The European World during MIS 11-9.


This is a 18 cm large elongated Biface, a Limande, from the Yonne (surface finding, probably from MIS9).  In the Yonne River valley (North Burgundy), handaxes were reported from the sand and gravels of the Soucy Formation, dated to MIS 10 by ESR and ESR/U-series. However, the most important data come from the study of the Soucy Acheulean site excavated in the upper part of calcareous fluvial silty sands of the same locality, dated from MIS 9 by the same methods. The Soucy localities tell a story of successive hominin occupations in a fluvial landscape. Many of the occupations show distinctive patterns of behavior by the presence or absence of typical Acheulian bifaces.

The timeframe of the Soucy occupations falls into the  Holsteinian complex sensu lato, which has been correlated by different authors  from MIS 11 to 9 . Differentiating the two interglacials MIS 11 and 9 is not always possible, as they were short and sometimes shared common climatic and environmental features. MIS 10 is also considered to be short and is not always preserved in the sedimentological record.

Archaeological data and human activity all over Eurasia show an increase in the number of sites after MIS12 (the Anglian or Elsterian glaciation), which is considered as the major climatical crisis before MIS 4 and 2- but H. sapiens was better prepared to cope with the cold, that his Heidelbergensis ancestors. MIS 11-9 on the other hand  is characterized by warm interglacial condition, high biodiversity, large-scale faunal dispersion associated with the regionalization of mammal communities and hominin morphology variability.

The time period between MIS 11-9 is considered to record evidence of new subsistence behaviors with demonstrations of an increase in hunting, suggesting the development of skills and social interactions starting as early as early as 500 k.a (i.e. Gran Dolina  TD 10-1, La Cotte-Saint-Brelade, Boxgrove, Schöningen). Management of local game resources led to another type of land use with seasonal settlements and evidence of specialized hunting in territorial networks.

At Schöningen, the horse bones come from Equus mosbachensis and are indicative of at least 20 individuals. They show numerous cut marks made by stone tools, but only a few bite marks made by animals. The site is interpreted by the excavator Harald Thieme as testimony of a hunting event as well as the following cutting up and preparation of the kill.

Systematic behaviors are observed on ungulate and small game carcasses. Bone retouchers are rare but existed from MIS 11. They have been found at  Terra Amata (south-east France, MIS 11), Orgnac 3 (south-east France, MIS 9), Cagny l’Epinette (Northern France, MIS 9), Gran Dolina TD10 in Spain, and La Micoque (Sout-West France MIS 9) .

Specialized sites, such as those considered as butchery places, indicate the role of activities on lithic strategies for examples at Terra Amata, La Polledrara or Castel di Guido (North-West-Italy, MIS9). The exploitation of elephant (Palaeoloxodon) carcasses is documented in a number of Middle Pleistocene sites in Spain (Aridos 2, MIS 11 , Ambrona MIS 12) Italy (Notarchirico, early Middle Pleistocene, Castel di Guido, MIS9) and France (Terra Amata). Some of the lithic series discovered among elephant and large herbivore remains contain bifacial tools, others do not. Some production on small and locally available nodules is frequent. Bifaces, bifacial tools and scrapers on large fragments of bone are episodically present, and are indicative of the lack of large locally available raw materials. Similar shaping on bones and some large stone pebbles is observed.

Evidence of early fire control is subject to debate. Some sites attest that fire was controlled as early as 400 ka (Beeches Pit; Suffolk; UK), contributing to new hominin abilities to expand territories and modify their behavior.

From MIS 12 onwards, some sites (Cagny-la-Garenne I-II, North of France, or Saint-Pierre-les-Elbeuf, West France) yielded some “pseudo-Levallois cores” or “prepared cores”.  Guado San Nicola (Monteroduni, Molise; Italy) was recently dated to the MIS 11-10 boundary  by the 40Ar/39Ar method and provided an ensemble of clear Levallois products within an Acheulean context. In contrast, at the same time, La Grande Vallee (France), dated to 400-450 k.a, yielded a series with bifacial technology and a core technology based on unifacial and bifacial cores. Certainly the wider use of the Levallois technique was not established in Europe before MIS9 (Orgnac 3; south-east France).

In southern Europe, at Aridos I, Aldene A-H, Arago, Baume Bonne unit I, Fontana Ranuccio, Galeria II base, Gran Dolina TD10, La Grande Vallee, Terra Amata or Vaufrey XII; core technology and flake-tool kits are diversified during MIS11-9, and show similarities to earlier techniques – clearly not Levallois.

Bifaces, when they were present, exhibit different shaping modes according to sites, dependent on the environment, resources, blank selection but with astonishing similar configurations to the final morpho-types. They are rare or numerous, on bones or stones, sometimes more similar to core-bifaces. There are also cleavers, bifaces or partial bifaces in other cases. In Western Europe during MIS 15-9 the biface diversified into several technical entities (such as the “biface used as a blank for tools”, the “biface as a tool”) or was completely abandoned.

