Mutzig and the Middle Paleolithic of the Alsace

 

mutzig

This is one of the very few bifacial artifacts found near a Mousterian site at Mutzig (Bas-Rhin, Alsace; France).

The Middle Palaeolithic along the Upper Rhine is very poorly known, although it is relatively well documented in the adjacent French and German regions. The discovery of several open air Neanderthal camps (dated to MIS 3) at Mutzig (Bas-Rhin, Alsace; France) offers a fresh look at the first prehistoric populations in this region.

Upper Pleistocene Paleontological material near Mutzig was first observed during railway operations in 1927. First discoveries of a Middle Paleolithic were communicated during the 1990ies, followed by rescue excavations at several localities. Up to now, nine sites attributed to the Middle Palaeolithic were discovered at the base of a cliff overlooking the Bruche Valley at Mutzig.

Since 2009, systematic excavations have been carried out by the Pôle d’Archéologie Interdépartemental Rhénan (PAIR), the Universities of Strasbourg, Basel, Cologne, and Lille and the Museum of Natural History of Paris. These field seasons confirm an excellent preservation of the archaeological record, placing the value of the site at a European level since abundant lithic and faunal assemblages, and perhaps spatial organization, have been detected.

Several multilayered sites with very similar lithic inventories and faunal remains have been excavated till now.  About 30 different raw materials that were used for artifact production have been identified. Neanderthals that inhabited the valley during the Middle Paleolithic period used volcanic and volcanogenic siliceous Paleozoic rocks, or slickenside and metamorphic rocks of the Vosgean sandstone.

At Mutzig the Discoidal technique was best adapted for the knapping of the raw material. Most important formal artifacts were scrapers, double convergent scrapers, choppers,  and naturally backed knifes.  The Levallois technique is attested, but was not widely used, maybe because not adequate for raw materials that were used.  Neanderthals in the Bruche valley hunted game mainly reindeer and horse, also Mammoth, buffalo, aurochs, saïga antelope, megaloceros (giant deer), stag, roe-deer, fox, and wolf.

Suggested Reading:

http://scd-theses.u-strasbg.fr/1098/02/REBMANN2005.pdf

 

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Bout-coupé Handaxes and Neanderthals in N/W-France and Britain

bout coupet aggsbach 1

Britain during MIS3 was well-stocked but treeless grassland, with short, cool summers and long, cold winters marked by blasting winds, frozen ground and persistent snow. This is what Neanderthals apparently faced as they headed northwest from their more southerly glacial refugia during MIS4/3. Often referred to as a failed interglacial, MIS3 was actually a period of extreme climatic instability, with dramatic alternations between milder and colder conditions at millennial or sub-millennial timescales (Dansgaard – Oeschger oscillations).

Throughout MIS3 period, direct terrestrial access from continental N/W-Europe into Britain was practicable. Although global ice volume was reduced from its MIS4 maximum, land ice probably limited to local ice-caps, sea level was still some 80m lower than present. This was sufficient for Britain to remain a peninsula of NW Europe. Mainland Britain was at this time an „upland‟ zone on the western fringe of the North European Plain, part of the region sometimes referred to as Western Doggerland. This was bounded on the south and east by extensive, resource rich lowland basins (i.e. the present North Sea and Channel) into which several major British and European river systems would have drained, some joining the westward-flowing Channel River en route to the Atlantic, others flowing north into a greatly reduced North Sea.

The Late Middle Paleolithic during early MIS 3 in Britain was characterized by a particular form of handaxe. Bout coupé handaxes are defined as being roughly symmetrical, cordiform handaxes with a straight or slightly convex butt and two clear angles formed at the intersection of the butt and lateral margins (White and Jacobi 2002). The Bout coupé clearly falls outside of the Acheulean range of handaxes and exhibits a strong element of prepared non-Levallois core technique, with well-made flake tools. Most, if not all of these handaxes appear within distinct temporal and spatial limits (ca. 60- 40k.a.BP, early MIS3). The bout coupé handaxe is geographically restricted to Britain and some sites in Northern France, and forms a large part of Mousterian-age assemblages in Britain.

