MSA Omo Kibish Foliates: The art of Thinning

Figure 1,2,3: These are MSA Implements, found during a geological survey in the 1940ies in the Omo Valley / S-Ethiopia. The artifacts are made from an opaque Chert and display a  very characteristic Orange Brown Earthen Patina, known from other surface and excavated material from the Omo Kibish site. Sampling was highly selective, because cores and debitage are not present in this series. Bifacial foliates (the largest is 7 cm long) were the most eye-catching artifacts for the collector. Holding the artifacts in my hands, I can feel the knappers  intention to  thin the tips of these points as much as possible.

The Kibish formation of the Lower Omo River of southwestern Ethiopia, located approximately 400 km from the early MSA sites at Gademotta and Kulkuletti, has been a major location of both paleontological and archaeological finds. Both early anatomically modern human fossils and early MSA archaeological remains  have been found in this region.

The Omo Valley is part of the Turkana Basin, which is a hydrographic and sedimentary system encompassing about 131,000 km2 of northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia.  In its present configuration, the basin is hydrologically closed and dominated by alkaline Lake Turkana, with the Omo River as its primary source of water. As recently as the middle Holocene, it had connections to adjacent rift basins and an outlet to the Nile River.

The Omo Kibish Formation or simply Kibish Formation  is named after the archaeological site of Omo Kibish, where it was first studied. Richard Leakey’s work there in 1967 found some of the oldest remains of Homo sapiens. In Omo 1, the occipital is strikingly modern (rounded), the parietals have their maximum breadth relatively high, there is only a weak supraorbital torus, and a chin is present. On the other hand, Omo 2,  has a more angled occipital, the maximum breadth of the skull is lower, but the calvarium is high and arched .

30 years after the original finds in 2004, a detailed stratigraphic analysis of the area surrounding the fossils was done. The fossiliferous I layer was 40Ar/39Ar dated to 172-196 k.a., and the (higher layer) Member III was dated to 105 k.a.. Numerous MSA lithics were found in  Members I and III. Basic lithic techno-typological systems remained stable over that time.

For a long time,  the Omo fossils remained the oldest known Homo sapiens remains. Ethiopia / East Africa was therefore among the main proposed locations for the cradle of Homo sapiens. Fossils excavated at the Jebel Irhoud site in Morocco have since been dated to an earlier period, around 300 k.a. ago, arguing against a linear evolution of H. sapiens in East Africa and fit better to prevailing genetic data.

Recently, John Shea and Matthew Sisk have presented important new data derived from the analysis of the lithic assemblages at archaeological localities in the Kibish formation. Their research has focused on three such localities with substantial accumulations of stone tools: KHS, which belongs to Member 1; AHS, which also belongs to Member 1; and BNS, located at the boundary between Members 2 and 3. Thus, the KHS and AHS sites are comparable in age with the Gademotta and Kulkuletti sites, whereas BNS dates to a somewhat later period.

Although not directly associated with the fossils, the lithics from both excavated and surface collections at Kibish are characteristic East African MSA, with Levallois and discoid reduction strategies, and a number of bifacial pieces that vary from foliates to handaxes, the latter are uncommon.

The Omo Kibish sites shares some features with other Eastern African MSA complexes:

  • Large core-tools (hand axes, picks, core-axes, and large lanceolates) are present but relatively rare.
  • Levalloisian debitage is present in all assemblages in different quantities. The same holds through for Discoidal core reduction
  • Foliates are present in many assemblages, although their frequency varies.
  • There is little evidence for the systematic production of geometric backed pieces, which are characteristic for MIS4/3 sites further south than, including Mumba Cave in Tanzania and Enkape Ya Muto in the southern Kenya.

To focus on excavated foliates, there was only one complete foliate point discovered during Shea’s excavations (found at the BNS site), in addition to 16 foliate point fragments. It is likely that the category of broken points combines those that were broken during the process of their manufacture and those that were broken during use-which would be especially likely if, as Shea and Sisk  have suggested, such foliate points were elements of projectile weapon systems, resulting in the breakage of points through impact. Thus, broken foliate points may occur in elevated frequencies in quite distinct organizational contexts for different reasons.

Furthermore, bifacial points represent complex forms of technological organization by virtue of the reductive properties and their tendency to shift in terms of both formal and functional properties over the course of their use-lives. For these reasons, the early occurrence of foliate points in the MSA of East Africa deserves the increased attention it has received in recent years.