In sum, diversity, adaptions, inventions and innovations  during MIS11-9 were clearly the overture for what was following during the early (post-MIS9)  Middle Paleolithic in Europe.

-- Download The European World during MIS 11-9. as PDF --

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It ain’t nothin’ like it used to be: Endscrapers during the European Upper Paleolithic

scraper _aggsbach

Fig. 1 shows a Magdalenian scraper from N-France. The relationship between form and function is a ambiguous issue that needs to be demonstrated rather than assumed. A Middle Paleolithic “point” may have been a projectile point but more often was used as a scraper for wood and hide-working,  large “Gravette points” were used as knifes,  burins are formidable bladelet cores  and a “microlithic saws” may have been used as a projectiles.

thumbnailA Levallois point embedded in the vertebra of a wild ass, as found at Umm el Tlel (El Kowm basin of Central Syria; strata older than 50 k.a) certainly shows that this artifact was part of a hunting device, but does not mean that every Levallois point, or even that the majority of these artifacts may have been used in this way.

Simple end scrapers from the European Upper Paleolithic were typically made from blades or flakes without modification except to produce a convex scraping edge.  A number of (sub-) parallel flakes were removed from the end or
side of the distal part of the blank to produce a thick wide-angled “scraping edge”.  The retouches on this edge varies from irregular to a perfect regularity.  The scraping edge typically has an angle that ranges from 70 to 90 degrees. Edge wear is very characteristic of end scrapers and they must have been repeatedly  resharpened in order to serve effectively. Consequently, scrapers became shorter and shorter in length with continued usage.

Function:  As the name suggests, the scraper has traditionally been an artifact assigned to one specific function: namely the scraping and working of hides or animal skins. This assumption is substantiated, at least for many European specimens by microtraceology. At Pavlov I 15/18 end scrapers were used for hide working and 2 /18 for Antler / Ivory work. The picture at other sites is similar: hide working is most prominent, but scrapers had been used multifunctional, for example as adzes for woodworking (during the Magdalenian at  La Garenne; Indre; France). The end scraper as a tool may hold more functions than had been previously thought. Instead of having a one- dimensional use for the scraping of hides, it may have demonstrated several different forms of use throughout its life, on several different substances. In addition, the function of the scraper may have changed during the course of its life as wear and retouching altered the edge angles.

several types of scrapers exist. These include the side scraper (working edge on the long edge), the classic artifact of the MSA and MP but not absent during the Upper Paleolithic and the end scraper (convex working edge on the distal end of a flake or blade). End scrapers can be combined with a second scraper edge (double scrapers) or with a burin edge (for hafting?).

Some end scrapers are denominated according to their size (thumbnail scraper, approximately the size and shape of a thumbnail) Fig. 2shows laugerie2such a scraper  from the PPNB at Nahal Oren, Carmel; Israel).  Other characteristics of scrapers may be eponymous (for example for the  carinated scrapers / cores; Fig. 3). “Spoon scrapers” first appeared at Ehringsdorf (OIS7) and were common during the Aurignacian (Fig. 4:  Aurignacian near the Mont Circeo in West-Italy south of Rome) . Cortical scapers are made on a cortical blade or flake and are known from the Solutrean in S/W-France and as tabular scrapers from the Levantine Bronze age ( The cortical scrape on Fig.5 is also from Laugerie haute.

laugerieOther scrapers  are named according to the site, they were first found. For example the Ksar Akil scraper (; found at Ksar Akil, in Stratum 4/5 (C-14 data: 29-30 k.a. BP). Other specimens are known from Tha’lab al-Buhayra (Wadi al-Hasa in west-central Jordan; 24-26 k.a.) and Boker D (Negev; Israel25-27 k.a.).

Laugerie scrapers (Fig.5) are flat (double) scrapers with lateral retouches, first found during  the 19th century diggings at the Grimaldi caves (“Grimaldi scrapers”) and at Laugerie haute west where they are characteristic for an swabiaevolved Solutrean with bilateral Leafpoints.

End scrapers in Europe are common since the Early Upper Paleolithic (including “transitional industries” such as the Châtelperronian and
), although they can occasionally observed during Lower and Middle Paleolithic ensembles. Nice examples were present at the “Atelier Commont” (OIS9) at St. Acheul.

During the earlier stages of the Aurignacian in France and Central Europe end scrapers with lateral retouches were common.  These lateral retoches may have allowed a better hafting (Fig. 6: double end scraper obviously after strangledmultiple resharpening cycles from the Swabian Aurignacian).  An interesting combination found both in the French and central European Aurignacian are endscrapers on strangled blades (Fig.7).