The majority of bout coupé handaxes of S/W-Britain are isolated and/ or surface finds, and give a good idea of the spread of the Mousterian over Britain after a period of clear depopulation, indicating a rather wide, but low- density, distribution, including both cave sites. Bout coupé handaxes have been recovered from over 145 find spots spread over Britain, from Devon to Derbyshire. The open- air site of Lynford was discovered in 2002 and provides the largest and best contextualized Late Middle Palaeolithic site in Britain. It has been assigned to the MTA because of the presence of a numerous cordiform handaxes, including bout coupé types.

Ruebens, using a techno-typological approach demonstrated that Bifaces from the late Middle Paleolithic of Britannia “are highly mobile, dynamic objects, even in situations of local raw material abundance. They show clear evidence of their conservation by Neanderthals, with extended use-lives, and very dislocated reduction sequences, especially for translucent flint bifaces transported to other regions. However, even in flint-rich regions, bifaces were maintained and repaired, transformed after breaks by re-modelling or recycled as cores, and treated as adaptable supports for other tool forms”.

The Handaxe shown here is a small and heavily reworked example of a Bout coupé (5 x 4 x 1,2 cm) from Le Bois-l’Abbé at Saint-Julien de la Liègue a commune in the Eure department in Haute-Normandie in northern France. This site is dated by geochronological arguments between MIS5 to MIS3. Clinquet (2001) originally called the industry at Saint-Julien de la Liègue and some other sites in the Normandy and Northern France (Bois-du-Rocher, Fontmaure, Saint-Julien de la Liègue, Muret, and Clos-Rouge): the “Moustérien à petits bifaces dominants”.  Most handaxes from these sites are cordiform, but the Bout coupé variety has been repeatedly observed in larger ensembles. This handaxe type may be a signature of a certain technological unity of late Neanderthals on both sides of the channel during MIS3.

Suggested Reading:

http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/19299/1/19299.pdf

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications/neanderthals-among-mammoths/neanderthals-among-mammoths.pdf

http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/367133/

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Before Boucher de Perthes: Casimir Picard at the Somme

 

amiens katzman somme neolithique

The Somme is a river in Picardy, northern France. The name Somme comes from a Celtic word meaning “tranquility”.  The river is 245 km long, from its source in the high ground of the former Forest of Arrouaise at Fonsommes near Saint-Quentin, to the Bay of the Somme, in the English Channel. It lies in the geological syncline which also forms the Solent. This gives it a fairly constant and gentle gradient.

The Quaternary formations of the Somme, Seine and Yonne river valleys have long been studied because of their rich Palaeolithic localities. These valleys played an important role in the emergence of prehistoric archaeology in France and in the development of the research on the Quaternary sequences, especially in the case of the Somme (http://www.aggsbach.de/2011/01/handaxe-from-the-somme-valley/).

The Somme is incised into Upper Cretaceous chalk, and the richness in flint of these strata has likely influenced the number of Palaeolithic sites that characterizes the region around Amens and Abbeville.

This is a flat 28 cm long Neolithic axe from the Somme, formerly part of the collection of Casimir Picard (1806-1840), a physician from Abbeville, who- like many physician at this time-had a strong antiquarian interests and a passion for  natural history.

In 1837, Picard conducted highly detailed and rigorous studies of the stratigraphy of the lower Somme river valley; some of these sites of the region of Abbeville would become, after his premature death in 1844 (he succumbed to pneumonia at the age of 34), the sites of renewed research by Boucher de Perthes.

It was Picard, and not Boucher de Parthes, who claimed for the first time, that stone tools and an extinct fauna in the Somme valley were contemporaneou but as an early 19th century antiquarian, he also thought the flint artifacts found in the gravels belonged to the ancient Gauls. He had no idea about the real time depth of such findings.

