Handaxe from Petit Spiennes


This is a Handaxe from Petit Spiennes (Mesvin) with a secondary lateral Burin spall . According to the local stratigrapy it may belong to MIS 10 or 8.

The Mons area (Belgium, Province of Hainaut, Wallonia Region) is famous for its Neolithic Flint mines, which are nowadays UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The mines at Spiennes are covering more than 100 ha, the Neolithic mining area of Petit Spiennes about 14 ha. Underground flint mining was taking place in this area between 4, 4 and 4,2 k.a. BC cal, making Spiennes one of the oldest mining sites in Europe.

Paleolithic tools were found during the early formation of Prehistoric Research and reported by G. de Mortillet during the late 19th century (Bulletins de la Société d’Anthropologie de Paris, IV° Série, tome 2, 1891. pp. 565-568). After 80 years of the surface collections by inhabitants and Antiquarians, scientific excavations finally took place at Petit Spiennes at the Mesvin IV site.

Mesvin iV seems to be one of the earliest Middle Palaeolithic assemblage from continental north-west Europe and was excavated from fluvial sediments. The assemblage was associated with a fauna dominated by mammoth, woolly rhino and horse and interpreted as reflecting a cold, open environment and on the basis of U-series dates, probably dating to MIS 8 (ca 250 k.a BP).

The lithic ensemble is composed of bifaces, often with “coups de tranchet latéraux” (so-called Prodnik-spalls), Levallois flake- and blade-tools (scrapers:- simple, convergent, déjeté) and bifacial backed knifes very similar to Prodniks. In addition the Mesvin IV assemblage is characterized by a good control of Levallois, discoid and blade technology and a considerable high degree of variability regarding these techniques.

Although some Prehistorians once wanted to use the presence of Prodnik-spalls as a chronological marker, this technique appears at different continents and at different time-points and may be a functional trait, that was repeatedly re-invented. Good examples have been found at Dakhleh Oasis (Egypt; [OIS7 or 9], Cotte St. Brelade (Jersey) [OIS7/6 ], Mont de Beuvry (Normandy) , l’abri du Musée (Dordogne) [OIS4? ], Buhlen (Hessen) [pre OIS4? ] and several other Middle European KMG- sites. Microware analysis revealed that such tools were most often used for butchery.

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