During the earlier Gravettian complex simple end scrapers are found in abundance (for example during the early Perigordian in S/W-France, in the Rhone valley, but also in central Europe at Pavlov I, while the domestic tools during the later phases are more characterized by burins. It is unknown, why endscrapers lost their role at this time. The Magdalenian has a large variety of end scrapers ranging  from tiny specimens to very large and robust ones. Small thumbnail scrapers during the final European Paleolithic are characteristic for the late Epigravettian and the Azilian.

The scraper may be hafted onto wood or antler, as indicated by microtraceological studies on some examples. The only scraper embedded into a haft I know comes from the Magdalenian of the Pekarna cave in the Moravian Karst.

A great potential for a better characterization of the scraper function will be the search and evaluation of organic residues by sophisticated techniques of organic chemistry. This methodology promises to achieve a lot of new insights, as recently demonstrated for  Fat Residue and Use-Wear Found on Acheulian Biface and Scraper Associated with Butchered Elephant Remains at the Site of Revadim, Israel ( via PLOS ONE).

Suggested Reading:

Abri Castanet and the Aurignacian I in S/W-France

Thumbnail Scrapers

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The Pavlovian in Moravia and Lower Austria: “Microsaws”


The “Pavlovian” is a filiation of the central European early Gravettian (28-25 k.a. BP), defined by an unique character of settlement patterns, stone and bone artifacts, the use of fired clay for the production of figurines, artistic expression and funerary practices.

Microlithic denticulated implements are one hallmark of the Pavlovian in Moravia and Lower Austria. The morphological spectrum includes a wide range of varieties, from tiny examples to relatively massive examples and varying from very finely to coarsely denticulated bladelets and blades. Some of the artifacts are backed and some are without any backing. Complete findings are relatively rare. At Jarošov-Podvršťa (17%) of the “microsaws” were pointed (“Jarošov-type pointed microsaw”), a phenomenon which is occasionally also known from other Pavlovian clusters.

“Microsaws „were first published by Absolon from Dolni Věstonice I. They were later described from Dolni Věstonice II, Pavlov VI , Pavlov I, and Pavlov I Southeast, where non backed uni- and bilateral fine denticulated lamelles, which were often broken, were found together with backed examples. At Pavlov, backed denticulated lamelles make maximal 2, 6 % of the inventory.

Some examples are known from the Gravettian sites in Lower Austria (Krems-Hundssteig, findings from the 19th century and new excavations), Krems-Wachtberg I and Krems-Wachtberg II, the new site at Gösing am Wagram) which together with fragments of zoomorphous burnt clay figurines and the  famous  children burials from Krems underline strong connections to the Pavlov hills in the north.  On the other hand Microsaws are absent from other large Lower Austrian Gravettian sites (Willendorf, Aggsbach, Grub Kranawetberg). It seems to be wise not to lump these sites under the “Pavlovian” label. On the other hand small parts within the Dolni Věstonice and Pavlov “Megasites”, which are characterized by “microsaws” may allow to identify functional or cultural peculiarities within the larger “Pavlovian” frame.

Microtraceological investigations about the use of the saws are absent. Almost ident
ical objects were reinvented during the late Magdalenian in S/W-France and of course during the N-African Epipaleolithic with its overwhelming spectrum of stone tools .

Lartet in the 1860ies already noted that the tiny “Magdalenian saws” may have been used for the production of ivory needles at La Madeleine and Bruniquel. The idea is attracting as fine needles are also known from the Pavlovian sites.

Another idea about the pointed subclass of “Microsaws” which can be extended to the non-pointed examples would be their use as component of complex hunting devices , which is  supported by documented traces of impacts in a longitude direction on one of the pointed “microsaws” from Jarošov.

” If the hypothesis that these artifacts were used as inserts in hunting implements is accepted, the denticulated edge may be interpreted as a means of increasing the productivity of these weapons – the denticulated edge causing increased tissue damage, resulting in increase bleeding” (P. Skrdla).


Suggested Reading:


Serrated Stone Artifacts

Paleolithic saws

Abri Pataud / Les Eyzies Stratum 4: Three Rare Artifacts

BOUYSSONIE, J. & H. BREUIL, éd: Musée d’ethnographie et de préhistoire du bardo: collections préhistoriques. Some examples of  Algerian Epipaleolithic „Saws and pointed saws“


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Battle Axes and the Corded Ware-culture


This is a rther amall, 12 cm long,  faceted battle-axe from S-Germany coming from a 19th century collection.  Since the early Neolithic period when stone axes were first introduced, they were used as tools or weapons. However, subsequently they were also used as important valuables maintaining trade as well as social communication between individuals, communities and regions. In the period of Corded Ware Cultures, stone axes mediated a symbolic relationship between the body of the buried individual and the respective society. Stone axes served as an important part of the burial assemblage and attributes of particular social categories, indicators of wealth and social status of an individual.