Throughout the Eastern Africa MSA the Levallois technology played an eminent role in the production of stone artifacts. Discoidal and single- and multiple-platform cores are also widespread at MSA sites  Blade or bladelet production occurs at early MSA assemblages at Gademotta/Kulkuletti, at Omo Kibish  and putatively Late MSA assemblages at Aduma and Porc Epic in Ethiopia  and elsewhere. Porc Epic is  a highlight of MSA-variability in the region. The fine lanceolate Foliates in my post from Omo are very similar to “Type 20” at Porc Epic in the techno-typological study authored by David Pleurdeau (2oo3).

Along with the frequent use of Levallois technology, points are a defining element of the MSA. Point forms at eastern African sites are highly variable in size and shape. “Point”  refers to a broad category of artifacts made of stone including unretouched, unifacial, and bifacial implements made on Levallois and other flake blanks. The term is both a morphological description (a pointed artifact) and an ethnographically based functional inference (as the tip of a spear or other hunting implement). Studies of point shape, microwear patterns, and mastic traces from sites in eastern Africa and adjacent areas indicate that many, but not all points were hafted and probably used to tip spears, darts, or even arrows. Others were used as butchering tools and for more domestic actions.

Clark and McBrearty and Brooks have emphasized geographic variation among MSA points at the subcontinental scale, although formal definitions or tests of the extent of many of these variants remain to be done. Foliates, similar to the pieces from Omo, shown in this post, sometimes broad and short or even small and elongated are very characteristic for the early to late MSA in Eastern Africa. The Lupemban points are one of the most distinct MSA regional point variants, characterized by large (>10 cm), thin, bifacially flaked lanceolate points . Originally defined from sites in central Africa, Lupemban lanceolates are found as far east as the Lake Victoria region of Kenya. Although poorly dated in eastern Africa, the large size of Lupemban lanceolates suggests attribution to the Early MSA, consistent with U-series age estimates of 170–270 ka for Lupemban assemblages in Zambia.

Foliates and Lanceolates in Africa

Bifacial Foliates of the Nil Valley

Who made the MSA?

Kibish Formation: Courtesy: National Science Foundation


About Omo Kibish:…/Shea-2008-JHE-MSA-Kibish.pdf

McDougall, I., Brown, F. H., & Fleagle, J. G. (2005). Stratigraphic placement and age of modern humans from Kibish, Ethiopia. Nature, 433(7027), 733-736;

Brown, F. H., & Fuller, C. R. (2008). Stratigraphy and tephra of the Kibish Formation, southwestern Ethiopia. Journal of Human Evolution.

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Middle Magdalenian with Lussac-Angles points



















After 150 years of research, the Middle Magdalenian in S/W-France and Cantabria (formerly Magdalenian III of the classification of H. Breuil) can be characterized  by an enormous diversity of archaeological remains, and by ideas and objects that circulated over long distances.

At the very end of the Palaeolithic, symbolic productions (portable and cave art, ornaments) allow, together with the lithic and bone industries, to define precise chrono-geographical groups.The early middle Magdalenian in S/W France is characterized by three prominent “facies”: the

  • Magdalenian with navettes,
  • the Magdalenian with Lussac-Angles points
  • and the Magdalenian with scalenes .

The 5,7 cm long point (Figure 1 and 2), shown in this post, was found during the early 20th century at Laugerie haute and is a typical Lussac-Angles point from the “Magdalenien III” , which was first defined at this site.

Lussac-Angles points, first described by Mortillet in “Musee Prehistorique,” as early as 1881, are strictly defined as relatively short and wide single-beveled points (length: usually ~5,5-80 mm) with a triangular or quadrangular cross-section, a longitudinal groove on the upper side and sometimes a second one on the lower side, no decoration, a bevel without hafting striations, and mesial proportions that often result in the distal end showing a “carinated” profile (Figure3). Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) antler is the primary raw material utilised in the manufacture of these items.

These points  characterize the early phases of the Middle Magdalenian (c. 19–17 k.a. cal. BP or 15,5-14,5 k.a. BP), between the end of the Last Glacial Maximum and the rapid climatic deterioration of the Heinrich 1 event). This particular point showed an especially wide diffusion encompassing a large part of the Middle Magdalenian cultural area—from Tito Bustillo (Spain) in the west to Gazel (France) in the east and  to Roc-aux-Sorciers (France) in the north. Till now, Lussac-Angles points have been recognized in 22 sites from the Cantabrian coast, the northern Pyrenees, and the western margins of the Massif Central. Important sites are Le Roc-aux-Sorciers à Angles-sur-l’Anglin (Vienne) et La Marche at Lussac-les-Châteaux (Vienne).