Picard was a  empiricist who believed that a scientific antiquarian must first gain a detailed knowledge of the intrinsic makeup of artefacts themselves before becoming overly concerned about their possible culture-historical significance. In the few short years left to him, Picard worked out the basics of lithic technology, among other things how blade and flake tool blanks are detached from prepared cores; and, equally important, how chipped stone tools such as handaxes differed fundamentally from the polished axes that are nowadays dated to the Neolithic and later prehistoric times. He may have been the first to recognize clearly that Paleolithic handaxes do not simply represent roughed-out tool blanks destined to be converted into the polished forms. Anyhow it is not clear how far he came to suspect that the two different classes are not only simply functionally different but could represent different stages in the archaeological record.

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Wādi el ʿAmud

Nahal_Amud_panorama_(cylindrical,_90_deg._width)

 This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

This post will show several handaxes from a late Acheulian or Acheulo-Yabroudian context from the Wadi Amud (Wādi el ʿAmud) in N-Israel and two mousterian artifacts from the same area.

The human use of caves has its origins as far back as million years ago, when early humans began to use them as seasonal camp sites. At about 500 k.a. the use of caves by these small groups of hunter-gatherers became a widespread phenomenon in Africa and Eurasia. In Israel alone (at an area of 8,800 km2) there are about 40 prehistoric caves, dated between 500and 50k.a. Because the number of caves on the landscape is much higher than the number of caves used by our ancestors, it is assumed that the preference of particular caves within a group’s geographic territory involved a system of decision-making based on selection criteria.

israelWadi Amud drains an area of 124 km2 of the Upper Galilee. The channel drops some 1,400 m from an elevation of 1,200 m above msl at its origins at Mt. Meron, to 200 m below msl at its outlet, at the Sea of Galilee, over an aerial distance of 15 km. The climate at lower Wadi Amud is Mediterranean semi-arid, with 450 mm annual rainfall. The direction of the flow and the configuration of the channel are a phenomenon of the last ~2 myr, and were formed as a result of channel capture due to tectonic activity in the Rift Valley. The geographical structure of the middle and lower part of the stream consists of two geological formations (Timrat and Bar-Kokhba Fms.) of Eocene limestone. The Bar-Kokhba Fm. forms cliffs and canyon morphology, while the underlying Timrat Fm. appears as moderate slopes. The meteoric water draining eastward over the steep gradient incised a deep canyon through the hard limestone, exposing a large number of karstic voids. One hundred and twenty caves and rock shelters are known. Most are phreatic voids that developed along tectonic fissures. Ninety percent of the caves and rock shelters are within the massive limestone cliffs of Bar Kokhba Fm, while less than ten percent are within the well-bedded limestone slopes of Timrat Fm. The latter caves are also much smaller.

israel3Several surveys in the Wadi Amud identified important characteristics of Paleolithic caves sites, that are assumed to represent the preferences of early humans regarding to cave-site selection:

  • Large-medium caves (but not rock shelters).
  • A cave with morphology of one main hall, which has a large entrance. That hall is well ventilated and well illuminated.
  • A cave that is relatively easy to approach.
  • The cave is located within a distance of daily walk from a large valley and large body of water.

All known prehistoric cave sites in Wadi Amud are within the distance of 5 km walk from the fertile Ginosar valley. It has been recognized that there are no Paleolithic cave sites in the mountainous Upper Galilee. It is possible that hominins looked for caves that were located at the openings of Wadis, since this localities are ecotones, where both hilly/mountainous and valley habitats can be approached on a daily basis. The same notion applies to all of the Paleolithic cave sites of the Carmel Mountain.

The use of large caves which are relatively easy to access, along with the typical archaeological finds in those caves, support the hypothesis that each cave was used by a band of several tens of hominins. The cave selection was with preference for proximity to divers habitats, from where a verity of food resources and raw materials were brought to the cave and there they were processed and consumed.

The caves of Wadi Amud were the subject of the first prehistoric excavations in what is now Israel, and their copious results encouraged further research. F. Turville-Petre excavated the caves of Emireh and Zuttiyeh in 1925-26. Later, S. Binford dug in the cave of Shovakh (Subbabiq), and the Tokyo University Expedition, directed by H. Suzuki and F. Takai, excavated in the Amud Cave. An additional cave (AmE-15) containing Paleolithic material was surveyed recently.

