Asymmetric Bifaces



An asymmetric bifacial implement from Northern France, found in the 1970ies together with some bifacial scrapers, probably related to some kind of “Keilmesser” inventory.

In General, Handaxes before OIS 8 in Central and West Europe follow a symmetrical concept. They are interpreted, based on limited evidence, as heavy-duty cutting tools, mostly connected with big game butchery.

Towards the end of Lower Paleolithic some researchers noticed a trend resulting in a gradual “asymmetrisation” of bifacial artifacts over the European Plain and the bordering highland zone. This can, for example be observed at Mesvin IV (Belgium; U/Th dates: 250-300 k.a) and Pietraszyn 49 in Upper Silesia, dated by TL at 130±10 ka and at some sites in Northern France. The Micoquian camp with habitation structures and fire places of Inden-Altdorf near Jülich in the Rhineland (Germany) has been securely dated to OIS 5e, by the way contradicting three paradigms: That in Middle Europe Neanderthals were nearly absent during fully interglacial conditions, that the lithics during these conditions always represent a “Taubachian” and that Neanderthals were handicapped apes that “built nests” (one of the strangest article I have ever read, I suggest in the book “the middle Paleolithic occupation of Europe”).

During the early Würm, Königsaue A-C, Buhlen (?), Zwolen, and the Prodnik-Micoquien of numerous Rockshelters of the Cracow region (Wylotne, Ciemna…) are clear examples of an “asymmetric tradition”. “Keilmesser” represent a new conceptualization of asymmetry, reflected in many aspects of lithic technology including also debitage methods. A symmetric concept appears to be limited to the OIS 3 (MTA of S/W-France and the Blattspitzen-technocomplex).

Functional analysis of the G-complex from Sesselfels-Grotte, Wylotne and Inden-Altdorf has shown, that several artifacts, amongst which are Keilmesser  and projectiles, proved to have been used while hafted by various hafting arrangements. Birch pitch is the oldest known synthetic material and was used in Prehistoric Europe as an adhesive to fix stone tools on wooden shafts has been detected both at Inden-Altdorf and Königsaue. Neanderthals therefore were not only “adapting” to their environments, but were innovators and creators of culture in the actual meaning of this word.

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