The archaeological phenomenon referred to as the Corded Ware (CW) culture is one of the more enigmatic, as well as widely discussed, in European prehistory. Archaeologically it has been defined by a set of material traits, such as cord-ornamented beakers and amphorae, shaft-hole battle axes, and standardized burial practices involving single, sex-differentiated inhumations under barrows, oriented east-west, in contracted (hocker) positions. These burials generally date between ca. 2800–2200 BC and are found over a very large area in central, northern, and Eastern Europe.

battleaxe1Under the general CW rubric, a number of regionally-defined cultures have been subsumed, such as the Single Grave Culture in Denmark, Holland and N. Germany, the Battle Axe Culture of Sweden, Norway and Finland, and the Fatjanovo Culture in Russia. The wide geographic distribution and the perceived homogeneity of the culture, coupled with the lack of identified settlements, have given risen to debates regarding the interpretation of this phenomenon.

The discussions have concerned among other things the origin of the culture, the mechanism behind its introduction, the identification of a network instead of a mono- or polythetic “culture”, the identification of marriage practices, the spread of a common ideology, whether its carriers were also Indo-European speakers, and the nature of settlement and economy.

Regarding the formation of the CW, some archaeologists point out the contribution of different regions to the material set of the “CW-network”, while others note similarities with the steppe, in particular with the Yamnaya culture, as a possible area of origin. This is based on similarities in burial rituals. Some authors have suggested that this culture practiced a form of mobile pastoralism, which spread towards the west through migration and/or cultural influence, and gave rise to the CW.

In the process, Indo-European language would also have spread over Europe, but I still have some reservations of linking a linguistic theoreticalconstruct with archaeological and genetic data. Recently, these hypotheses have gained support from aDNA studies of Yamnaya and CW burials. It was shown that a genetic transformation took place in areas where previous Neolithic DNA was heavily reduced and complemented by Yamnaya DNA. This new genetic presence was lasting and provided much of the genetic material for contemporary European populations.

There is increasing evidence for some kind of population reduction or crisis toward the end of the middle Neolithic facilitating this introduction of new genes and recent research has documented the presence of plague among Yamnaya and Corded Ware individuals, which may have spread among Neolithic populations prior to the migrations. This needs to be explored in future research. At the macro-historical level, the old debate over migration versus local adaptation thus seems to be solved. However, we still do not know how migration and other formation processes unfolded in the various regions, and regional variability is evident.

Isotope Studies from South Germany  suggest that Corded Ware groups in this region were subsisting on a mix of plant and animal foods and were highly mobile, especially the women.This may be interpreted as a pattern of female exogamy, involving different groups with differing economic strategies.

The Boat Axe Culture

Corded Ware Axe from S-Germany

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A “Point de Verrières” found near Briennon

point1 pointer

This is a Middle Paleolithic  “Point de Verrières” found  in the Roannaise near the river Loire, a single stray find 370 km south of the eponymous Verrières-le-Buisson Paleolithic site.

Laminar production is the main production system in several Middle Paleolithic sites in N/W-Europe, dated to MIS 5 s.l. E. Boëda pointed out some critical features which distinguish blade production strategies from those of the Levallois system. Most importantly, the core-volume organization is radically different: the active surface of the core from which the removals are struck extends along most, if not the entire core’s periphery rather than being restricted to one delimited surface.

Middle Paleolithic blade cores can be reduced according to four different strategies: semi-rotating method, rotating method, frontal method and facial method. These different options may occur in full or partial combination in the archaeological assemblages, the semi-rotating method being most common. Variability is also expressed in the number of striking platforms present on the cores (one or two opposed). The method of core reduction (recurrent unidirectional or bidirectional) generally involves the production of crested blades, although this is not an absolute rule. Usually, Middle Paleolithic blade cores are only minimally prepared, and the volume is not thoroughly shaped out before starting the production of blades.

The blades were detached with a hard hammer and consequently show significant variation in shape and size. In Middle Paleolithic assemblages, blade production is generally found in combination with flakes produced following the Levallois concept, the latter being in most cases the dominant mode of reduction.

The Levallois recurrent uni/bidirectional methods are most commonly associated with laminar production systems in Mousterian assemblages. The need to produce quadrangular elongated blanks which implied the use of this peculiar method could have contributed in the same assemblages to the emergence of a blade production. The few blades that are retouched are modified through marginal retouch. In fact, the laminar production in the Middle Paleolithic is aunique phenomenon, clearly distinct from Upper Paleolithic blade production in the striking technique used (direct percussion with a stone hammer) as well as in the way core volume was exploited, in the characteristics of the end-products and in its systematic association with flake production.

