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2020-09-15 12:52:47   •   ID: 2203

Handaxes from the Azraq Basin in Jordan

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Figure 1-6 shows a limited surface Collection from the Azraq Basin in Jordan’s Eastern Desert. Regarding techno-typological considerations it may be 400-250 k.a.old.

You see white patinated Flint Handaxes up to 16 cm long and a large Levallois flake (Figure 5 and 6). The Handaxes are made both by hard and soft hammer technique.

They are oval, with a tranchet blow (Figures 1 and 2), lanceolated (Figure 3) and cordiform (Figure 4). The Lanceolate is backed - not unknown from other Acheulian sites from the Levant -see 1596 .

The Handaxes in Figure 1 and 2 resemble Bifacial Cleavers - which define a facies of the late Acheulian in the Azraq region, as emphasized by L. Copeland. Microtraceological studies demonstrated their use as Butchering tools.

Such tools are techno-typological very different from Flake-Cleavers, made from large Flakes which appeared early early in the African Acheulian-see here: 1216 and here: 1217 .

Among the oldest sites with flake cleavers yet found in the Near East are Gesher Benot Ya’aqov (GBY), at 0,78 My and Ubaydiyya at 1,4-1,2 My in the Jordan Valley.

Under natural conditions, the oasis supported reed and sedge communities restricted to Jordan and Azraq. Until recently, it was a valuable staging area for migrating birds and served as an important water supply for local communities, as well as the main water source for the capital city, Amman.

After WW II it became clear that unsustainable groundwater extraction led to the almost complete desertification of the oasis, also affecting the integrity of potential in-situ Archaeological sites.

Although a program for the physical rehabilitation was started, it failed and much Archaeological information was lost for ever.

Overall the Azraq Basin is known for its abundance of Stone Age occupations, which were associated with the presence of oases, marshes and paleolakes. During the Pleistocene these habitats served as refugia both for large animals and Homo sp.

Acheulian sites were largely associated with lakeshore environments in areas with East African flora and fauna in grassland savannas over much of the Pleistocene.

The Azraq basin was certainly connected with other oases and former lacustrine basins in the Syro-Arabian Desert. Lakes and spring-fed marshes existed on the eastern landscape of Jordan, from Mudawwara to the al-Jafr and Azraq basins, and northward to the el- Kowm Basin of Syria. These networks constituted crossroads for movements of Homo sp. between Africa and the Eurasian landmass and vice versa.

In consequence the archaeological sites in the Azraq Basin are spanning a long timeframe from the Acheulian, Levallois-Mousterian, Epipaleolithic (probably Kebaran or Geometric Kebaran) and the PPNB Neolithic phase - very similar to the El Kowm area in Syria.

Researchers working in Jordan traditionally described an Early, Middle and Late Acheulian. This classification is mostly based on surface findings and, as far as I am aware, has never explicitly explained. Especially the issue of a "Middle Acheulian" remains obscure.

In general the definition of older and younger ensembles is based on techno-typological considerations and on the material from the two sites in Israel, mentioned above. However, there is certainly some justification for the following classification, which separated an older from a more recent Acheulian:

  • Flat, thin, symmetric Handaxes are later than irregular, rough and trihedral handaxes

  • Early ensembles are often characterized by opportunistic cores, choppers and chopping tools

  • Handaxes, made by Hammer Techniques are earlier than Handaxes and the use of a Soft Hammer

  • The advent of the Levallois technique in Acheulian ensembles is late

There are numerous Acheulian sites sites in the Azraq Basin. The most prominent are: Lion Spring, 3-4, C-Spring, Azraq Shishan ("South Azraq"). Unfortunately no concise dating program could be performed during 50 yers of research, allthough some sites are multilayered and were only minimally disturbed with a "fresh" appearance of the Acheulian material.

If fauna was preserved, it did not help to establish more than a Middle Pleistocene age for the industries. The "late" C-Spring Acheulian is of special interest because up to 30% of the Bifaces were Bifacial Cleavers, a higher number than anywhere in the Old World Acheulian, especially in the Levant.

In summary, despite the many techno-typological studies, that have been published, the ESA of the the Azraq Basin, makes us painfully aware, that without progress in dating stratified sites with preservation of Archaeological structures and fauna remains allows only a very limited understanding of Early Paleolithic land use by our ancestors.

Acheulian in the Levant: see here: 1171 , here 2076 , here: 1460 , and here: 2068 ,

2020-09-11 12:35:29   •   ID: 2202

The Hamburgian at Grande Schleswig Holstein

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Figures 1-4 show different tools of a Hamburgian Camp at Grande / Schleswig-Holstein in North Germany.

Among these Tools we notice three shouldered points, a straight Zinken (according to Tromnau), Some Truncations ("Schrägendklingen"), Scrapers and Burins. The Burin highlighted in Figure 4 is was created with en éperon preparation.

There are no backed instruments from this surface collection, although "Gravettes" are mentioned in the Literature about the Site.

Overall the collection is compatible with an older Hamburgian. The ensemble is very similar to the sites of Heber and Deimern (Kreis Soltau, N-Germany) and was suggested to be part of the "Teltwisch-Group" by Tromnau- a designation based on the typology of surface findings and obsolete today.

The detection of the cultures of Late Paleolithic hunters in Northern Europe will always be associated with the groundbreaking multidisciplinary excavations in the Ahrensburg Tunnel Valley, today bordered to the west by the Hamburg-Lübeck railway line, since the 1930ies.

The work of Rust in different areas of the Valley, mainly at Meiendorf, Stellmoor, Borneck, Poggenwisch, and Hasewisch revealed a succession of two technocomplexes: the Hamburgian and Ahrensburgian and their palynological correlation with different phases of the late last Glacial.

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He also demonstrated the selective hunting of Reindeer, the first evidence of wooden arrows during the Ahrensburgian - currently the oldest specimens worldwide known - and the first evidence of dwelling structures from the Late Paleolithic in Northern Europe.

The Ahrensburg tunnel valley was formed by meltwater under the inland ice, which covered this area during the last Glacial.

This meltwater eroded deep into the subsoil and, at the end of the Glacial, left behind a narrow, elongated channel (tunnel valley) with steep slopes, in whose protected large blocks of ice, called dead ice, were preserved.

Later, after the glaciers retreat, the dead ice ice was covered by a layer of gravel and sand. A lake formed above these sediments, partially fed by the melting dead ice, and Reindeer Hunters rested on the its banks.

During the Holocene all water bodies silt up more or less quickly and were transformed into a fen with optimal conditions for the preservation of organic remains.

The Pleistocene Chanel created a natural narrow passage for the migrating reindeer herds, optimal for hunt.

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The site of Meiendorf is situated between 2 small lakes, while the site of Stellmoor is located between a lakeshore and the steep sides of the valley. Both locations form ideal bottlenecks for driving and then ambushing reindeer herds (Bratlund, 1991).

New data about the timing and direction of reindeer herd movements in northern Europe have been generated during the last years. Hamburgian and Ahrensburgian groups exploited these herds between ca. 14,9 and 14,0 k.a. calBP and between ca. 12,8 and 11,4 k.a. cal BP, respectively.

Results of the isotopic analysis suggest that the herds for the most part moved east-west over the North European Plain - probably wintering in the east.

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Grande is located about 20 km South-West the Ahrensburg Valley and part of a network of Hamburgian sites over the North European Plain, found from the Netherlands to Poland with few outposts in Jutland and a dense cluster in Germany (Schleswig Holstein, Lower Saxony).

Interestingly Grande is also located in a tunnel valley, the Bille Valley, with geological conditions comparable to the Ahrensburg tunnel valley. The Bille is a tributary of the Elbe in northern Germany. It rises north of the Hahnheide near Trittau in the southeast of Schleswig-Holstein and flows into the Lower Elbe in Hamburg.

Anyhow, the Bille does not offer conditions, that would allow a preservation of organic artifacts.

Future research will probably show whether further artifact clusters can be discovered along the river course.

Suggested Readings:

Rust, Alfred: Die alt- und mittelsteinzeitlichen Funde von Stellmoor; 1943

Rust, Alfred: Die jungpaläolithischen Zeltanlagen von Ahrensburg; 1958.

Tromnau, Gernot: Die Fundplätze der Hamburger Kultur von Heber und Deimern, Kreis Soltau; 1975.

Tromnau, Gernot: Neue Ausgrabungen im Ahrensburger Tunneltal . Ein Beitrag zur Erforschung des Jungpaläolithikums im nordwesteuropäischen Flachland; 1975.

Tromnau, Gernot: Hammaburg NF 1 - 1974 Vor- und Frühgeschichte aus dem niederelbischen Raum hrsg. für das Archäologische Museum Hamburg, Helms-Museum.; 1975.

