Flakes, Blades, Bladelets!!


These are several bladelets from the Kebaran strata at the type site Kebera cave, already introduced during earlier posts. I remember well that I was convinced by arguments when reading Leroi-  Gourhan’s, “Le Geste et la Parole” during the 1970ies, who wrote, that modern man in comparison to his forerunners created blades, that should be ten times more effective, regarding the  gains in cutting edge, than Middle Paleolithic flakes.

After 1980 it became clear, that blade technology emerged, at 400-200 k.a. BP in Africa and the Near East and was also independently invented in northwest Europe during the Middle Paleolithic and then faded from the archaeological record until the advent of the Upper Paleolithic. These findings showed this technology was invented several times before the rise of H. sapiens and that several different hominids were involved in the production of blades.

It is a common observation that in science, plausible assumptions, if they were made by a prominent person and correspond the “Zeitgeist“quickly become the status of a scientific proof. Anyhow science is open-ended and paradigms can be and will be challenged. Here I put aside that a discourse free of domination is not existent in this world.

It needed several decades to question and finally to refute Leroi-Gourhans arguments by experimental data. In 2008 Eren et al. showed that blades had only 1.57 times more cutting edge per weight of stone than flakes from discoidal cores. The analysis of the complete operational sequences revealed that blade reduction did not produce more blanks per gram of stone compared with discoidal flake reduction. In addition the experiments supported to the assertion that discoidal flakes have longer use-lives than blades because they can be resharpened more times. Consequently, the flakes produced more accumulated cutting edge than the blades.

To maximize cutting-edge production, the blank should be as small as possible. This could mean that bladelet- and not blade-production was a turning point in the evolution of optimized raw material procession. Bladelets are expected to work only in the context of composite tools with interchangeable lithic inserts and begin to play a crucial role beginning with the Early / Initial Upper Paleolithic in Africa, Europe and in wide parts of Asia (including the Levant).

Eren’s Paper at:


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About Katzman

During my whole life I was fascinated by stone age artefacts. Not only the aesthetic qualities of these findings, but also the stories around them and the considerations arising from their discovery, are a part of my blog. Comments and contributions are allways welcome!

About me: J.L. Katzman (Pseudonym). Born in Vienna. Left Austria in 1974 and did not regret. Studied Medicine and Prehistory at a German University. Member of a Medical Department at a German University.

Copyright 2010-2017 by JLK. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to use material in these posts so long as you cite the work.

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