Of course, single and double-beveled points are also components of the Magdalenian III weaponry, but they have a wider chronological meaning. Half round rods (“baguettes demi-rondes’”) become important only after the Magdalenian with Lussac-Angles points- phase of the Middle Magdalenian, but have occasionally found in some sites of this facies , also.

The symbolic production from the Middle Magdalenian is very original, too. We find Mammoth ivory beads called “stomach beads” Engraved horse incisors covered with fine geometric engravings and other animal teeth which were drilled and engraved.

The Magdalenian is by far the most important cultural unit of the European Upper Paleolithic offering various and outstanding examples of parietal and mobile art. As for the latter, the cave site of La Marche in Lussac-les-Châteaux, Vienne, offers about 1500 of engraved stones . What is exceptional, that human figures, which are rare in Paleolithic art production,  were found in about 140 cases. Whereas human representations in Palaeolithic art often bear stereotype characters, the engravings of La Marche show personal streaks, as if the artists wanted to create portraits of specific individuals. The engravings were clearly from the Magdalenian III of the site, where traces of a late Magdalenian were also present.

Roc-aux-Sorciers: The sculpted frieze on the walls of the rock shelter of Roc-aux-Sorciers was discovered in 1950. Unfortunately,  this extraordinary frieze, featuring animals (Ibex, horses,Bison) and human figures (among them small faces or masks and a series of realistic but headless woman bodies with clearly defined pubic triangles), carved in relief, is not open to the public for conservation reasons.

What are the technological Hallmarks of Lithics, normally in focus at Aggsbachs blog, during the  Middle Magdalenian? The reconstruction of the chaînes opératoires always highlights a dissociation of the blade and bladelet production. Blades are intended for the manufacture of domestic tools (Scrapers, Burins, Becs). Bladelets are used as blanks for backed hunting weapons (truncated backed bladelets, scalene bladelets, backed points,Figure 4).

Meticulous techno-typological analyses revealed much more interesting details: The middle Magdalenian site of the “Rocher-de-la-Caille” which is located in the high valley of the river Loire, and part of the sites, that were flooded to make way for the Villerest dam has revealed an early example of pressure flaking in Europe.  Pressure debitage was clearly used in the production of certain bladelets preferably on translucent blond flint blade blanks imported from the Cher valley. The technique used the arrises of the upper side of laminar blanks diversely retouched in this intention of bladelet production, specially by an inverse truncation to be used as the pressure platform.

The same debitage method, but using percussion, was identified in the Early Middle Magdalenian from the Roc-au-Sorcier and at La Marche. The debitage method from the Rocher-de-la-Caille appears as another  cultural marker within the Middle Magdalenian of the centre of France.

Needles from La Madeleine

La Madeleine / Vezere

3-D Mikrotopographie at La Marche

The official site of Roc-aux-Sorciers

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Curved and Backed : Azilian / Federmesser of the North European Plain


This is a 3,5 cm long pen-knife (Federmesser) from the Leudal area in South Limburg / NL, an area already introduced during an earlier post (see below). The Federmesser complex is part of the Pan-West and Central European Azilian. The length is within the normal range of such artifacts from the Leudal area and larger than the average Federmesser in the German Middle Rhine area-at Kettig for example, points are significantly shorter, with an average length of 28mm).

After the end of the “Golden Age” of the Upper Palaeolithic (Gravettian); during the maximum ice advance of the Last Glacial Maximum, North Western Europe was an ice desert and abandoned by human populations. Humans would not return the area for a period of several thousand years. After the LGM, recolonization of N/W-Europe started from Refugia in the South.

It has been widely accepted, that the North European Plain was recolonized after the LGM first by humans of the Magdalenian technocomplex coming from their Franco-Cantabrian refugia. However, their expansion towards the North may have been an episodic process, taking several thousands of years. Several explanatory “push” and “pull” scenario have been proposed for explanation of this scenario.

During the late Magdalenian we find several modifications of the original Franco-Cantabrian toolset like the Long-blade Magdalenian in the Paris basin, the Creswellian in N/W-Europe, the Hamburgian, the“facies Cepoy-Marsagny”.