The Zuttiyeh Cave is situated 0.8 km from the Wadi Amud outlet, approximately 30 m above the Wadi bed (148 m below sea level). It is a large chamber 20 m long and 12 to 18 m wide. The entrance is 10 m high and 13 m wide and faces west. During the 1920ies,  F. Turville-Petre removed 550 m3 of sediments mainly from inside the cave. The stratigraphy described in his report is as follows:

  • Layers of ashes from historical periods confirmed by the presence of Early Bronze sherds.
  • 1.20-2.10 m. Layer of calcareous blocks originating from rockfalls which covered a Layer of fine reddish sediment with numerous Palaeolithic artefacts as well as many bones. This layer contained artifacts from an Acheulo-Yabroudian and Levallois-Mousterian.

israel katzmBelow the Palaeolithic layer, remains of a human skull (“Galilei man”) were uncovered and thought to be associated with an “Mousterian” (sensu-lato; the “Yabroudian” was not defined as an entity at this time).  This fragmentary skull was initially identified as Neanderthal by Keith.

Later excavations showed a complex stratigraphy which was overlooked by the original excavator. It seems that what can be defined as a Levallois Mousterian industry is found in the top part of the reconstructed sequence. The Acheulian-Yabroudian was recognized below the Mousterian and therefore the stratigraphic situation is similar to Yabrud Rockshelter and Tabun and Bezez B. Given that the age of “Galilei man” is estimated on the basis of its association with Yabroudian industry, it should be considered to be older than previously presumed (200-400 k.a.).

Amud cave is located at the top of a steep cliff in the narrow confines of the Nahal Amud northwest of the Sea of Galilee. Two research campaigns using up to date methods have taken place at Amud, the first between 1961 and 1964, the second between 1991 and 1996. Excavations in the principal Mousterian Stratum, Level B, have recovered numerous Neanderthal remains. The paleoanthropological material from Amud Cave consists of the fragmentary remains of a male Neanderthal along with 15 other specimens two-thirds of which are children or infants. This material has been dated by TL to approximately 45-47 k.a. Amud 1 is the most complete specimen consisting of just about the entire cranium with most of the postcrania present. This individual was a male – died in his mid-20 – was approximately 174 cm tall and has the largest cranial capacity of any Levant hominid at 1740 cc.

In 1991 a joint Israeli and American expedition began new excavations. The following year workers uncovered the partial skeleton of an 8- to 10-month-old Neanderthal baby (Amud 7), upon whose pelvis had been placed the maxilla of a red deer, apparently as a burial rite. Further evidence of Neanderthal habitation and Mousterian tool making were revealed, including flaked blades and points as well as deer, cattle, horse, pig, and fox remains.

amud valley aggsbachAlthough the use of recurrent convergent unipolar Levallois flaking, characteristic for many late Levallois-Mousterian ensembles in the Levant is well attested at Amud also, none of the Amud lithic assemblages falls indisputably into the parameters of the “Tabun B” variant. For example, the production of Levallois points is not as monotonous and standardized as at Tabun B and there much more elongated Levallois points, than usually seen in the late Mousterian in the Carmel caves (Tabun Layer B; Kebara). Such observations undermine the use of Tabun as a techno-chronological unilinear scale for the Levantine Middle Paleolithic and argue, that site specific (“cultural”) solutions were common within a wider (and maybe generally accepted)  reference frame.

The Mugharet el-Emireh consists of three small caves, where F. Turville-Petre excavated an ensemble, which he insisted to come from one single archeological level.   The artifacts were later described in detail by Garrod which used the site as the “Type-Station of the Emiran”. Nevertheless other ensembles defined as Emirian from later excavations, notably those of Ksar Akil and Boker Tachtit show more homogeneity. Contrary to the Emireh material they are not characterized by El Wad points. I personally suggest that the “type-ensemble” at Emireh is rather a mixing between an Initial Early Upper Paleolithic and an Ahmarian.