Predominantly non-Levallois blade assemblages with little secondary modifications include La Butte d’Arvigny (Seine-et-Marne, France), Wallertheim D (Germany) Rocourt (Liège, Belgium), Saint-Germain-des-Vaux/Port-Racine (Manche, France), Riencourt-lès-Bapaume – CA Horizon (Pas-de-Calais, France) and Seclin – D7 (Nord, France).

There are some sites with Micoquian (“Keilmesser Gruppen” / KMG) elements at the S/E Margins of the Paris basin (sensu Bosinski and Richter) associated with Levallois and/or non-Levallois, semi-rotating prismatic cores for the production of blades, unknown from Central Europe: Vinneuf (Yonne; OIS5d) and Champlost (Yonne; late OIS4) and the very interesting open air site of Verrières-le-Buisson (Essonne, OIS5d).

Vinneuf N1 (Yonne, France) represents a late Last Interglacial s.l. “KMG” lithic assemblage. Indeed, the assemblage of Vinneuf N1 is characterized by bifaces (n=27) and tools (n=148), which have affinities to the KMG. There is a certain abundance of semi-rotating prismatic cores for the production of blades.

Verrières-le-Buisson shows the combination of asymmetric bifaces and other KMG-elements together with a mainly Levallois blade production. Some cores show volumetric conceptions and are suggested to have started as pure Levallois cores, with subsequent change in the their operational conception.  Most interesting are abundant “Points de Verrières” which are retouched asymmetric Levallois-blades. These pointed blades show a continuous, semi-abrupt invasive retouche on both margins, mostly direct, sometimes inverse or alternating. They cannot be easily confused with retouched European elongated Levallois points and show some similarities to Hummalian and Abu Sif Points from the Near East. Interestingly some “Points de Verrières”  have also be found at Champlost, showing another unifying element of these three extraordinay sites.

Suggested Reading:

Yes-There are traditions and “culture” in Neanderthals-Victoria!

The Prądnik (KMG) complex in Central Germany revisited

From: Daniel Marguerite, Daniel Raoul, Degros Jacqueline, Vinot André. I Le site paléolithique du Terrier. In: Gallia préhistoire, tome 16, fascicule 1, 1973. pp. 63-103.


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Mousterian scraper from Saint-Germain-et-Mons


bergeracois2This is an enormeous large (15 cm long) scraper on a thick Levallois flake from the SaintGermainetMons, a commune in the Dordogne department in Aquitaine in southwestern France near Bergerac. The scraper is made from the typical local flint (Bergeracois chert). Such findings are an invitation for discussing the end of the Middle Paleolithic Neanderthal culture in S/W-France.

A “Levallois Mousterian with large scrapers” and a “Discoidal-Denticulate Mousterian”, have been proposed as a possible ending phase for the Late Middle Paleolithic in South-western France. These entities are dated firmly before the Heinrich Event 4, but if the Levallois Mousterian is systematically younger than the Discoidal-Denticulate Mousterian and if both entities are systematically younger than the MTA-B remains unclear.

Stratigraphically, both complexes are all more recent than the MTA, as it is generally regionally defined, when it is present in the same sequences (for example the Discoidal-Denticulate Mousterian at Le Moustier and La Quina). The Levallois Mousterian with large scrapers could be typologically confused with “Ferrassie Mousterian” assemblages due to the presence of recurrent centripetal Levallois debitage  and a tool component dominated by scrapers, particularly, large double and convergent scrapers. This entity is known from the sequence of Rochers de Villeneuve in the Vienne where it overlies a Discoid-Denticulate Mousterian and is dated to ca 41-45 k.a. BP. MtDNA analysis of a human femur fragment recovered from this level has confirmed its attribution as being Neanderthal.   Levels E, F1, and F2 from the Grotte du Bison and the late Mousterian at Galerie Schoepflin at Arcy (Yonne) present a comparable succession whereby a Levallois Mousterian overlies a Discoid-Denticulate Mousterian.

It remains unclear if these late Middle Paleolithic complexes fill the temporal gap between the latest Middle and earliest Upper Paleolithic in S/W-France or coexisted with a late MTA. Anyhow there is no MTA stratigraphically above the Levallois Mousterian with large scrapers and / or a Discoidal-Denticulate Mousterian.  On the other hand the MTA is the last Middle Paleolithic before the earliest Upper Paleolithic on numerous sites in the area.

Recent research therefore suggests a clear rupture with no transitional stage between the Late Middle Palaeolithic (MTA-A/B followed by  a Discoid-denticulate Mousterian, which is occasionally followed by a Levallois Mousterian with large side scrapers) and the beginning of the Upper Palaeolithic. The MTA-A/B-Chatelperronian succession may be a construct of excavation bias and a priori assumptions from the early 20th century.