The Azilian has long been considered an abrupt event. Recent work shows that the development of this technocomplex was not sudden but occurred progressively. Whereas for the Paris Basin this process is comparatively well investigated and commonly termed “Azilianisation” , the passage from the Magdalenian, Creswellian and Hamburgian to the Late Palaeolithic industries in North- Western and Central Europe during the late Azilian remains poorly understood owing to a general lack of stratified and well-dated sites.

The “Azilianisation” process of cultural change began during the GI-1e/d (end of the Bølling) with the Early Azilian (Bipointe – Phase), not present in the Netherlands or in the German Rhine area. This early transformation probably finds its roots at the end of the Magdalenian during the GS-2b-a (Oldest Dryas) or is rooted in Epigravettian traditions transferred via the Rhone valley. The finalization of this process is the so-called Late Azilian,  lasting from the Allerød until probably the  first half of GS-1 (Younger Dryas).

In the Netherlands and Belgium the appearance of the Federmeser-groups marks a major shift in subsistence strategy and settlement patterns. We notice a shift from large game hunting to a more broad spectrum subsistence. Sites become more numerous, reflecting both demographic success and the tendency toward more permanent occupations.

Compared to the Magdalenian, the Federmesser Groups used a more simple, less standardized lithic technology materialized in Azilian points and short end-scrapers. The symbolic culture of the Magdalenian was radically transformed into another system of ideologies and beliefs , as mirrored in the known examples of Azilian “art” production, focused on abstract graphic production Anyhow, recent discovery of 45 engraved schist tablets from archaeological layers at Le Rocher de l’Impératrice attests iconographic continuity with the late Magdalenian, together with special valorization of aurochs. This discovery again points to a gradual change between the Magdalenian and Azilian.The amber elk figure from Weitsche (Lower Saxony) is another example of figurative art, maybe foreshadowing the famous amber sculptures of the Scandinavian Mesolithic (Figure 2; Photograph 2017 with permission of the NLM).

In the Leudal area projectile point types are largely indicative of the typical late Federmesser-assemblages, with straight backed points and curved backed points being the dominant types. These these are sometimes found together with Creswellian and Cheddar points, Tjonger/Gravette points and  Krems points- a (secondary?) spectrum of mainly surface ensembles, which gave these ensembles the name: Creswello-Tjongerian. In southern Netherlands and Belgium these projectiles are accompanied by domestic tools, like unstandardized burins and small flake-endscrapers.

Figure 3 From: Hermann Schwabedissen: Federmesser-Gruppen des nordwesteuropäischen Flachlandes : Zur Ausbreitung des Spät-Magdalénien; Neumünster : Wachholtz, 1954.

Azilian from the Roc d’Abeilles rock shelter

Azilian / Federmesser from the Reinhausen Forest (Lower Saxonia)

Mousterian from the Leudal area in southern Limburg

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Hafting during the late European Middle Paleolithic

This is an unusual mono-facial scraper (7×5 cm) from Saint-Brice-sous-Rânes (Orne department; France. Figure 1 and 2: ventral side; Figure 3: dorsal side).What makes this scraper special is the carefully executed spine on the right side and traces of hafting )

Macrotraceology reveals that the ventral right side is partially polished and smoothed to a certain degree with some rough remnants of the original cortex, while  the left side is still sharp with evidence of several reshaping retouches (better seen on Figure 2). In addition, the patination of the two functional units is different. Therefore we can conclude that the polished part was the prehensile / hafted edge which was modified by a spine, working like a pin for better stability in an organic handle.

Tl-data for the non-Levallois series at Saint-Brice-sous-Rânes scatter around 40 k.a. BP (MIS3). Although the site is a large workshop with many rough outs and unfinished tools, the presence of highly curated tools, like the one introduced in this post, suggest also other interpretations for parts of the site.

During the European Middle Paleolithic, traces of hafting have been repeatedly observed on convergent tools (Biache-Saint-Vaast, OIS 7; La Cotte-Saint-Brelade-layer 5, OIS 7; Staroselje, OIS 4; 9, Buran-Kaya III-Level B1,OIS3, Königsaue OIS 5d or 3).

In Königsaue (Germany) a birch-bark pitch displays imprints of a bifacial tool and a wooden haft. Inden-Altdorf near Jülich in the Rhineland (Germany) was dated to OIS 5e.The artefact assemblage from Inden Altdorf is said to be Micoquian, but a final publication is missing.  It is one of the rare Paleolithic sites where birch pitch residues were found on  tools and offers   evidence for the production of synthetic pitch for the use of composite tool technology from the Neanderthal world. Two flakes with birch tar residues from Campitello, Central Italy, dated before OIS 6 are the earliest indication for this technology so far.