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Middle Paleolithic Points and the Principle of Elongation

mousterian point aggsbachThese are two elongated Mousterian Points on non-Levallois blades from the Calvados of unknown age. Non-Levallois and Levallois based Elongated Mousterian points, similar to those displayed her, were infrequent found during several Middle Paleolithic technocomplexes of France (mainly from OIS5-3  e.g. Goderville, Oissel, Bihoherel, Houppeville, Saint-Just-en-Chaussée) and the Netherlands at the Maastricht Belvedere K-site some 250000 years old (OIS 7). I personally know several very similar artifacts from the Italian Mousterian (OIS5-3). They also play a certain role in the Zagros Mousterian and the better dated Western Crimean Mousterian (WCM) industry from the Prut and Dniester and the Crimean Peninsula (OIS 5-3), which was defined on the assemblages of Unit II of the Western Crimean site Kabazi II. Aside from Kabazi II, with its important archeological sequence, it is known from three further stratified sites: Shaitan-Koba, Karabi Tamchin and Kabazi V.

Overall such points cannot be confined to a certain geographical place and period within a large time frame between OIS8-3 (the lower travertine at Weimar-Ehringsdorf is another good example, most probably from OIS7): http://zs.thulb.uni jena.de/servlets/MCRFileNodeServlet/jportal_derivate_00230982/TLA_1961_Bd04_01.pdf

Gowlett recently published an interesting article about elongation as a principle of improving certain qualities of artifacts: http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org). The principle of elongation was for several times and at several places established during prehistory by using elongated flakes/blades for the production of stone tools or by the production of leaf points.

 “In general, across Upper and Middle Palaeolithic industries, it stands out that the elongation in stone artefacts was desired for more than one purpose. In both projectile points and hand points, it appears to have a strong link with hafting, which obviously entails the cognitive abilities to combine materials, and probably knowledge of glue and/or twine, the latter clearly a prerequisite for bows. In the case of hand tools, elongation might relate to specific tasks, such as butchery or other cutting with need for a long edge. In the case of projectiles, the need for elongation is fundamental to their effective projection”

Talking about elongation must rewiew the traces of systematical blade production before the Upper Paleolithic:

Africa / Asia: Five sites of the Kapthurin Formation in East Africa and the Kathu Pan 1 site in South Africa contained blade-like components that have been dated to about 500 k.a. The Kapthurin group appears to be not related to the Levallois methods, since blades in series were manufactured using a unidirectional or centripetal method from a convex flaking surface. This surface was created by the intersection of two or more planes and appears to be similar to the Hummalian technique, as described by Boëda (1995). The first blade was detached from either the long natural edge or from an edge of a core that was only lightly prepared; the next few blades were then removed continuously.

On the Kathu Pan 1 site, blades were struck from a single platform, or more often two platforms; the cores appear to have been prepared and maintained by employing centripetal flaking. The assemblage seems to be related to Levallois, as defined by Boëda. These descriptions indicate the diversity of blade production in eastern and southern Africa. The various kinds seem to have been clearly distinct in a technological sense but related in their chronology.

Another African site showing blade elements, Haua Fteah in Libya, was characterized as “an archaic Leptolithic industry with virtual absence of Levalloisian traits’’ (McBurney 1967:325-326) and as belonging to the Pre-Aurignacian of the Near East. Found under the Levallois-Mousterian levels and separated from the latter by a 0.5m sterile horizon, this set remains undated. On the other hand, Grigoriev’s analysis of the published lithic materials displayed the possible use of the Levallois method and the Mousterian character of the tool-kit. Therefore the character of the industry remains uncertain.

The Early Middle Palaeolithic of S/W-Asia shows non-Levallois debitage and contains two industries: the Pre-Aurignacian and the Amudian. The first was identified in levels 13 and 15 at Yabrud I in Syria and the second in a few sites: in Tabun, Abri Zumoffen/Adlun, Masloukh (Skinner 1970), Zuttiyeh (Gisis and Bar-Yosef 1974) and Qesem Cave. The Amudian from Tabun unit XI (Tabun E) has been dated to 264 +/-28 k.a and those from Qesem Cave may possibly have started more than 380 k.a and persisted to up to 200 k.a. Both industries are often assembled together, although they differ in their core reduction strategies and tool-kits. While the tool-kit of the Pre-Aurignacian is characterized by burins and end scrapers, tha Amudian exhibits retouched backs opposite the long cutting of blades.

