioned blades.

On average, these Blade Points have a length around 9–10 cm, width of 3 cm, and thickness of 1 cm, often struck from opposed platforms cores. However, significantly smaller specimen, similar to the artifact shown here, are also known from several localities (for example at the Jerzmanowice type site and in Moravia).

The secondary retouch on blade points is regularly present on both dorsal (flat / semi-steep retouch) and ventral (flat retouch) surfaces. It was most possibly aimed at straightening and thinning the pieces, presumably for hafting as projectile points. No use-wear study has ever been made on Jerzmanowice points.

All evidence suggests that the Lincombran-Ranisian-Jerzmanovician points were primarily used as hunting weapons. At least there are many indications in a micro-morphological examination such as: "spin-off" detachments and pronounced bending fractures.

Although often referred to as "transitional" in the literature, technologically the LRJ is a purely Upper Paleolithic industry characterized by volumetric cores, cresting, uni- or bipolar technique and the use of soft hammer and and the presence of facetted butts.

Because the majority of the LRJ-sites represent short-term hunting camps or isolated stray findings, we hardly know any other artifact classes. However, at least some Upper Paleolithic burins and end scrapers have been discovered in Beedings near Pulborough in West Sussex / UK, while Middle Paleolithic tools are completely missing. The same observation has been made at Nietoperzowa Cave and Ranis and recently at some larger Moravian sites (See below).

In addition to Jerzmanowice points, LRJ assemblages may also contain bifacial Leafpoints (at Nietoperzowa Cave and Ranis). Until now, it was assumed that such mixing represents the evolution from completely Middle Paleolithic retouched leaf points to partially retouched Upper Paleolithic points, thus underpinning a "transitional" character of the industry. But it was most certainly just the other way round: At some sites, initial incompletely retouched points were transformed into completely retouched ones within a full upper Paleolithic system.

Figure 2
The LRJ is an industry of Middle and Northern Europe (UK, Belgium, Netherlands, Middle and Northern Germany, Moravia and Kraków-Częstochowa Upland).

The LRJ begins just before HE-4 event and can be placed before the Campanian Ignimbrite (CI) super-eruption. New highly precise data come from from layer 6 in Nietoperzowa Cave: 44 –42 k.a. cal BP and the Ilsenhöhle near Ranis: 47,5-45,7 BP, while data from the Jerzmanowician occupation in Koziarnia Cave (39-36 k.a. cal. BP) may indicate a persistent chronological position also after the CI eruption.

The upper limit for the Jerzmanowician is still estimated to c.35 k.a. Cal BP according to earlier dating programs. In my opinion these dates need revision for methodological reasons.

The greatest surprise, however, was reported this year by Hublin et al. (oral presentation 2023). During new excavations in the Ilsenhöhle cave in Thuringia, DNA from Homo sapiens (haplogroup N) was identified in 11 in-situ bone samples from the LRJ layer, thus falsifying older ideas that Neanderthals were the makers of the technocomplex.

Interestingly, Demidenko and Skrdla in 2023 presented the excavation results of various Early Upper Palaeolithic Moravian sites (Líšeň/Podolí I, Želešice III/Želešice- Hoynerhügel, Líšeň I/Líšeň-Čtvrtě, and Tvarožná X/Tvarožná, “Za školou”), suggestive for a LRJ, in a detailed paper.

It seems for me that they have finally discovered several of the long-sought residential LRJ-campsites although I have some doubts about the LRJ- classification of the findings. But who really knows how an the actefactual spectrum of an intact LRJ site might look like…

Figure 3
Consistent with recent results from other regions, C-14 data of the Moravian sites scatter just before the CI eruption. Importantly, the authors argue for an evolution of the LRJ from the local IUP (Bohunician / Emiran; Figure 3 with examples from the Negev from my collection) rather than suggesting the now untenable evolution from a bifacial Micoquian (s.l), made by Neanderthals. The paper seems very innovative to me and opens up completely new avenues for further research. Anyhow we need more data to confirm or reject their Hypotheses.

Demidenko and Skrdla: "We further propose that LRJ assemblages were produced by Homo sapiens, and that its roots are in the Bohunician industry. The LRJ originated as a result of a gradual technological transition, centering on the development of Levallois points into Jerzmanowice-type blade-points. It is also suggested that the LRJ industry first appeared in Moravia, in central Europe, and spread along with its makers (Homo sapiens) across the northern latitudes of central and western Europe. Accordingly, the IUP “Bohunician package” did not disappear in Europe but gave rise to another IUP industry successfully adapted for the then steppe-tundra belts in northern Europe" (Demidenko and Skrdla 2023).

I think that this is a valid hypothesis for further research.