Weber, Mara-Julia.: From technology to tradition - Re-evaluating the Hamburgian-Magdalenian relationship; 2012.

Burdukiewicz , Jan Michel: The Late Pleistocene Shouldered Point Assemblages in Western Europe; 1986.

Surf the Blog: About Tanged Points from the Ahrensburgian and Zinken from the Hamburgian-see here 1010 , here: 1304 , here: 2201 , here: 2171 and here 1459 ,here: 1710 , and here: 1478 ,

2020-09-07 11:36:18   •   ID: 2201

Keep your feet dry! An isolated Tanged Point from Sylt

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Figure 1 shows Sylt and the islands of Föhr und Amrum from the space.

Sylt is the island in the Middle of the picture, connected by the "Hindenburg Dam" with the mainland (Wikipedia Commons - Deutsche Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e. V).

Today, Sylt is an island in northern Germany, part of Nordfriesland district, Schleswig-Holstein, and well known for the distinctive elongated shape of its shoreline. It belongs to the North Frisian Islands and is the largest island in North Frisia.

Sylt was created by a moraine of the penultimate Glaciation covered by long sandy beaches and sand dunes of Pleistocene origin. On the western side there is a 30 m high cliff coast, the 'red cliff'.

In northern Germany three ice advances of the Fenno-Scandinavian ice sheet are widespread documented.

Elster, Saale and Weichsel with two interglacials: Holstein warm period (between Elster and Saale) and Eem warm period (between Saale and Weichsel).

During Glacials, due to the binding of large masses of water in the glacier ice, the sea level was lower than it is today. The lowering of the sea level is known as regression. What becomes clear- Sylt and the adjacent continental shell were dry land during Glacial conditions.

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Whether Sylt was Part of Doggerland (opinions diverge about this issue; but most possible the Islands were always part of Continental Europe) or not- is irrelevant in our context.

At the time of the highest level of the Weichsel glaciation, the sea level was about 100 m lower and thus most of the North Sea was land-based.

During Interglacial conditions, sea levels rose (transgression). The sea drowned parts of the inland. Marine sediments, e.g. near Hamburg, testify this for the beginning of the Holocene.

The end of the last Glacial (Weichsel) begins with a continuous climatic warming that occurred after the Late Glacial Maximum (LGM at ca 24 k.a. Cal BP).

The Weichselian late glacial, often referred to as last glacial-interglacial transition or last termination (ca. 13-10, k.a. Cal BP was a period of rapid climate change.

The Bølling-Allerød interstadial is the main warm phase during the Weichselian late glacial that is followed by the cold Younger Dryas stadial.

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During the warming in the early Holocene (Preboreal), the sea level rose again. Initially, this happened relatively quickly in the so-called Litorina transgression with an average increase of 50 cm per century (up to 2500 BC).

For the next 3500 years, the Dunkirk transgression occurred with an increase of about 15 per century. Only parts of the continental shelf, remained beyond the border line between land and sea, among them the North Frisian Islands.

Until 1362 Sylt could be reached overland during low tide. Afterwards Sylt became a real island after a massive storm tide washed away a lot of sediment between Sylt and the mainland.

Figures 2-4 display a 5 cm long tanged Point found in 1949 in the dunes of the Island. It was made of Nordic Flint, which a thick orange patination.

Although the taxonomy of Late Paleolithic points is currently questioned, in traditional terms the artifact shown here, is an Ahrensburg Point, according the classification of Wolfgang Taute.

Ahrensburgian Points date to the younger Dryas with lower sea levels than today. This means that Sylt was accessible for late Pleistocene hunters without getting wet feet.

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Although Riede proposed to classify tanged Points rather by their Function (Spear vs. Arrow) and found by Geometric morphometrics a high variability in these artifacts, without a clear chronological pattern, a younger Dryas age for "Ahrensburg" points remains paradigmatic and is evidenced by just a few stratigraphic intact and valid sites.

A recent paper compared two sites with successfull refits from the Ahrensburg tunnel valley- Teltwisch 2 and Teltwisch Mitte - for the definition of an older group (Teltwisch Mitte) without Zonhoven points and long blades and a younger group characterized by the presence of these implements at Teltwisch 2 (Mavel et al. 2019).

the Story goes on - even by the use of old collections from the 1970ies!

Surf the Blog: see here 1010 , here 1304 , here: 1243 , here: 2171 , and here 1459

2020-09-01 18:51:58   •   ID: 2194

Human / Animal relationship during the Pleistocene.

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This is an intentional perforated Pleistocene Bear Canine- a classic adornment of Pleistocene Hunters.

Figure 1 and 2 show the Pendant from the ventral and dorsal side. Figure 3 gives an impression of the chaine operatoire with somewhat irregular, sub bi-conical holes, drilled from both sides.

Classic French Museum examples can be seen Here .

In Europe such items are known since the IUP/EUP from Bacho Kiro Level 11 and were found together with the remains of AMHs 45,8 to 43,6k.a. cal BP ago- see here: 2180

In Western Europe they were associated with a limited number of Châtelperronian sites - the most prominent example is the Grotte du Renne at Arcy-sur- Cure.

Here, Bear Canine Pendants had a different design- The Châtelperronian ornaments have been mostly produced by carving a groove around the root of the tooth, possibly so a string could be tied around it.

This technique can be occasionally observed during later times (for example in the Swabian Caves during the Gravettian)

In contrast, the Aurignacian Bear canine Pendants, which are mostly known from the French South-West, were usually pierced (Zilhao 2011).

The production of such Ornaments got more rare during the Gravettian and Magdalenian, but nevertheless remained present, especial during the Middle Magdalenian, often decorated with parallel incisions.

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Bear pendants finally almost disappeared during the Holocene, at least in Western and Central Europe. It remains an open question if later generations had no interest in using fossilized Bear teeth or did not even noticed their animal origin.

But there are exceptions. Some items were found in a Neolithic context - for example at Concise in Switzerland. The same holds true for the Neolithic further East (an example from Georgia is shown in one of the attached external files).

By the way: While the Bear Canine pendants were relatively rare, most adornments from teeth were made from perforated Fox teeth throughout the Upper Paleolithic of Europe.

They were produced since the Aurignacian and spread in Southern Germany, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy and Russia, but most examples are known from France (Antl-Weiser 2013). An early example (ca 41 k.a.CalBP) is known from Kostënki 17.

A complete set of a fox-tooth necklace together with a wealth of other decorated artifacts is known from the Pavlovian at Dolni Vestonice - See Here .

Until recently Prehistoric Research was predominantly interested to treat the issue of human/animal relationship from an utilitarian standpoint. Animals were objects to be hunted, exploited for their meat, bones and teeth and to be domesticated in the Neolithic.

Nevertheless an advanced “interpretive” zooarchaeologal approach remains of great interest and has directed attention to the complex roles that animals played in early societies-for example for the development of food sharing as early as during the ESA (Ran Barkai; see attached external links and here 2114

"Only recently, in tandem with the rising interest in animals in the humanities and the development of interdisciplinary animal studies research, has archaeology begun to systematically engage with animals as subjects (Hill 2016).

Although Ethnographic analogies are always at risk for circular reasoning, they can be used with care along with the archeological record for a the reconstruction of Human / Animal relationship during the Pleistocene.

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In analogy to recent Foragers and Pastoralists, an important basic concept is the assumption, that people in the past often dealt with animals in positional, rather than categorical, terms (Hill 2016).

This concept in mind, Animals have a cultural biography, play key roles as active actors in myths and local cosmologies, kin relations, and social organization. Human / Animal relationships were perceived as relationship of mutual dependency.

Since their beginnings as hunters, herders and agriculturalists humans have experienced themselves as part of the animal world. With animals humans shared the basic constants of life, and in their different manifestations they recognized varieties of their own corporeality and existence.

Many recent Hunter-gatherers groups conceive animals as “non-human persons” or “other-than-human-persons”. Humans were able to exchange form and identity with Animals and vice-versa.

Some Ethnologists claim that, not only Humans experienced themselves as part of a common nature, but that even Nature - the landscapes; animals; watercourses-was perceived as animated.

This concept is contaminated by bearing traces of nineteenth-century European imperialism and colonialism. Hill therefore proposed to abandon the term and instead using the designation: “relational ontology” (Hill 2013). I doubt that such a renaming can save the whole concept....

Archaeological traces of intensive “human–animal bonds” were already discussed in this Blog regarding Cats and Cave Bears- see here: 2133 and here: 2088

A wealth of further informations, that were outlined only briefly here, can be found in Nerissa Russells book (see below).