During MIS 3 hafting was clearly a systematic practice at the Sesselfelsgrotte G (Bavaria; Germany).  G Rots (2009) described that hafting was preferable used for projectiles and percussion tools. Scraping tools were also preferentially used in a haft, possibly as a way to increase the exerted pressure, while for other artifacts no particular prehensile mode is vital for their use, and traces of hafting are usually missing.

Tl-data for the non-Levallois series at Saint-Brice-sous-Rânes scatter around 40 k.a. BP. Although the site is a large workshop with many rough outs and unfinished tools, the presence of highly curated tools, like the one introduced in this post, suggest also other interpretations for parts of the site.

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

The bifacial Mousterian of the the Amorican Massif

Bifacial tools from Saint-Brice-sous-Rânes

Adhesives for composite Tools during the Acheulian?

The invention of Hafting and Backing

Hand-held or Hafted?

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Shouldered Pieces: Signature of interactions around the great Adriatic plain during the LGM


This is a shouldered piece from the early Epigravettian in Arezzo. It is not necessary a shouldered point, but during the Epigravettian of Italia, shouldering was applied to several classes of artifacts.

The LGM led to the shrinking of the Adriatic Sea, opening a large land bridge, known as the Great Adriatic Plain, between Italy and the Balkans.

Mussi (2001) once described the plain as a cold, windswept flatland impoverished in game and lithic raw material that was more or less avoided by Epipalaeolithic groups until the end of the Pleistocene .

Scientific work of the last 15 years showed finally that the contrary is true. In fact the northern Adriatic Plain was a zone of high resource productivity. A zone rich in game, water, and other resources, and hence a focus for settlement by Epipalaeolithic groups.

The northern Adriatic basin around 24 k.a and 21 k.a. calBP is now perceived as an area where highly, logistically mobile  human groups, sharing a single cultural identity, built an archaeological landscape composed of discrete areas and activities, both temporally and spatially distinct. This landscape included what should be regarded as a broad residential settlement area, currently inaccessible, which probably also constituted a node for cyclical human aggregation and cultural transmission. This was surrounded by a series of provisioning areas, destinations of short-duration specialized expeditions.

It is suggested, that this newly gained territory and the worsening of environmental conditions leading to the LGM might have prompted, at the peak of glacial conditions, actual movements of human populations from the Middle Danube Basin, where well-established early Gravettian communities are known (e.g., at Willendorf II, Pavlovian sites), to the areas of southern Europe, with certain parts of the Balkans and Italy, and in particular the Great Adriatic Plain, serving as refugia for both animal, plant and human communities.

The signature of such population movement may be the spread of distinct techno- morphological traits in lithic types characteristic of the central and east European late Gravettian traditions (Willendorf 1-Nord, Willendorf 2/9, Spadiza, Moravany, Trencin, Nitra, Avdeevo, Kostenki, Chotylewo, Zaraïsk, Molodova, Mitoc)-the so called “Shouldered Point Horizon” .

Shouldered pieces during the LGM in Italy and the Balkans are most frequently points (pointes à cran), but other tool morphologies (e.g., burins, endscrapers) are also found with retouched bases.

Importantly, the production of  shouldered points is very probably linked with the introduction of new more efficient hunting tactics and projectiles. Such shouldered projectiles, used either with bows or spear-throwers, may have allowed for the targeting of prey at larger distances.

In northern Italy, industries with à cran pieces have been found at Grotta delle Arene Candide and Grotta dei Fanciulli in Liguria and at Grotta Paina in Venetia. In the south-eastern part of the peninsula the key sequence is the site of Grotta Paglicci in Puglia, which has yielded the most complete Epigravettian stratigraphic sequence for the wider Adriatic region.

At Paglicci, shouldered pieces are found in Early Epigravettian layers (from layer 18 to 10). The presence of shouldered pieces is also attested in the caves of Taurisano, Mura and Cipolliane in Salento, Grotta Niscemi and Cani- cattini Bagni in Sicily, and Riparo del Romito in Calabria. This widespread distribution suggests that shouldered pieces are well established in all southern regions of Italy.

Early Epigravettian cave settlements are also known also in the Apennine Mountains, in Marche and Abruzzo regions. Shouldered pieces are also found at the sites of Cavernette Falische (Cenciano Diruto, Lattanzi, Sambuco), Grotta del Sambuco , Cenciano Diruto , and Grotta delle Settecannelle in Lazio.