Down with the “MP-UP Transitional Industries” of Europe !

The Châtelperronian: a fully developed Leptholithic Industry

100-year Anniversary: Peyrony at the lower Rock shelter of Le Moustier

The Neronian in the Rhone Valley

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Warren Hill, Acheulian near Mildenhall, Suffolk

warren hill1This is a sightly rolled finely made handaxe from Warren Hill , Mildenhall, Suffolk. This example displays the classic ‘toad-belly’, patination, a very distinctive characteristic of axes found in this location .

The Handaxe is perhaps one of the most distinctive symbols of the early Paleolithic. From their first appearance, handaxes have been created, used and discarded by hominins for nearly 1.7 million years. In N/W-Europe, Handaxes were first discarded in substantial numbers by Homo heidelbergensis at sites such as Boxgrove and Warren Hill dated to 500,000 BP (MIS 13). Assemblages in the Lower Paleolithic that contain handaxes are dominated by them as the major tool type and prepared core technology is rare or absent. Handaxes remain the dominant element of assemblages throughout the British Lower Paleolithic (500– 300 k.a. BP). The richest Acheulian findings are dated after the Anglian glaciation around 400 k.a during the Hoxnian Interglacial (MIS11;

Britain during the early and the early middle Pleistocene was a peninsula of continental Europe, connected by the Weald–Artois land bridge or link between the Boulonnais  and Sussex, Kent and southeast England. It is a predominantly chalk ridge carrying its own streams. In the Chalk, bands of flint occur and where these eroded (cliffs, gravel beaches, river valleys) they provided a rich lithic resource for tool-making hominins.

The large number of finds of stone tools from East Anglia Anglia that relate to the gravels of the  Bytham River (a hypothetical Pleistocene river that has been suggested to have run through the English Midlands until around 450 k.a. BP), suggest that it was one of perhaps only two major entry points into the British area for our human ancestors prior to the Anglian.  Evidence from High Lodge  and Warren Hill provides clues to an entry route, via the river systems inland with constant access to water and food.  The only other possible entry route, the south coast, has produced the globally unique site of Boxgrove  as well as the cave sites of Kent’s Cavern and, slightly further north, Westbury-sub-Mendip, known for its early flake industry at ca 700 k.a. BP.

Warren Hill is notable for being a prolific Handaxe site, with an estimated 2000 handaxes recorded during gravel extraction. It is situated in the Three Hills area of Mildenhall Forest, Suffolk, less than 1 km south of another well-known early Paleolithic site, High Lodge (MIS13; Acheulian). The handaxes were mostly collected between the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Recent work  has confirmed the pre-Anglian date of the deposits, placing Boxgrove and Warren Hill in the same chronological period thereby validating the visual similarity of the handaxe assemblage from the two sites. However, in contrast to Boxgrove, all of the material from Warren hill is derived and none of it reflects occupation directly.

Warren Hill and Boxgrove represent the earliest Acheulian in Britain, which occurred in association with one of the most extreme interglacial to glacial transitions of the past 500 k.a., with MIS 13–12 in Britain being characterized by a shift from climates that were as warm as those of MIS 5e through to a glacial stage that was characterized by widespread periglaciation and lowland glaciation. Although there is good evidence to support the presence of Acheulean industries in Britain during temperate climate conditions in MIS 13, most of Acheulian archaeological sites, when found in association with robust multiproxy palaeoenvironmental data, suggest that early humans were existing largely under cool to post-temperate climates, boreal landscapes and/or under climatic regimes that are cooler than the present, notably with winter temperatures at or below freezing.

The temperature reconstructions from the “cool temperate” Acheulean sites suggest that the climate and environments of these early colonists have no analogue in modern-day Britain, primarily because of the extreme winter cold envisaged. This implies that human occupation occurred during episodes of enhanced continentality, most probably in association with the falling sea levels that occurred after the main interglacial peak. The ability of early human populations to adapt to these harsh winter conditions would appear to be the key factor when considering the nature of the earliest Acheulean occupation of Britain.

Swanscombe during the Hoxnian

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Early Paleolithic in the Center of France

handaxe touraine

Fig. 1 shows a Handaxe from the center of France are often made from large flint slabs from the Upper Turonian  as is the case throughout the Seuil, Poitou and south Touraine region.

Anyhow, there are exceptions: in the Loire valley around Orleans a grey whitish flint is prevalent. Some isolated findings (Gig 2:  Handaxe from L’Île-Bouchard, made of tabular quartzite) are made from other materials.