Suggested Reading:

Nerissa Russell: Social Zooarchaeology: Humans and Animals in Prehistory; 2012. This book

2020-08-28 12:09:39   •   ID: 2192

The Moravian Gate during the Late Gravettian

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Since the 19th century early researchers of the Moravian Paleolithic (Kříž, Wankel, Maška and Absolon) recognized the importance of the Moravian Gate as one of the most important Central European passages, both for animals and their hunters, during the Pleistocene (Figure 1; source probably Absolon).

Because of its low altitude, the gate works as a corridor between the Sudetes in the northwest and the Beskides / Carpathians in the southeast, by providing the easiest passage from the Middle Danube valley towards the course of the Vistula / Weichsel into the Krakow region and further to the North and East European Plain.

In Central Europe, the many Gravettian sites are arranged like pearls on a string beginning with the Middle Danube / Wachau Sites (Willendorf, Spitz, Weißenkirchen, Aggsbach, Krems, Langenlois) followed towards the North-East by clusters of the Moravia / Mach River (Grub Kranawettberg, Stillfried) and the Dyje / Theia river with the famous sites in the Pavlovian Hills (Pavlov, Dolni Vestonice, Milovice).

Smaller Gravette sites are present in the Middle Morava Basin followed by the Predmost sites at the southern end of the Moravian Gate and Ostrava-Petrkovice at the northern end.

After passing the Moravian gate, the important Kraków Late Gravettian sites, including Krakow Spazista streeet can be easily reached following the course of the Vistula / Weichsel river.

The backed shouldered point, shown in this post, gives a good impression of one characteristic Moravian Late Gravettian artefact and has similarities to a shouldered point from Ostrava-Petrkovice.

Earlier Posts about the Central European Gravettian are found here: 2189 , here: 1640 , here: 1296 , here: 1374 , and here: 1014

The Upper Gravettian site Ostrava-Petrkovice, at the strategic favorable northern entrance of the Moravian Gate was first excavated by Folprecht and Absolon in 1926-1929, followed by B. Klima in 1952-1953, and is currently again under excavation by J Svoboda.

In the central area of the site, which was covered by powdered hematite, the researchers detected several hearths, and several small pits.

Interestingly the fuel for the fires encompassed bones but maybe also charcoal, with is present on surface in the immediate neighborhood of the site.

The Lithics of Ostrava-Petrkovice include a lot of domestic tools - Burins are more frequent than Endscrapers, backed bladelets, sometimes with Late Gravettian characteristing truncations, Pointed Blades, several Leaf Points (most fragmentary) and Shouldered Points.

Some ceramic pieces were also present. Organic materials were unfortunately poorly preserved.

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An unique Figurine, the “Ostrava Venus” was found during Klima’s excavations.

This miniature female torso – only 5 cm in height – was carved from “a piece of black hematite iron ore” (Marshack 1972; Figure 5 with Permission of the Kirchoff Collection; UMG).

It was early mentioned, that the figurine looks like a modern Cubistic work of art, but its special appearance is certainly due to the uncommon raw material.

Initially and maybe echoing Absolon's "Mousterioliths" this site has been considered rather early in the Gravettian due to some archaic tools.

Later it became clear, that the site belongs to the late Gravettian - technologically by the shouldered points and chronologically by C-14 with an average date of ca 22 k.a. ( ca 25 k.a. Cal BP).

The site was situated at Landek Hill at the confluence of the rivers Ostravice and Odra. The Hill is only 280 meters high but the highest elevation in the area and was certainly an optimal Lookout point for hunters.

Today you should not miss to visit the Landek Park Mining Museum.

Coal mining at Landek is documented as early as 1789, and continued until 1991. After its completion, the area was preserved and transformed into the Mining Museum.

Some questions about the Gravettian site remain: Up-to-day geomorphological evaluation, precise C-14 dating and exploring whether black coal was realy used to make fire by the earliest inhabitants.

Suggested Readings:

Svoboda J., (Ed.) Petřkovice: on shouldered points and female figurines, The Dolní Věstonice Studies Vol 15, Institute of Archaeology at Brno, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Brno 2008.

2020-07-10 16:58:51   •   ID: 2197

Acheulian or Fauresmith in the N/W-Province of South Africa ?

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Figure 1 and 2: This is a thin, symmetric and well executed Biface (12x7x1cm), made from brown patinated ironstone, which can be seen at some small black chipped areas.

Such sophisticated Bifaces in South Africa are mainly described as components of the so called Fauresmith Complex..

The artifact was detected with other similar implements during mining activities in the North West Province of South Africa near Glaudina, some meters below the current surface.

Figure 3 (dorsal) and 4 (ventral) show a smaller subcordiform Handaxe (10x6x3 cm) from the same location, made from Chert, exhibiting a mottled whitish patina.

The ventral side is flat, while the steep dorsal sides produce a triangular appearance. It is not by chance that Burkitt 1928 compared such items from the Fauresmith Complex with the MTA of Combe Capelle in France.

At this time he could not know, that the time gap between our examples and the Abri Peyrony at Combe Capelle is at least 150 k.a.

In my sample Flake tools are missing, but this could be an sampling bias.

There are nearly 300 active mines in South Africa’s North West and the sector contributes 31.3% of regional gross domestic product.

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Mines in the North-West province produce 50% of the platinum produced in the world. Chromite is the other major mineral mined throughout the province. Gold and Uranium are found along the border of the province with Gauteng and the Free State.

Gravels are still mined for diamonds in deeply buried deposits and Stone Age artifact collections from the excavated gravels were formed during the last century.

Interestingly, such lithic artifacts are mainly in the hands of local collectors and have not been recognized in the Literature.

The prevailing impression that the N/W-Region has been sparsely populated by humans in the past, may be biased, by the absence of systematic prospections and deeply buried deposits, but is certainly also the result of a general scarcity of sustainable water sources as well as the absence of hills or outcrops for shelter.

The Fauresmith was first described by Goodwin in 1925 as an “archaeological industry or culture intermediate between the Earlier Stone Age and Middle Stone Age”. This statement has passed the test for almost the past 100 years.

On the available evidence, the Fauresmith seem to be centered in the interior and northern regions. Anyhow, rich sites like Wonderwerk Cave, Bestwood 1, Kathu Pan and Kathu Townlands are found in some distance (300 km or more) south from Glaudina.

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If we consider Sites like Rooidam, Pniel and Nooitgedacht 2 - the Fauresmith would even extend to the Northern Cape region.

Anyhow no agreement whether this poor defined and high variable complex is part of the Acheulian, the beginning of the MSA, an independent entity or just does not exist at all, has reached (Shadrach 2018).

If we define the beginnings of the MSA with the advent of prepared core technology- I would agree to Beaumont and Vogel (see external links) that the Fauresmith is both: an Early MSA (EMSA) and a valid entity.

Regarding the paucity of stratified / unmixed sites there is a persistent discussion about the specific lithics that define the Fauresmith Complex. "Smaller handaxes, large and/or average sized cleavers, points, large blades and prepared cores are the major, but not the only, diagnostic features of assemblages claimed to represent the Fauresmith stone tool culture (Shadrach 2018).

Anyhow it was early recognized, that Handaxes in such ensembles, beside finely made examples, can also be crude and large- maybe caused by the raw material or representing unfinished preforms - an example from Glaudina is shown in Figures 5 and 6.

On the other hand, Handaxes from the quality of the first two examples in this post, are virtually absent from the ESA.

There are some Fauresmith key-sites, excavated with modern Methods during the last 20 years. They seem to prove that the Fauresmith is indeed is a clear entity and not a secondary construct.

Here I focus to newer excavations at only two localities -Kathu Pan and Rooidam 2- in the Northern Province of South Africa. The attribution of other sites to to the Fauresmith and their often unclear chronological position can be found by the external links.

  • The Archaeological Complex near Kathu, a mining town in the Northern Cape Province offers a series of archaeological localities – Kathu Pan, Kathu Townlands and Bestwood – that together represent evidence of extraordinarily intensive occupation through the Earlier Stone Age (Acheulean) and Fauresmith (Transitional) to the Early Middle Stone Age.

    What makes the dating of some important (but not all) Stone Age complexes near Kathu difficult is their localization in a number of sinkholes, which make a stratigraphic assignment of the finds difficult.

    Anyhow we should remember, that the taphonomy of such Dolines is well known, for example from the groundbreaking excavations of sinkhole sequences in the El Kowm area (Syria) by the University of Basel and Syrian excavators, before they stopped by the so called Arabian Spring“.