At the Balkans and in Greek a similar Epigravettian technocomplex has been dated to 21-15 k.a. BP at Sandalja, Kadar, Orphel, Kastrisa and Klisoura.

Some of the earliest sites with shouldered points in the Balkans are found in Istria, and Croatia and in western Greece (at 19 k.a. BP), but new excavations have pushed the occurrence of this tool typ in the Balkans to even earlier times. Vrbicka cave located in western Montenegro is currently under excavation.  One shouldered point was found and  AMS-dated to 23.k.a. Two shouldered pieces have also be found in western Serbia and are said to date to the same period  but the actual dates from this site have not been published yet.

The late Gravettian of Western Slovakia

Balzi Rossi (Rochers Rouges) caves and the Ligurian Epigravettian with shouldered Points

Lost and Found: Epigravettian Point from the Gargano peninsula

Moravany: Shouldered point (Willendorf-Kostenki culture)

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Early Upper Paleolithic of the East European Plain



The East European Plain  is a vast interior plain extending east of the North/Central European Plain, and comprising several plateaus stretching roughly from 25 degrees longitude eastward. It includes the westernmost Volhynian-Podolian Upland, than the Central Russian Upland, and on the eastern border, encompassing the Volga Upland. The plain includes also a series of major river basins such as the Dnepr Basin, the Oka-Don Lowland, and the Volga Basin. Along the southernmost point of the East European Plain are the Caucasus and Crimean mountain ranges.Together with the North European Plain covering much of north-eastern Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, it constitutes the European Plain, the mountain-free part of the European landscape

This is a carinated burin, an end scraper, both with lateral retouches, suggestive for hafting, and a biconvex Leafpoint from the Early  Upper Paleolithic of the East European Plain. The leaf point is 8 cm long.

In Western Europe, the early Upper Paleolithic (EUP) is characterized by the (Proto) Aurignacian and several  local entities like the Chatelperronian in S/W-France, the Uluzzian in Italy and Greek, the Lincombian-Ranisian-Jerzmanowician in N/W- Europe and the Bohunician in the Brno Basin with several isolated scatters  further East like Kulichivka (western Ukraine).  The Szeletian seems to have been developed from the Middle European Micoquian and remains the only “transitional” industry.

While the structure of the EUP in Western and Middle Europe became considerable clear during the last 20 years, the integration of the east European EUP into the wider European context remains challenging. The most important reason is related to the scarcity of natural shelters on the East European Plain resulting in a low visibility of burried sites.

On the East European plain it seems that bifacial elements (Streletskian, “Eastern Szeletian”) define one important component of the EUP. Recently some key sequences were recently re-dated and other remain to be reevaluated in depth. The primary data of most of these industries remain debatable, especially their taphonomy and exact dating.

At Kostenki 1/V the lower chronological limit of the Streletskian is about 42 k.a. old (44-47 k.a. cal. BP). The Streletskian or eastern Szeletian at Buran Kaya III/C on the Crimean Peninsula has a similar age. If we accept, that the  new direct AMS C-14 dates on Sungir human burials are representative for the Streletskian at this site (33,3- 36,3 k.a. cal BP), this would indicate a considerable time depth of this techno complex . In addition, the Streletskian has a very wide spatial distribution from the Middle Urals (Garchi 1) to the Pontic steppe (Biriychaia balka 2, Vys), without relations to any environmental conditions.

In contrast to the upper Paleolithic bifacial tradition, the Aurignacian of the East European plain is rather rare: presently the Kostenki group of sites provides evidence both for the northeast and most ancient manifestation of the Aurignacian /~35,0 k.a .(cal: 39,3-40,9) k.a. BP.

Excavations of the last decade of the lowermost cultural layer (IVb) at Kostenki 14, under the CI tephra (~39.6 k.a.), also provided evidence for an assemblage without typical Aurignacian and Streletskian elements.

This Initial Upper Paleolithic (IUP)  appears to be comparable to the Proto-Aurignacian of the western Mediterranean, the Fumanian of North Italy, and the Middle East early Ahmarian.

Such IUP ensembles may  represent a “pioneering” Upper Paleolithic wave that was realized both as migrations and/or as cultural transmission.

Up to now, Siuren 1 is the only known Aurignacian site in Crimea. It has nine different Aurignacian occupational layers in primary positions, which are attributed to the early/Protoaurignacian (units H and G; Dufour bladelets subtype Dufour; Krems-Points, St. Yves  Points, ) and the late Aurignacian (unit F; Bladelets of subtype Roc-de-Combe ) due to techno-typological reasons. Within all Aurignacian horizons, the assemblages are characterized by bladelets and microblades, which constitute the majority of tool supports as well.