The human settlement of Europe during Pleistocene times was sporadic and several stages have been recognized, both from paleoanthropological and archaeological records. If the first phase of hominin occupation (as early as 1.4 Ma) seems mainly restricted to the southern part of the continent, the second phase, characterized by specific lithic tools (handaxes), is linked to Acheulean settlements and to the emergence of Homo Heidelbergensis, the ancestor of Neanderthals. This phase reached northwestern Europe and is documented in sites in Germany, Great Britain and northern France, generally after 600 ka.


In Charentes, well-known sand quarries in the Saint-Amand-de-Graves region yielded early lithic industries, from Saint-Même-les-Carrières to Jarnac. The Charente alluviums in Charente-Maritime also contain abundant Acheulean remains. Unfortunately, the interlocking terrace system is not well differentiated and often borders on the water table, making fieldwork difficult. In the north of the Deux-Sèvres, at the edge of the Massif Amorican, the Dive and Thouet alluviums contain Acheulean industries.


In Vienne, north of Châtellerault, several Acheulean sites were discovered in the 19th century. At La Roche-Posay, in the northeast of Vienne, the Creuse alluvions extend between the Vienne department on the left bank and the Indre-et-Loire on the right bank. At La Revaudière, on the commune of Yzeures-sur-Creuse, the 15-22 m terrace yielded an exceptional Acheulean industry. Regarding the absence of stratified sites, the site of La Grande Vallée, in Colombiers near Châtellerault, is a fundamental addition to old undated discoveries.  The open-air site of La Grande Vallée is in a very singular location and geological context. Unit 5 on the structural flat contains preserved archaeological levels due to the presence of significant slope deposits which sealed the complex. After Acheulean occupations, the archaeological levels were mobilized by solifluction. This phenomenon modified the spatial distribution of the remains abandoned by Hominids without any stratigraphic interference. Geological observations point towards an age of 350-600 ka for the archaeological levels, which corresponds to the second third of the Middle Pleistocene. This estimation is confirmed by preliminary thermoluminescence dates which tend to situate levels 5a and 5c in a 400-500 k.a. time bracket.


centre france indre loire

At la Noira (Brinay,eastern Central France), the Middle Pleistocene alluvial formation of the Cher River covers an archaeological level associated with a slope deposit (diamicton). The lithic assemblage from this level includes Large Cutting Tools (LCTs), flakes and cores, associated with numerous millstone slabs. The lithic series is classified as Acheulean on the basis of both technological and typological analyses. Cryoturbation features indicate that the slope deposits and associated archaeological level were strongly frozen and disturbed after hominin occupation and before fluvial deposition. Eight sediment samples were dated by the electron spin resonance (ESR) method and the weighted average age obtained for the fluvial sands overlying the slope deposits is 665±55 k.a. This age is older than previous chronological data placing the first European Acheulean assemblages north of 45th parallel north at around 500 ka and modifies our current vision of the initial peopling of northern Europe. Acheulean settlements are older than previously assumed and the oldest evidences are not only located in southern Europe.




The Neolithic production at the Grand-Pressigny area was always in the in the focus of public interest, but Lower and Middle Paleolithic artifacts have also been reported since the 19th century. Much material was discovered from La Sablière du Vivier, on the left bank of the Claise to Abilly and some exceptional pieces were published by de Mortillet as early as 1864. The excavations were extended by Paul Fitte, during the 1950ies and recently a detailed study about this material was conducted by Aurelian Bruchet (Bruchet, 1999).

Among numerous old quarry findings, another interesting site was detected at the Carrière de Ribault on the right bank of Creuse, just south of Descartes (Indre-et-Loire) also partially excavated by Paul Fitte in the 1950ies.

Unfortunately most of the Lower Paleolithic material near Grand Pressigny comes from a secondary context and cannot be securely dated. The debitage at these sites is usually non-Levallois and the handaxes are often thick without much sophistication.

The last Figure shows a subtriangular Handaxe found in the 1940ies near Abbily by a local teacher, allreadybelonging toa later period- the MTA.

central indre mta

Suggested Reading:

Grand Pressigny Flint


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Hand-held or Hafted?


nubian scraper msa 2 nubian scraper

This is a bifacial cortical „scraper” from the MSA of Upper Egypt, made from a flat chert pebble most probably made for a hand-held use.

Bifacial Tools act as blanks for different kinds of working. The tool thus acts as a “matrix”, which requires functional technical traits for its transformative (prepared area) and prehensile parts. The active edges are arranged on this matrix according to the intended function. We know variable prehensile modes like the hand-held mode, hand-held with a wrapping, or various hafting arrangements.

For long time it was suggested that it would it impossible to detect repetitive micro traces of a hand-held use and in many studies the identifications of hand-held use were based solely on the absence of convincing evidence for hafting. Anyhow prehension wear creates an extremely recurrent pattern, as  demonstrated by Rots during the last years. Compared to hafting, prehension scarring is more limited and scars are smaller and more evenly sized. (  ).