    The stratigraphy of Kathu Pan 1 (KP1), located about 4,5 km northwest of Kathu begins with ESA deposits (Stratum 4b) mainly characterized by Handaxes, made from banded ironstone and finely executed. The Stratum 4a above 4b has been dated by OSL, ESR, and U-series to ca 500 k.a. BP, but at least > 417 k.a (Herries 2011 for a critical review).

    Of an age similar to KP1- 4a may be a high-density ESA in-situ locality at Kathu Townlands, still under excavation (Walker et al. 2014).

    In contrast, Stratum 4a revealed a hughe amount of lithics. They are characterized by Blades and Flakes, the latter were made from prepared cores (Levallois sensu lato).

    The blades were produced by direct hard hammer percussion from specialized blade cores. Elongated convergent finely retouched artifacts, often with facetted platforms, ("Points") are common. The whole ensemble fits the definition of the Fauresmith complex.

    It remains hotly debated if some of these convergent tools were were used as spear tips, as claimed by Wilkins et al. 2012 - based on micro ware analysis and experimental replication (Rots and Plisson 2014, Wilkins 2015)

    Indeed it was not to be expected that claims, that the use of stone projectile points began more than 200 k.a. earlier than elsewhere, would be simply accepted without any contradiction.

    LCTs of Stratum 4a were made on a wide range of raw materials and are even cruder and more irregular compared with those from the local Acheulian

  • The post-Fauresmith succession at Kathu Pan 1 at 336–254 k.a. is characterized by a classic early MSA, with a low number of retouched tools from prepared cores. Similar and rare sites without pics and Handaxes in S-Africa are suggested to characterize the “early Middle Stone Age” to ca 300- 120 k.a. BP

  • Rooidam 2 a site near Kimberley, in the Northern Cape Province revealed 7 strata, covering a depth of 5m. Stratum 4B with a dense occupation was divided into 10 subunits, that allowed to evaluate technological trends within a clearly Fauresmith succession.

    The research team found cummulative changes and variability within these subunits, discussing the influence of social learning, raw materials and landscape use (Eltzholtz et al. 2005)

In Summary the Fauresmith seems to be indeed an valid entity and we are looking for the many surprising data, that surely will come...

Surf the Blog: see here 2174 , here 1657 , here: 2169 , here: 1715 and here 2071

Resources and images in full resolution:

2020-07-10 16:58:51   •   ID: 2189

News from the Gravettian of Central Europe

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Figure 1 and 2: These are some early Gravettes and Microgravettes- a visual introduction into the thematic of this post.

Earlier Posts about the Central European Gravettian are found here: 1473 , here: 1640 , here: 1296 , here: 1374 , and here: 1014

It seems to be time to ajust some of my earlier posts about this topic, mainly because C-14 dating has became more sophisticated and because the simple dichotomy of a Pavlovian followed by the Willendorf-Kostenkien became more and more implausible after in depth studies of local late Gravettian clusters.

The Central European Gravettian is currently dated to ~ 34–24 k.a.CalBP. If these data are correct, the Gravettian may temporally overlap with the late Aurignacian and comes to an end at the Beginning of the LGM.

Figure 2
Overall, Central European Gravettian subsidence strategies, especially during the Middle and Late stages have a lot in common.

The most significant mark is the importance of hunting Mammoths and other large Herbivores which exceeds the importance of smaller animals.

Although the Term Pavlovian was not generally accepted after it was introduced by Klima during the 1950ies, it is now widely used as the designation of one local Gravettian Variant within the Lower Austrian – Moravian – South Polish corridor.

The Pavlovian is now dated to ~31–28 k.a. CalBP and is the most sophisticated variant of the Central European Middle Gravettian.

Its name is derived from the Megasites at Pavlov (Pavlov 1-6), a village on a slope of the Pavlov Hills, next to Dolní Věstonice (Dolni Vestonice 1-3) in southern Moravia.

According to Oliva 2019 there may a cluster of "Early Pavlovian" (?), around 27 k.a. B.P. (32 k.a. cal. B.P.) detected at the sites of Dolní Vestonice II and Pavlov II, but the majority of dates from the largest sites- Dolní Vestonice I and Pavlov I- fall into the "Evolved Pavlovian", dated 27–25 k.a. B.P. (31–30 k.a. cal. B.P.), and a few dates are even later.

Another important Pavlovian site remains Předmostí, at the Moravanian gate. This Megasite, which has never been adequately excavated, was certainly multilayered and contained a Middle Paleolithic, Aurignacian, Pavlovian and late Gravettian Material. A Leafpoint component has strong similarities with the Trencin B site (see below) and with the sophisticated Leafpoints of Szeletta Cave (Lengyel et al. 2016).

Skrdla recently described important Pavlovian findings in the Jarosov micro-region with a high Microlithic component. Microliths are one Halmark of the Gravettian (lunates, saws, truncations..).

In Poland, clusters are known around the Cracovie and Częstochowa regions and from Lower Austria, parts of the multilayered site of Willendorf (Willendorf 2, AH8), Krems-Wachtberg 1 and 2, Krems-Hundssteig and Gobelsburg at the Wagram belong to this tradition.

The Pavlovian industry is characterized by backed implements including backed points (Gravette points)- see 1296 , „Micro-saws“- see 1486 , "Points de Pavlov"-see 2131 , steeply retouched backed bladelets, by a high prevalence of burins (Figure 9) over end scrapers, and the manufacture of thin narrow, straight blades from advanced prismatic cores.

Some sites are characterized by non-geometric and geometric microliths while others by large pointed retouched blades. Gravette Points are more often Microgravettes, while "normal sized" examples are rare.

Figure 3
Compared to the Aurignacian, the blades were more often detached from bidirectional cores which led to a straighter profile of the blanks (Figure 3).

Subsequent exploitation of these cores after the detachment of larger blades or alternatively the use of thick flakes for the production of bladelets was quite common at Dolní Věstonice I.

The typical features of the Pavlovian are:

  • Formation of large and (semi)-permanent settlements, huts, combined with a stable economy, sufficient food supply and a prosperous society

  • Focus on the hunt and scavenging of mammoths and, on the other hand, also of smaller animals such as hares

  • Greater tendency to inhumation of the dead- the most prominent example is a tripple grave from Dolni Vestonice, a single male grave with a figurine carved from ivory from Brno, the famous „mass grave“ from Predmosti , already found during the 19th century and the Baby graves from Krems Wachtberg

  • An incredible richness in the production of organic Symbolic and Domestic artifacts

  • The rise of innovations based on fibre-based technology, basketry, grinding of plant food and possibly the production of nets

  • The serial production of ceramic figurines: so called "Venuses" and A wealth of different animals

  • A variety of symbolic ornaments, painted and incised- for example at the Pavlov Hills and Krems

Figure 4
The Early Gravettian is known only from single sites in the Swabian Jura (Geißenklösterle, Hohle Fels) and Lower Austria (Willendorf II/5) and dated to ~34–30 k.a.CalBP (Moreau, 2009).

If the non diagnostic artifacts from the lowest layers at Dolni Vestonice and Pavlov really represent an early Pavlovian remains dubious.

The well-dated stratigraphic sequence of Willendorf II is a reference site for the Upper Paleolithic in general and the Gravettian in particular.

At Willendorf II/2 only a limited number of non-diagnostic Upper Paleolithic artifacts were found. Willendorf II/3 is clearly a very early Aurignacian 43 k.a CalBP and Willendorf 2/IV (about 35 k.a CalBP) a classical Aurignacian.

The Gravettian of Willendorf II begins with layer 5 (about 30,5 k.a BP; ca 35-34 k.a. CalBP) and the sequence ends with a "Willendorf-Kostienkian" around 25 k.a. CalBP (Layer 9).

AH5 is is dominated by burins, Microgravettes, large pointed blades with lateral retouches and endscrapers. The number of other microliths, and especially geometric microliths, is low.

This industry is chronologically and typologically clearly not a "Pavlovian" sensu Klima / Swoboda (Figure 3).

A joint team from the Institute Royal des Sciences Naturelles de Belgique and the University of Vienna carried out excavations at Willendorf in 1993.

Detailed techno-typological analysis of the material revealed, that the Gravettian of AH6- which resembles AH5 belongs to an early Gravettian (Figure 4), while AH8 can be assumed as Pavlovian. It is characterized by Gravettes, pointed and retouched blades and some "rectangles" (see below)- foreshadowing the Late Gravettian.

A similar age of ca 34 k.a. CalBP has been determined for the basal Gravettian of the Geißenklösterle and Hohle Fels in the Swabian Jura.

The lithic inventory is quite different compared with the Willendorf Gravettian and points to networks with regions further South (Rhône Saône axis) and even to the South- West France.

The Swabian Gravettian assemblages contain a wealth of Gravettes / backed tools such as Gravette points, Microgravette points, Fléchettes and Font-Robert points.