In Asia, Early Middle Palaeolithic blade industries had already been identified in Tajikistan and Georgia on both slopes of the Central Caucasus in the 1980s. For example, Weasel Cave in North Ossetia and Kudaro I, Kudaro III, Tsona, Djruchula, and Hviraty in South Ossetia. These sites have been conglomerated under the name of the Kudaro-Djruchula group and are associated with the Tabun D-type industries, as they contain a large quantity of blades. The dating obtained from two occupation spans in Djruchula Cave, with assemblages presenting clear technological affinities with the blade industries of the Near East, has put their estimated age at between 260 k.a and 140 k.a. The Khonako III site in Tajikistan is estimated to date from 200-240 k.a. In the Near East, the laminar phenomenon appears at the end of the Lower Palaeolithic immediately following the Acheulo-Yabrudian (Pre-Aurignacian and Amudian) and is then seen systematically in the early Middle Palaeolithic (Hayonim layers F and E, Abu Sif, Tabun D, Tabun E, Rosh Ein Mor, Ain Difla, Hummal layers 6 and 7, Nadaouyieh, Umm el Tlel) and later in the heart of the Middle Palaeolithic (Nahal Aqev, Douara IV, Jerf Ajla Unit E, and Hummal.

The more recent Early Middle Palaeolithic blade assemblages in the near East (“Tabun-D ensembles”) are positioned in the stratigraphy between the Acheulo-Yabrudian and the Middle Palaeolithic complex (e.g. Tabun IX, Hayonim lower E and F and Hummalian at El Kowm ) or above the Acheulo-Yabrudian (e.g. Abu Sif C-D), with other sites, such as Rosh ein Mor, Nahal Aqev and Ain Difla, Misliya cave, presenting full and short stratigraphical sequences. These assemblages display the use of the Laminar and Levallois reduction strategies simultaneously and contain a high percentage of blades. They differ not only in the use of both reduction strategies, but also in the production of various tools; site type and site use; and chronology (between 260 to 160 k.a). The goal was to produce elongated blanks, although not exclusively so. Short specimens are always recorded and seem to have been manufactured through a distinct core reduction strategy, generally Levallois in nature.

In Europe first blade-rich industies (Markkleeberg, Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme Baker’s Hole, Rheindahlen B1/B2 Biache-Saint-Vaast – niveau IIA ) can be dated to the Early or Middle Saalian s.l. (MIS 8 or 7). During OIS 5 in Northern Europe, there are abundant evidence of a fully developed blade industry in France and adjacent parts of Germany (Wallertheim D, Saint-Germain-des-Vaux, Tönchesberg 2B, Riencourt-lès-Bapaume, Seclin – D7). Here again either Levallois and / or prismaticitc core techniques are present. Shortly before the advent of the upper Paleolithic, the Neronian of the Mediterranean France and the MTA are examples of middle Paleolithic blade-rich industries during OIS3 (http://www.aggsbach.de/2014/09/excavated-100-years-ago-the-lower-rock-shelter-of-le-moustier/). Elongated Levallois points are often the hallmark of these industries.

Another look with a third artifact from the same site:

elongted

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Grand-Pressigny blades: Daggers, Scrapers, Lighters, Harvesting tools

grand pressigny dagger aggsbach

This is a 23 cm long dagger from the late Neolithic of Abbily, found during the early 20th century by a lokal teacher. The Grand-Pressigny (France, Indre-et-Loire) area, located south west of the Parisian Basin, holds the largest collection of flint artifacts known today in Western Europe. There during the late Neolithic, highly specialized craftsmen have flaked very long flint blades.

Large blade production repeatedly occurred  during prehistoric times, but the Grand Pressigny production system is the most spectacular and widespread example  (http://www.aggsbach.de/2012/09/large-blade-production-during-the-paleolithic-and-neolithic/). The longest one measures 382 mm. The apogee of this daggers production is dated between 2850 and 2400 B.C. To a larger scale, this phenomenon began one thousand years earlier at the end of the fourth millennium with the production of smaller flint daggers less sophisticated. These elder daggers were already transported, but in a lower number and smaller scope.