It is important to know, that cortical regions on a tool are areas, where no potential wear can form. Cortical regions are usually impossible to analyse by a microtraceological approach, although their prehensile qualities may be obvious, as shown by the artifact in this post or cortical scrapers from a Quina or Yabrudian context. Some researchers even see the boundary between the Acheulo-Yabrudian and the Levallois-Mousterian in the Levant as a shift from hand-held to hafted tools.

On the other hand  an “intuitive” approach without microtraceology can be misleading. Keilmesser, which in our imagination would be optimal for a  hand-held use were often hafted as shown from the Micoquian ( KMG) strata of the  Sesselfelsgrotte (Bavaria/Germany).

Now let’s take a further step: Is there any certainty that the scraper of this post is a scraper?

Adhesives for composite Tools during the Acheulian?

The invention of Hafting and Backing


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Trachy-Andesiteis at Melka Kunture (Garba III)


melka kuture katzman aggsbach

This is a 10 cmlong unifacial convergent scraper from Gombore II made from Trachy-andesite, a volcanic rock, that was used in smaller quantities at different sites and chronological stages at Melka Kunture (for example at Gombore I, Garba, Melka-Garba).

Andesite is an extrusive igneous, volcanic rock, of intermediate composition, with aphanitic to porphyritic texture. In a general sense, it is the intermediate type between basalt and dacite, and ranges from 57 to 63% silicon dioxide (SiO2) .

Classification of andesite may be refined according to the most abundant phenocryst. For Example: hornblende-phyric andesite, if hornblende is the principal accessory mineral. At Melka Konture Trachy-andesite was used during the Acheulian and MSA. Trachy-andesiteis a  mesocratic lava, lighter than the basalts, with generally numerous large phenocrystals of alkaline feldspaths.

The knowledge  of the different volcanic episodes which occurred over the last several million years in the environment of the Melka Kunture prehistoric sites allows a new appraisal of the nature and abundance of emitted lavas that are represented in the alluviums of the Awash River and its tributaries. Moreover, the most compact facies can also be seen in the different archaeological sites. Several alluvial units and some archaeological layers have been sampled  and petrographic counts performed on the basis of mainly macroscopic and some microscopic determinations of the lavas by recent research. They allow comparisons between samples and offer a better understanding of local available raw materials for use by hominins.

Melka Kunture lies in the upper Awash valley, 50 km south of Addis Ababa, at 2000m asl.  The Awash basin extends for about 3000 km² at a height between 2500 and 2000 m a.s.l. It is delimited by several Pliocene volcanoes, the largest being the Wachacha and the Furi to the north, and the Boti and Agoïabi to the south. It is bordered to the east by the Ethiopian rift, part of the great rift system of eastern Africa. Fluvial sedimentation (pebbles, gravel, sand, and clay) was frequently interrupted by volcanic activity, whose products are important markers for stratigraphic correlations between the different archaeological sequences identified so far. Over 70 archaeological levels have been discovered so far, and more or less wide extensions of about 30 of them have been excavated.

The earliest at findings at Melka Kunture come from the Oldowan (at the sites Karre and at level B of Gombore I); with a K/Ar age near to 1,6/1,7 m.y. A probably contemporaneous Oldowan site has been investigated at Garba IV with a radiometrical age between 1-5 and 1,5 m.y. The reevaluation of the Garba IV site by Gallotti showed, that unit D of Garba IV is characterized  by the emergence of a new chaîne opératoire focused on large flake/large cutting tool (LCT) production, and a large variability of small débitage modalities with systematic preparation of the striking platform and the appearance of a certain degree of predetermination , characteristic rather for an early Acheulian than for a Mode I industry-in good agreement with other early Acheulian dates in East Africa.

A later phase of the African Acheulean is well represented by several sites in the area of Gombore II (dated to about 0.8 Myr). The latest Acheulean site is Garba I, dated to ca. 0.5 Myr, while the end of this long sequence is represented, at Melka Kunture, by the site of Garba III, where there are also Middle Stone Age layers.

The East African Late Stone Age is poorly documented at Melka Kunture, being found so far at Wofi and Kella. A little less than 7 km from Melka Kunture, at Balchit, obsidian outcrops. As evidenced by the analyses of samples from several sites, this volcanic glass was an important raw material, frequently used ever since the Oldowan. The exploitation of obsidian in the Melka region went on until historical times, leaving in the area of Balchit extensive accumulations of tens of thousands of blades, cores, and residues.

 Suggested Reading:

The oldest traces of Human Culture in the Rift Valley: The Oldowan

Don’t follow leaders. Watch the parkin’ meters: Levallois technique at Melka Kunture and Africa

Twisted Obsidian Handaxe from Melka Kunture (Gombore II)

Let Us Now Praise Unknown Men and Women…….

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