The excavators were astonished by the quick transition from the Aurignacian to the Gravettian, again raising questions of temporal overlap and the local origin of these two technocomplexes.

Figure 5
Remarks on Aggsbach and Grub-Kranawettberg: Together with Milovice in the Pavlov Hills, these sites have not adequately described in Aggsbachs Blog yet-therefore some additional remarks.

Unfortunately the important site of Aggsbach in the Wachau / Lower Austria was not the focus of new investigations since 100 years- regarding the very special character of Aggsbach renewed excavations of the site remain an important dissertation for Prehistory.

You find a description of the known material in Otte's thesis and here: 1374

Grub-Kranawetberg is located ca. 40 km north-east of Vienna in Lower Austria near the Slovakian border and is situated on a flat upland crest overlooking the Mach (Morava) river valley.

From the base to the top four archaeological horizons were present: AH4 to AH1. The lowermost, AH4, represents richest cultural layer.

It contained two repeatedly used hearths surrounded by pits that have been interpreted as the remains of dwelling structures.

Away from these hearths a sharp decrease in artefact density was observed, underlining this interpretation.

Twenty meters west from the hearths, concentrations of large mammal bones (mainly rhino, giant deer, mammoth) were uncovered.

This features were interpreted as a dumping area for carcasses of hunted animals. The people of the site were well adapted to the Mammoth Steppe.

AHIII is located only ca 10 cm above AH4, was deposited after a Loess storm and was possibly formed just about 100 years after AH IV. Here no combustion structures were detected.

AHIV and III revealed a rich lithic industry: Backed lamelles, Microgravettes, some shouldered points, large pointed blades, a variety of bone tools and adornments made from Mammoth ivory (selectively in AH IV) and mollusks (AH IV and III).

Comparison of raw material, lithics, adornments and bone material from AH4 and AH3 led to the theory that they were made by different groups, characterized by different raw material preferences, settlement patterns, subsidence strategies and tool kits. A Monograph of this important site is urgently awaited.

The upper two archaeological horizons, AH1 and 2, currently consist only of scattered finds, located ca. 5–10 cm above AH3. Radiocarbon dates on charcoal from AH4 and AH3 range from 30-29 k.a. k.a.Cal BP. These data are contemporaneous with the Pavlovian in Moravia.

Remarks on Milovice I :

Figure 6
The Gravettian site, Milovice I (Sector G) located near Pavlov, is dated between 30.1 and 29.2 k.a. Cal BP. It reveals large mammoth bone deposits and was among other tasks a large Mammoth hunting site.

There are several other nearby sites (Milovice II-IV) -While Milovice II and III revealed only some unstratified artifacts, the mammoth hunter site site of Milovice IV, which was detected after an old wine-cellar collapsed, is even slightly older than Milovice I and dated around 31-30 k.a. Cal BP..

The lithics of Milovice IV were different from Milovice I and belonged more to the domestic sphere (Burins and Scraper), although a lot of backed bladelets were also present.

The lithics of Milovice I, although temporally and geographically closely connected with the large agglomerations such as Dolní Vestonice I and Pavlov I, show a quite different design: Flechettes, Double backed leaf-shaped or almost needle like Microgravettes (Figure 6), Gravettes with extensive ventral flat covering retouches beside large pointed blades, shouldered points and some non-geometric microliths. Typologically they represent a "Late Gravettian", while the Calibrated C-14 dates are contemporaneous with the Pavlovian.

Wilczynski et al (2019) suggest three possible explanations: (1) the Pavlovian did overlap the beginning of the Late Gravettian; or

(2) the Dolní Věstonice I human occupation recovered in the early- and mid-20th century was a palimpsest deposit that included both Pavlovian and Late Gravettian remains; or

(3) the Pavlovian occupations were finely stratified, as shown by the new excavations (Svoboda 2016), and the resolution of the field methods of the early- and mid-20th century was unable to notice tiny archaeological layers. An admixture of Late Gravettian and Pavlovian was noted earlier regarding the Pavlov I site

The last member of the Gravettian culture is Central Europe is the Late Gravettian, also called Willendorf–Kostenkian or shouldered points horizon, which occupied Eastern Central Europe between 28–24 k.a.CalBP BP (Figure 7).

It has to be remembered that:

  • Shouldered Points (Figure 7) are rather rare during this Phase -2-5% of all finished Artifacts

  • Shouldered Points already appeared earlier in the Central and West European Gravettian

  • Shouldered Points of Moldavia and Kostenki are quite different from the Middle European types

  • Shouldered Points are rarely found in a stratigraphic context

  • Atypical" Shouldered points may often be broken Gravettes

  • Shouldered points may often be preforms for other tools

  • We do not know if "Pièces gibbeuses à dos abattu", are really preforms of Shouldered Points as suggested by some researchers

Figure 7
The Lithics of the Late Gravettian of Central Europe are much more diversified to define them only by one "fossil directeur" -the Shouldered Point- and therefore it may be prudent to abandon the term: Willendorf-Kostenki -Culture.

During the last years other specific artifacts from the Late Gravettian have recognized: "rectangles"-Figure 8; bi-truncated and backed retouched bladelets alongside with bi- ventral truncated bladelets, which are known from Willendorf II/9, Petřkovice and Predmosti in Moravia, Moravani-Novini, and from Area A at Trenčianske Bohuslavice in Slovakia.

A lot of these artifacts are displayed in O. Zaar's Dissertation about the 1980ies excavations of the site, but unfortunately Zaar did not described the different areas separately (see external link).

Bifacial leaf points were known from Predmost since more than 100 years (Zotz and Freund 1951-see external link) resemble those from a late Gravettian context from Area B at Trenčianske Bohuslavice and from Szeletta in Hungary. There is also an increasing number of such characteristic leaf points from surface scatters near Trenčianske.

Near the LGM , small groups of Foragers retreated from the Pavlovian territory to microclimatic more favorable regions in Middle Europe and the Balkans.

Willendorf II/9 is the last emanation of the Gravettian in the Middle Danube Valley. Other emigration events occurred towards Western Slovakia.

The first findings in Slovakia were made during the 1930ies in the Vah-valley near Moravany nad Vahom at Lopata and Banka, Noviny, Podkovica, Banka-Kopanica and Banka-Horné farské role.

Figure 8
Unfortunately most of the material from these early excavations was lost and dispersed by local collectors.

Stratigraphic valid observation were first made by Lothar Zotz, but essentially started not before the 1950ies.

Since the 1930ies the late Gravettian sites (about 50) were plundered by illicit diggings. As a consequence of these confusing conditions valid C-14 data and geo stratigraphic observations often remained unclear.

Consequently new excavation moved to other nearby and "untouched" regions, with better preservation, namely to the the nearby Trencin-region.

The Trenčín Basin is situated in the western part of Slovakia and surrounded by highlands. The most important axis of the Trenčín Basin is the river Váh.

Here late Gravettian scatters are known from Trenčianske Stankovce I-VI, Trenčianska Turná I-IV, Trenčianska Turná-Hámre, Mníchova Lehota I, Trenčianske Bohuslavice and Zamarovce. (Ľubomíra Kaminská 2016)

The most interesting site: Trenčianske Bohuslavice was repeatedly excavated during the last years with convincing results.

First excavations at this mulitilayered site were carried by the doyen of postwar Paleolithic Archaeology in Slovakia J. Barta between 1981-86. He opened three areas A, B, and C. In 1983, area A2, west of area A1 was opened.

Figure 7
A single stratum with sophisticated ("Solutrian-like") Leaf Points was found in Area B only 75 m apart from the other areas, while the other areas revealed Gravettian material.

At this time it was neither possible to establish stratigraphic correlations between the areas nor to produce reliable C-14 dates.

It needed about 35 years to get the whole picture- an astonishing and reliable dated succession of the Late Gravettian in this area with a richness only comperable with Willendorf II and Mitoc - Malu Galben in Moldavia, not included in this post.

The results were recently described by Wilczyński et al. They described 5 layers- which are reviewed here in short from the oldest to the uppermost strata:

B2: ca 35-38 k.a.CalBP: undiagnostic tools, maybe Aurignacian

A2-3: ca 28-30 k.a.CalBP: abundant fauna charcoals and and lithics. Domestic tools made from blades like Scrapers and Burins, Armatures comprise Gravettes and Microgravettes. According to my opinion a Middle Gravettian, but the authors call it Upper Gravettian

A2-2: ca 27-28k.a.CalBP: a rather poor stratum but with Vachons (or "Pavlov") points, Rectangles (Definition see above). The authors call the ensemble a late Gravettian concordant to their own definition

TB1: ca 26-27 k.a.CalBP with some uncertainties. The stratum with the bifacial Leaf Points. Therefore no Szeletian, Bohunician, LIncombian-Ranissian

A2-1: ca 26 k.a. -maybe an initial Epigravettian with no lithic armatures and dominated by domestic tools such as end-scrapers, and burins).