In general Siuren 1 looks like a replication of the West and Middle European evolution: a Protoaurignacian is followed by an evolved Aurignacian, but according to the C-14 data the site is only 30 k.a. old.

As it is improbable that the East Europe lagged behind the general lithic trend for ten thousand years after the (Proto)-Aurignacian started in West and Middle Europe, it is reasonable to reject all C-14 data from this site.

Denominating Lamelles during the Proto / Aurignacian in S/W-France and Eurasia

A Ksar Akil Point from Kebara

Emireh points and the Levantine Initial Upper Paleolithic

The Initial Upper Paleolithic of the Negev

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Mousterian from the Château de la Roche-Courbon site

This is a classic, very flat, paper thin, non-Levallois  Mousterian Point from the Château de la Roche-Courbon site (Charente-Maritime; 7×4,5x cm). It has an uncommon square outline, very rare during the Middle Paleolithic of the old world.

Not far from Saintes, at St. Porchaire, the river Bruant, a small tributary of the Charente, flows through the gardens of the Château de la Roche Courbon, feeding its water features.

The Grotte Château de La Roche Courbon (caves of the Chateau La Roche Courbon) are numerous small caverns located south of the castle at the foot of a limestone cliff. The caves were used during the Paleolithic and numerous remains were found in the caves since the 1880ies. The diggings were unsystematically and non-scientific-therefore we have only a vague idea what was present at these sites and what got lost.

Lithics found at Grotte Château de La Roche Courbon from the Mousterian, Châtelperronian, Aurignacian and Gravettian can bee seen in the Museum at the Château. No contextual informations have survived. Much lithic material was discarded during for reasons of space

Other prehistoric sites at the Bruant are known:

  • La Vauzelle ( MTA, Mousterian Quina, Châtelperronian, Aurignacian, Magdalenian)
  • Grottes de La Flétrie (Mousterian and Aurignacian)
  • Grottes du Triangle (engraved Plaquette probably Magdalenian)

Further reading: André Debénath Néandertaliens et Cro-Magons : Les temps glaciaires dans le bassin de la Charente 2006 (ebook for a very cheap price!

Grottes du parc du Château de la Roche-Courbon (Wikipedia):

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Solutrean Leaf Point from black Senonian Flint


The major part of the deposits of the current floodplain of the Vézère is most probably Holocene in age, with the majority of the Pleistocene deposits having been eroded away or have been buried below thick layers from more recent times. Anyhow, at several locations Pleistocene sediments are still present below Holocene overbank deposits.

A limited sondage at the foot of Laugerie-Haute showed that Pleistocene deposits can still be found below the Holocene strata. Most of the stone artefacts recorded during these sondage were made out of dark gray to black flint, generally locally collected as judged from the rolled cortex of the raw material. Small numbers of artefacts were made out of Bergerac flint, jasper, chalcedoine and hyaline quartz.

As far as the Senonian flints are concerned, the grey and black group clearly displayed better flaking properties than the beige one, independent of morphology and dimensions of the nodules. This may explain the large quantity of exactly this raw material, that has been processed during the Upper Paleolithic at many key sites in the Vézère, for example at the La Madeleine rock shelter (Magdalenian), at La Rochette (especially during the Aurignacian) or at Pataud during the Aurignacian and Gravettian although, the excellent Flint from the Bergerac region becomes more important at Pataud during the Gravettian.

a nice overview of the raw materials, used during the Solutrean at Laugerie can be found here:

Solutrean points from the Placard cave

A laurel leaf point from the Dordogne

A Leaf Point from Solutré

Fragment of a large Leafpoint (Solutreen)

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A classic Keilmesser / Prądnik from Neuburg /Donau

This is a classic “initial” Ciemna/Pradnik backed bifacial knife, (Keilmesser). It was found as a stray find, decennia ago, at Neuburg at the Donau (Bavaria) in the heartland of the Central European Micoquian technocomplex. It was made from Kreidequarzit, known as raw material from other Middle Paleolithic site nearby (Speckberg, Oberneder Grotto, Biburg, Landkreis Kelheim).