The long-distance export of state-of-the-art lithic products from specialized workshops characterizes the end of the Neolithic in Western Europe.  Most of these blades were produced during 450 years, much more than local population needed, and these blades were exported on vast distances in Western Europe. Long blades were plausibly equalized, transported and finally retouched in dagger. These blades compose the major part of exported flint products from the Grand-Pressigny handicrafts. Their handle was probably put locally by the acquirers.

We do not know how the transport of these blades was organized and Grand Pressigny daggers appeared in the context of different late Neolithic “cultures”. In N/W-Europe Grand Pressigny daggers are associated with male graves during the later part of the Single Grave Culture, between c. 2650-2400 BC. There is every reason to assume that during the following Bell Beaker Culture period (c. 2400-1900 BC) copper daggers replaced these flint daggers (http://www.aggsbach.de/2012/08/the-bell-beaker-phenomenon/). Discoveries of flint daggers from Grand Pressigny (Touraine), particularly in Switzerland but also in the Netherlands, Brittany, the Saône Valley or Aquitaine, are a good illustration of this phenomenon. The distribution these long flint blades among communities who had not yet mastered the new metal industry, and their discovery in funerary contexts, led prehistorians to consider them as prestige goods, an idea supported by their exceptional craftsmanship.

However, this interpretation is limited by the fact that they have also been found in villages, discarded in various conditions. Microwear analysis of Grand Pressigny artefacts found in the lake settlements show that, in their initial form, the daggers were used to harvest plants and more particularly cereals, sometimes up to the exhaustion of their cutting edges, before being reshaped into other tools of various types and functions. Consequently, a functional reason could justify their importation, as their length and straight edges were without equivalent in the locally made assemblages.

In South France and Nederland’s’ tombs, flint daggers are often polished and seem transformed in a local way. In South France, after they broke or became blunt, some of these daggers were transformed in smaller objects in the same shape of copper daggers well known in this area. Frequent in late Neolithic tombs, Grand-Pressigny flint daggers are also found in domestic settlements. In this archaeological context, they are discovered broken or highly blunt and often retouched and used as scrapers or lighters, in particular in western Switzerland, Jura and Alps (http://www.aggsbach.de/2012/09/grand-pressigny-dagger-from-the-lac-de-neuchatel/)

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N’est-ce pas un “Pointe de Quinson”


quinson

quinson1

but rather a rare cordiform, 5 cm long scraper with scalar retouche on a dihedral thick flake from a Quina ensemble from the Carrière Chaumette in the Rhone Valley (http://www.aggsbach.de/2010/12/quina-scrapers-from-the-carriere-chaumette/). It is not a Quinson point sensu strictu, because it bears retouch only on one edge. But do you really think that Neanderthals used such categories?

“The Quinson points mainly correspond to a particular morphology characterised by a triangular section, at least near the apex (“trihedral points”). In most of the cases the overall shape actually does not show three faces, more or less comparable in size, but only two faces, one of them being dihedral (at least in the distal part), with the dihedron ridge along the symmetry axis. The latter face is not retouched, while the former (flat face) bears retouch on both the edges, but not necessarily all along (partial retouch)” (GAGNEPAIN 2006).

Such artifacts were made on thick dihedral or pentagonal flakes from an oportunistic, Quina or Dicoid chaine operatoire.

Quinson points sensu strictu occur in several sites in Europe as well as in Asia; they mostly belong to assemblages related to the Lower Palaeolithic or Early Middle Palaeolithic and dating to the Middle Pleistocene. Some of the most significant examples come from La Micoque, Terra Amata , Arago at Tautavel  in France, Visogliano and Venosa-Loreto  in Italy, Bilzingleben II  in Germany, Kudaro I  in Georgia, Evron and Tabun E  in Israel, and even Zhoukoudianin China.

However they also occur in the Upper Pleistocene of Central Europe (Kulna in Moravia), Western Europe, especially in the Charentian Mousterian or typical Mousterian of Southern France: Fontmaure, Comte , La Crouzade, l’Hortus , as well as in Spain at Cueva Morin and El Castillo  or in Italy in the Guattari cave .

 

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