One of the most important Upper Paleolithic open-air sites in Poland is Kraków Spadzista. It yielded Aurignacian, late Gravettian and Epigravettian sites.

For this post it is important that the Gravettian at Kraków Spadzista, layer 6, was a large area where mammoths were killed and dismembered.The fauna is represented mainly by the woolly mammoth and Arctic fox, while other game is rare.

The late Gravettian lithics inventories, date to a time span between 28.6 - 27 k.a. cal BP. (24.5–20.0 k.a. BP). Combined the with extensive taphonomic and serial C-14 analyses it is now suggested that the site was occupied in succession in a number of recurrent episodes of rather short-term duration

The fieldwork led to the discovery of a significant accumulation of mammoth remains and a rich Gravettian stone inventory.

The mammoth bone accumulation was initially interpreted as the remains of dwellings but later detailed analysis of the material disproved this hypothesis.

The lithic inventory is mostly made from local Jurassic flint and characterized by an unusual high number of shouldered points and backed pieces (up to 25% ).

These implements were, according to microtraceologic studies, mainly used as projectiles (Wilczynski 2015).

To be discussed:

The Gravettian technocomplex was present in Europe from more than 30,000 years ago until the Last Glacial Maximum, but the source of this industry and the people who manufactured it remains unsettled.

We use genome-wide analysis of a ~36,000-year-old Eastern European individual (BuranKaya3A) from Buran-Kaya III in Crimea, the earliest documented occurrence of the Gravettian, to investigate relationships between population structures of 26 Upper Paleolithic Europe and the origin and spread of the culture.

We show Buran Kaya 3A to be genetically close to both contemporary occupants of the Eastern European plain and the producers of the classical Gravettian of Central Europe 6,000 years later.

These results support an Eastern European origin of an Early Gravettian industry practiced by members of a distinct population, who contributed ancestry to individuals from much later Gravettian sites to the west
(Bennett et al. 2019)

The stratum Buran Kaya 3A Stratum 6-1, where the human bones of AHMs were found overlies an Aurignacian, which is itself stratified above a Streletskaya stratum, dating around 40 k.a CalBP.

Buran Kaya 3A layer 6-1 is about 31 k.a. old (uncalibrated), which translates into 38-34 k.a. cal BP. These facts would fit to a very early Gravettian or another Pre-Gravettian industry

The sparse Lithics of Layer 6-1 are delicate and microlithic. The retouche of such thin Bladelets is necessarily non "backed" in the common sense but are usually called: "marginal". This features is similar to Industry from Vigne Brun- see 1718 - a classic Gravettian on very thin blades with the same characteristics in "backing".

What is also of interest, that pearls made from Mammoth ivory have the same appearance that can be found in several Gravettian strata of the Swabian Jura

Anyhow, hard diagnostic features for a Gravettian (typical Gravettes, Microgravettes, Flechettes, shouldered points, rectangles…) are missing.

Therefore layer 6-1 could be a very early Gravettian, but it could be something else- for example a laminar Aurignacian or even an Ahmarian-derived industry. The topic remains hot!

Suggested Reading:

Fritz Felgenhauer: Willendorf in der Wachau, Monographie der Paläolith-Funstellen I-VII : Mitteilungen der prähistorischen Kommission der österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, VIII. und IX. Band, 1-3 Wien 1956-1959.

Karel Absolon: Die Erforschung der diluvialen Mammutjäger-Station von Unter-Wisternitz an den Pollauer Bergen in Mähren. Arbeitsbericht über das zweite Jahr 1925. Studien aus dem Gebiet der allgemeinen Karstforschung, der wissenschaftlichen Höhlenkunde, der Eiszeitforschung und den Nachbargebieten, C. Palaeontologische Serie Nr. 6, Brünn 1938.

Bohuslav Klima: Die jungpaläolithischen Mammutjäger-Siedlungen Dolní Vĕstonice und Pavlov in Südmähren – ČSFR. In: Archäologie und Museum. Band 23 (= Berichte aus der Arbeit des Amtes für Museen und Archäologie des Kantons Baselland). Liestal 1991 (zur Ausstellung „Mensch und Mammut“ im Museum im Alten Zeughaus in Liestal).

Marcel Otte, Le Gravettien en Europe Centrale. Vol I and II. Dissertationes Archaeologicae Gandenses 20. De Tempel, Brügge 1981 - a landmark Publikation!- If you see it just buy it- you will not be disappointed.

Marcel Otte er al: Les Gravettiens. Editions Errance 2013.

Philip R. Nigst: The Early Upper Palaeolithic of the Middle Danube Region. Leiden University Press 2012

Martin Oliva (ed.). Sídliště mamutího lidu, u Milovic pod Pálavou: otázka strukturs mamutími kostmi/Milovice, site of the mammoth people below the Pavlov hills: the question of mammoth bone structures (Studies in Anthropology, Palaeoethnology and Quaternary Geology 27, ns 19). Brno 2009.

Martin Oliva: Dolní Věstonice I (1922–1942) Hans Freising – Karel Absolon – Assien Bohmers. Anthropos Studies in Anthropology, Paleoethnology, Palaeonthology and Quaternary Geology Vol. 37/N. S. 29/2014, Moravské zemské muzeum, Brno 2014.

Martin Oliva: Die Kunst des Gravettien/Pavlovien in Mähren. In: Harald Meller, Thomas Puttkammer (Hrsg.): Klimagewalten – Treibende Kraft der Evolution. Theiss-Verlag, Halle (Saale) 2017, S. 338–359.

Jiří Svoboda: Dolní Věstonice II. Chronostratigraphy, Paleoethnology, Paleoanthropology. The Dolní Věstonice Studies, Volume 21/2016. Institute of Archaeology, Brno 2016.

Jiri Swoboda et al. Dolní Vestonice-Pavlov: Explaining Paleolithic Settlements in Central Europe (Peopling of the Americas Publications) 2020.

Jiří Svoboda: Dolní Věstonice II. Chronostratigraphy, Paleoethnology, Paleoanthropology. The Dolní Věstonice Studies, Volume 21/2016 Brno.

Jiří Svoboda: Pavlov I Southeast – A Window Into the Gravettin Lifestyles. (= The Dolní Věstonice Studies Vol. 14). Brno 2005.

Vladimir Slasek, Eric Trinkaus, Simon W. Hillson, Trenton W. Holliday: The people of the Pavlovian – Skeletal Catalogue and Osteometrics of the Gravettian Fossil Hominids from Dolní Věstonice and Pavlov. (= The Dolní Věstonice Studies Vol. 5). Brno 2000.

Jiří Svoboda: Pavlov I Northwest – The upper paleolithic burial and its settlement context. (= The Dolní Věstonice Studies Vol. 4). Brno 1997.

Jiří Svoboda: Pavlov I – Excavations 1952–1953. (= The Dolní Věstonice Studies Vol. 2). Liège 1994.

Resources and images in full resolution:

2020-07-10 16:58:51   •   ID: 2187

Crossing the Strait of Gibraltar by early Humans?

Figure 1
Figure 1 shows a LCT-Cleaver made from from Quartzite and Figure 2 and 3 show two Acheulian Handaxes made from Quartzite and Basalt, found together in S-Spain / Iberian Peninsula in 1932, by F Sanchez, an Amateur collector of Stone Tools.

LCTs appears early in the East African Acheulian. At Konso (Ethipoia), the early Acheulean technology includes both large cutting tools (handaxes, cleavers, and knives) and heavy-duty tools (picks and core-axes) that are bifacially or unifacially worked appeared, radioisotopically dated, at 1,75 k.a.

Figure 4 shows a heavy Acheulian East African Clevaer from Olorgesailie- see: 1247

It has to be mentioned that the production of LTCs in Europe is a quasi unique feature of the Iberian Acheulian, compared to sites in N/W-Europe- where Cleavers are rare although not totally absent -see here: 2017 .

About Giant Cores and Large Cutting tools see here: 1003 and here 1173 .

Lets add a statement by G. Shanon, an expert in the definition and techno-typological evaluation of the LTC-penomenon:

"Acheulian industries in which the production of large flakes from giant cores was the primary technology for blank procurement are known from all parts of Africa, the Iberian Peninsula, the Levant (represented by only one site, GBY), the Caucasus, and as far as east India.

The other main indicator of these large- flake Acheulian industries is the presence of significant numbers of cleavers in their assemblages.