Keilmesser are typical tools of the Micoquian. Ciemna/Pradnik backed bifacial knifes, named after a site in Southern Poland, which was recently dated to MIS3 (excavations in the well-stratified Main Chamber (sector CK). They are characterized by one straight cutting edge opposite a thicker blunted edge, a rectangular or convex tip, -with or -without the signs of re-sharpening by removal of lateral tranchets. This reshaping technique is known as Prądnik technique. At Ciemna this technique was used for renuvation not only of Keilmesser but also for the resharping of other tools (for example scraper). The Prądnik technique of resharpening is known also from elsewhere in Central and West Europe, for example at Okiennik and Abri de Wylotne in Poland, Stratum IIIB at Buhlen (Hessen), at the Grottos de la Verpillière I and II (Bourgogne),  Mont de Beuvry (Pas-de-Calais)….

Keilmesser (Prądniks in the Polish literature) have been further divided into several morphological sub-types, mainly based on the shape of the tip and extent of the prehensile back (Klausennische, Bockstein, Pradnik/Ciemna, Königsaue, Lichtenberg, Buhlen, Tata, Wolgograd, Ak-Kaya…)

Studies show that Keilmesser played a specific role throughout the Middle Paleolithic in Central /East Europe. They formed an important part of the Neanderthal toolkit, representing tools that were used for a variety of activities (cutting, sawing), repeatedly resharpened and recycled, used and curated for a long time), and had causal relationship with regionalization of cultural and social variability among Neanderthals.

Metrical analyses suggest that the variability of their forms fact reflects a combination of several main determinants, such as the nature and morphology of the raw material, the stage of the tool reduction during its use and modification and the presence and absence of hafting devices.

The KMG-groups, recorded over a vast area from France to the lower Volga basin, are much more widespread than the MTA technocomplex, as the latter is confined to Western Europe. In Western Europe, we notice an overlap between KMG / MTA as best evidenced in Belgium or France. This observation points to a strong influence of an elaborated socio-cultural behaviour among late Neanderthals before the advent of AMH in Europe.

Asymmetric Bifaces

A triangular Handaxe from Neuburg an der Donau


The Middle European Micoquian of the Franconian Jura

The Prądnik (KMG) complex in Central Germany revisited

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Solutrean Willow leaf points / Feuille de Saule from Fourneau du Diable

This is a Willow Leaf point from the final Solutrean, found during the late 19th century at Fourneau du Diable. Willow leaf points / Feuille de Saule are slim blade parallel sided implements made by sophisticated pressure flaking with rounded ends, often  retouched on one side only. The example here shows a rare subtype with retouches on both sides. In contrast to the contemporaneous  upper Solutrean shouldered points /pointes à cran, they were certainly not used as projectiles. Rare microtraceological evidence may indicate their use as knifes.

Fourneau du Diable is a Rock Shelter open to the south at the junction of the Moneries and Dronne valley (right bank) between Brantome and Bourdeilles. The site consists of two terraces in a line of cliffs, named upper and lower terrace. The site was first recognized as early as 1863 and later excavated by D. Peyrony, who established the gross stratigraphy for the upper and lower terasse and published his results in 1932.
On the lower terrace a Gravettian with (Micro)-Gravettes, Elements tronquees and Noailles Burins was found below a Solutrean with leaf points and some Solutrean shouldered points.
The Solutrean of the upper terrace (3 layers) was more abundant with several hundred samples of extremely fine made shouldered points and rare Feuilles de Saule, concentrated in the upper levels . While in the lower two layers, leaf points (some of them were as long as 22 cm) were also present, they were absent in the upper layer. The fauna was characterised by the predominance of reindeer, followed by horses and aurochs. The patterns of Reindeer and Horse procurement at Fourneau du Diable show that the carcasses  were probably brought as complete to the site. The succession is closed by a Upper Magdalenian, sometimes in direct contact with the third Solutrean layer and with a thickness of only 5 cm.

By the way: The Solutrean was not only original in terms of lithic industries, wide use of bone needles with eyes and the use of ornament: bracelets, bead necklaces, pendants, bone pins, and colored pigments for personal adornment but also left few unmistakable traces in terms of parietal creation. The most remarkable are sculptures in bas-relief, the most prominent are those at Fourneau du Diable and at the late Solutrean at Le Roc de Sers, Charente.

This is the famous Aurochs bas-relief from Fourneau-du-Diable

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

Gravettian with Noailles Burins

Point a face plane from Laugerie-Haute

Solutean Shouldered Point from Fourneau du Diable

Badegoule- an important Archaeological site for the Solutréen and Badegulien in S/W-France


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