Figure 2
While it is impossible, in the current state of research, to define the chronological end of the large-flake Acheulian industries in Africa and India, it is evident that in the Levant none of the Acheulian sites that postdate GBY (at 790,000 years BP) can be classified as belonging to the large-flake Acheulian tradition.

The same chronological frame holds true for all Acheulian sites in Europe north of the Pyrenees. None of the sites in this region show evidence of the production of large flakes as their primary blank technology, nor are cleavers present in any significant numbers
(Sharon 2010).

Typically Iberian LCT ensembles, if absolute dates are available, belong to the Middle Pleistocene and are therefore much later, than the invention of this technique in Africa which already occured during the Early Pleistocene.

But the latest LCTs were still in use in Africa, and Arabia when they finally appeared in Iberia (for example at Casablanca and more important at Sidi Zin near Kef in north-western Tunisia- see 1578 . Unfortunately we have no absolute dates for the latter site.

LCTs are also a component of the South African Fauresmith Industry (400-200 k.a. BP) - see 2197 .

Of importance is the stratified Acheulean site at Saffaqah, situated in the Dawadmi region of the Nejd plateau, offering a very late Acheulian on the Arabian Peninsula with an abundance of LCTs dated to ca. 190 k.a. - currently the youngest documented Acheulean in Southwest Asia.

How should we interpret these facts?

  • as a convergence phenomenon in regions where large cobbles or blocks of suitable raw material were common?

  • as a longstanding tradition, beginning in Africa followed by a late technological transfer to Europe through one of the known Afro-European corridors?

Figure 3
One possible transcontinental connection between Eurasia and Africa is beside the Levantine corridor and the Bab al- Mandeb Strait, the The Strait of Gibraltar.

It is a narrow strait that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and separates Gibraltar and Peninsular Spain in Europe from Morocco in Africa.

Today the two continents are separated by 14.3 kilometers of ocean at the Strait's narrowest point.

The Strait's depth ranges between 300 and 900 meters which possibly interacted with the lower mean sea level during Pleistocene glacial conditions when the level of the sea is believed to have been lower by 110–180 meters.

Modeling a fall in sea level of about 150 meters indicates the emergence of several islands which would reduce the distance between Africa and Europe to 5+2 km.

During the early Pleistocene, Important falls in sea levels occurred at 2,4 and 1,6 mya. According to Robers (1992), the fall in sea level could have reached c 160m. Interestingly these two events coincided with faunal changes in Europe.

Figure 4
Other events occured during the Middle Pleistocene and during the last Glacial (especially during the LGM).

Here I discuss the hypothesis, that the production of LCTs was indeed not a convergence phenomenon but a longstanding tradition.

I my view there are some evidence that there was probably a technological transfer between N- Africa and Iberia via the Strait of Gibraltar during low sea levels.

This happened in analogy to the „island hopping“ of premodern humans to the island of Flores (Java), which was never connected with the Asian mainland. Notably, Human dispersal to Flores across a considerable marine barrier has been proven as early as 880 k.a. ago.

  • Geographically, Cleavers in possible corridors between the Near East / Arabia and Iberia are virtually absent

  • the specific and sophisticated chaine operatoire of cleavers virtually excludes a convergent evolution during different times and places

  • Beside LCT-Acheulian finds from middle Pleistocene terraces (+40−20 m) of the large Iberian rivers, dated between MIS 11 to MIS 7/6, at least one in-situ site with large accumulations of LCT is known from Spain and exhibits specific African signatures

This site is Porto Maior in the Galicia Province.

At this site lithic tool-bearing deposits date back to 293–205 k.a. Beside Handaxes, Flake Cleavers resembling their African counterparts both in large size, density of deposition and Typology almost exactly resemble their African Counterparts.

Most of the artifacts are in primary position and dated by several methods to 293–205 k.a. This dates are not only interesting regarding a possible African origin of he LCT ensemble, but also to the fact that an early Middle Paleolithic was also present in parts of Iberia at the same time-span.

2020-06-28 11:13:55   •   ID: 2186

The last Pre- Leptolithic industries in N-Africa

Figure 1
Figure 1: These are three tanged Points from the Murzuq Sand Sea in southwest Libya, already introduced in this Blog- see here: 1030 , here: 2032 and here 1751 .

While the first point on the left (Figure 1 and 2) is certainly a typical elongated Aterian Point made from a thick blade, the last point on the right (Figure 1 and 4) is an Epipaleolithic Onounian Point with a characteristic design.

The central Point (Figure 1 and 3)is a sophisticated convergent blade-tanged point from the "Aterian". Such a suggestive seriation of surface findings could easily taken as an indicator of continuity in the settlement of the Murzuq if there were not good reasons to reject such an assumption.

The most important arguments against such an outdated typological evolution are the temporal distance between Aterian and Ounanian points of at least 15 k.a. and the hyper-arid conditions during the late Pleistocene, making continuous settlement in the Murzuq nearly impossible.

Tanged MSA-Points in the Murzuq sometimes showed a bifacial retouche (Figure 4) or were associated with triangular points without any tang, similar to European Mousterian points and East African unifacial points (Figure 5).

Figure 2
The Motto of this post comes from Edouard Piette (1827- 1906). He was an eminent French Prehistorian, who published the influential paper: Hiatus et Lacune. Vestiges de la période de transition dans la grotte du Mas d'Azil, 1894.

During Piette's time, it was suggested by many influential Prehistorians, that the last "Magdalenians" left Western Europe, following the reindeer herds to the Nord- East. Europe would have been depopulated after the Pleistocene and only repopulated during the Neolithic.

Figure 3
Piette at Mas d Azil and others, who worked on the stratigraphical position of microlithic industries (for example at Fère-en-Tardenois, excavated by E. Tarte in 1885) subsequently proved, that on the contrary, local populations of Western Europe adapted to the new environments instead of emigrating from the Continent- in other words a Hiatus (a gap) in the Archeological record did not exist.

The Azilian and Mesolithic became the technocomplexes who filled the Gap.

The question of continuity / discontinuity of human settlement after marked ecological or sociological changes is debated even today for certain regions, especially North Africa and the adjacent Sahara.

Is there any evidence that the late MSA in N-Africa evolved continuously to Upper Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic industries, maybe triggered by a major stimulus from other regions- or -on the contrary- are there indications for a marked discontinuity in settlement, because N-Africa was inhabitable during this time?

Historically the MSA (“Mousterian” for Researchers adhering the French traditions) in N-Africa has been split into several entities, those boundaries are less clear, than usually suggested (Mousterian, MSA, Nubian Complex, Aterian, Denticulated Mousterian, Mousterian with Bifaces....).

Figure 4
It has to be mentioned that the socio-economic significance of these Industries“ remains largely unclear.

Here I focus on late -MIS4/3 (69-29 k.a.) late MSA and earliest Post-MSA ensembles of the Maghreb , Lybia and the Western and Central Sahara.

Irrespectively their historical designation MSA "entities" are characterized by:

  • The use of prepared core technique (Different modes of Levallois Production, Discoid and Blade orientated techniques

  • Differences in secondary blank modifications (Scrapers, Notches, Denticulates, Crescents, Unifacial Points

  • The occasional focus on Bifacial Techniques, such as Bifacial Foliates, Cordiform Handaxes

  • The Presence / Absence of Tangs

After the Flourishing of MSA / Aterian industries during MIS 5, during MIS4 the days of the “Green Sahara” were definitively over - but isolated habitable ecological niches remained, probably sustained by the continued presence of fresh water via underground aquifers.

At Uan Tabu in Libya, Aterian sites with a strong Levallois component and blade production were dated to the End of MIS4.

At Haua Fteah, a large karstic cave located in the Cyrenaica in northeastern Libya a Levalloiso-Mousterian has been dated ( TL, ESR) between 73 and 65 k.a. at the 95.4% confidence level, within MIS4.

However, during MIS 3 occupation associated with MSA material was again evident across all areas of the Maghreb and some adjacent areas.

Figure 3
What were the last Pre- Leptolithic industries in N-Africa?

Aterian sites, reliable dated in the Jebel Gharbi may have lasted from c 70-30k.a. and are among the youngest MSA sites known- at a timeframe, the Taramsan evolved in the Nil Valley and the IUP was already present in the Levant.

Just a few dated late Middle Paleolithic / MSA Sites are known from N- Africa: Wadi Noun in southern Morocco, was dated to ~31 k.a. Some uncertainties exist with a Middle Paleolithic, dating to c 26 k.a. at Sidi Saïd in Tunisia.

Barton et al. recently show that an MSA non- Levallois flake industry ( in my opinion Quina-like) was present until 24.5 k.a. Cal BP at Taforalt Cave, Morocco. This occupation was followed by a gap (which was followed by a Iberomaurusian industry from at least 21,1 k.a. Cal BP.

Overall there is currently no evidence for a typo-technological continuity between the MSA and Early Upper (leptolithic) Industries.

Figure 4
The first Initial Upper Paleolithic of N-Africa is known from the famous Haua Fteah cave in the Cyrenaica.

This Industry is the Dabban industry which dates to ca. 43–40 k.a. BP, below the Campanian Ignimbrite tephra which has occurred ca. 39 k.a. BP. The Dabban has some similarities to the Emiran of the Levant and may be more part of the Levantine interaction sphere than part of the N-African world.

The Iberomaurusian is the first widespread fully Upper Paleolithic (Blade and Bladelet) industry found on the coastal zone of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.

The Iberomaurusian seems to have appeared around the time of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), somewhere between c. 25 and 22 BP or during the following Heinrich Event I 19-14.6 BP and would have lasted until c. 11 k.a. cal BP.

The mosaic like lithic traditions in N-Africa, all made by H. Sapiens are impressive and contradictory to a simple linear thinking in Paleolithic Prehistory- see 1637

Suggested Reading

Far the Best about the theme: Africa from MIS 6-2: Population Dynamics and Paleoenvironments (Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology) | Sacha C. Jones, Brian A. Stewart, 2016

Aumassip, Ginette. Préhistoire du Sahara et de ses abords . Editions L'Harmattan-Tome 1 et 2; 2019

2020-06-18 18:02:41   •   ID: 2185

MSA Foliate from the Ténéré

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This is a 10,3 cm long Bifacial Foliate, made fom fine grained Basalt, found decennia ago 150 km East of the Termit Massiv / Niger in the southeastern Ténéré near the Oasis Agadem.

The overall design and the raw material speak against a Neolithic implement in favour of a bifacial MSA-point.

The Ténéré is a desert region in the south central Sahara. It comprises a vast plain of sand stretching from northeastern Niger into western Chad, occupying an area of over 400000 square km.

The Ténéré's boundaries are the Aïr Mountains in the west, the Hoggar Mountains in the north, the Djado Plateau in the northeast, the Tibesti Mountains in the east, and the basin of Lake Chad in the south.

Oasis Agadem: The designation "oasis" may a little bit euphemistic, as I was told by People who visited this place during the last years. The last scientific expedition took place by the 1th Mission Beliet in 1959.

Today the Agadem depression as well as the plateaus of Homodji and Tcheni Tchasi are characterized by deeply fissured sandstone, which is iron crusted in its upper parts.

Since the 1970ies it is evidenced by geomorphological research and remote sensing, that during the early Holocene, and even earlier, during the Middle Pleistocene, Lakes up to 40 m deep formed in presently dessert areas of Niger, near Agadem, Bilma and Fachi.

This is known as the "Green Sahara" phenomena, already introduced into the Blog- see for example here: 1368 .

The find-spot of our artifact is located in ithe Periphery both of Pleistocene Megalake Chad and a dense network of Rivers connected with this megalake and the Seresti Tibesti River drainage.

Therefore people lived within a favorable environment during MIS5 or even earlier in the Middle Pleistocene (see last external Link- Page 7).

Lake Chad, with a present mean depth of about 4m, then stood 38 m above its present level; at that time it covered an area the size of the United Kingdom and reached a maximum depth of about 340 m in the Bodele depression in the northeast. Indeed, Mega Chad was the biggest freshwater lake on earth.

Figure 4
Figure 4 displays the Geographic localisation of the Oasis Agadem (© 2020 NASA; Terrametrics - Kartendaten © 2020 Google).

Bifacial Foliates in the Southern Niger could be Part of two "Entities"- The Lupemban and the Aterian - see here: 2024 , here 1273 , here 1052 and here: 1272 .

During wet periods in this region, there could have been a population inflow both from the Tibesti ("Aterian Interaction sphere") or Megalake Chad ( "Lupemban Interaction sphere").

Both industries show a spectrum of Innovations, compared with the ESA (Hafting, Use of Ochre, pressure flaking, blades, composite tools and evidence of symbolic expression..)

The Aterian is found over a vast area-from Morocco to Egypt and as far south as the Sahel. The Aterian of the Central Sahara, usually defined as a Middle Paleolithic with Levallois and Discoid traits including tanged Points and Bifacial Foliates is present in the region of Southern Libya and Algeria, the Northern Niger and Chad.

Aterian ensembles are present from MIS6 (about 190-130 k.a.) to MIS3 (about 59-29 k.a.). While the timing of its beginnings is now rather clear, the timing of its end is ambiguous and may be as late as 30 k.a. in remote areas.

The most southern Lanceolate bifaces of the Central Sahara in an Aterian context were found at Adrar Bous / Niger, ca 600 km North-West from Agadem. They clearly bear similarities to those of the Lupemban technocomplex of Central Africa (Clark 1993).

In Clarks view, the Aterian landscape at Adrar Bous included both habitation sites and work camp locations, while another Aterian scatter was thought to have been a hunters' lookout (Clark 1993).
Figure 5

Another Aterian site was documented by Tillet at Seggedim, N/E-Niger. Tillet excavated one larger central zone and two smaller sites in the vicinity.

The central Zone, 7 m in diameter represented a clearly confined area with about 5600 lithics. Similar findings were present in the smaller sites.

Beside denticulates and scrapers, tanged pieces and some foliates were present. One particularity of the Aterian in the Central Sahara are intentionally perforated lithics.

At Seggedim they were found on Levallois debitage- maybe an early case of Symbolism.

The central site was interpreted as a knappers camp, with debitage from Levallois and Discoid operational sequences.

The lithics were found near a raw material outcrop, used either over a long period or repeatedly on a number of occasions (Tillet 1985).

The Lupemban of Central Africa and the Eastern Lowlands is dated roughly between 400-150 k.a BP.

It can be identified on the basis of relatively small parallel sided core axes and bifacial foliates and lanceolates, often combined with a blade element and Levallois flake tools.

Figure 6
At Twin Rivers and Kalambo Falls there is the first African indication for backed tool technology, suggestive for hafting these artifacts.

JD Clark suggested these heavy-duty tools were good for wood-working, based on association of Kalambo Falls site in Zambia with deciduous woodland, and preserved wood at site.

However, a number of other sites, such as those excavated by McBrearty in Kenya and at Sai 8-B-11 were clearly occupied by open grassland or savannas.

At Sai 8-B-11 in northern Sudan the two lowermost strata can be attributed to the Sangoan because of the presence of core-axes and distinctive flake reduction strategies.

Given the evidence of systematic blade production and the presence of a lanceolate in addition to small and regular core-axes, the upper assemblage of this sequence is qualified as Lupemban.

This ensemble is overlain by dune sands dating to around 152 k.a. It is suggested, that this ensemble marks the beginning of the MSA in the Nil valley, which is later evolving towards the “Nubian -MSA”, during OIS6/5.

A Lupemban industry also occurs at the site of Taramsa 1, located on the west bank of the Nile in Upper Egypt, where it dates to 165 k.a.

At the nearby site of Taramsa 8 this industry predates the Last Interglacial pedogenesis.

There are certainly West African outposts of Lupemban-like industries near the Niger, which can currently not sufficiently described in terms of absolute dating and site integrity.

The Lupemban, and the MSA in West Africa in general is understudied, for a variety of reasons.

The few absolute dates interestingly show a broad overlap between the end of the MSA and later quartz based LSA industries.

Numerous undated Stone Age sites, described as Sangoan and Lupemban, were, for example, detected in the southern regions of Cameroon, one gateway to the Mali and Niger regions by Allsworth Jones during the 1980ies. Similar sites have also been recorded from Nigeria, the Ivory coast and Ghana.

The bifacial foliates of these industries do not show the "Gigantism", known from Central Africa and principally resemble the artifact shown in this post.

Ounjougou is the most important stratified site in West Africa located in the Dogon country (Mali). Soriano et al. described MSA artifacts from Levallois and Discoid cores over a stratigraphical succession of 30 levels, dated between MIS 6 (ca 150 k.a.) and as late as MIS 2.

Artifacts were especially rich in MIS3 layers. Bifacial foliates < 10 cm were present during MIS3 but also during MIS2 at ca 25 k.a.- a rather late time-point for an MSA-technology indeed! - but not as rare as thought 20 years ago - see here: 1637 ,...

Suggested Reading:

Sacha C. Jones, Brian A. Stewart (Ed.): Africa from MIS 6-2: Population Dynamics and Paleoenvironments (Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology).

The most interesting book about the African MSA Record published during the last years