The Middle European Micoquian was conceptualized by L Zotz in the early 1950ies and this concept was later used by G. Bosinski. The term Micoquian is now mainly used for specific Middle Paleolithic assemblages in central Europe.  In contrast to the Mousterian, which almost totally lacks bifacial elements, a high occurrence of bifacial tools is the defining character of the Micoquian. Bosinski described the bifacial component of such industries by characteristic classes of artifacts:

  •  Asymmetric elongated bifaces with a thick often unworked basis
  • Fäustel, which are small bifaces (<6cm)
  • Faustkeilblätter (flat symmetric or asymmetric artifacts with a finely retouched point, one side is covered by retouches, the other side is only partially retouched)
  • Halbkeile (“splitted” elongated unifaces with a D-shaped cross-section)
  • Bifacial scrapers and leaf-shaped scrapers are also very common whilst leaf points only appear sporadically
  • Keilmesser (backed asymmetric bifaces). The functional unity of a  Keilmesser is characterized by opposing an active edge to a passive back.
  • A fond commun of typical Mousterian tools, such as points, scrapers, notches, denticulates
  • The production of the flake tools may be characterized by a Levallois, discoidal or Quina technique. In addition a laminar technique sometimes part of the French ensembles.

Bosinski proposed an internal chronology beginning during OIS5: Inventartyp Bockstein-Klausennische- Schambach (Buhlen, Prodnikian of The Krakow vicinity)-Röhrsheim. He justified this succession by the stratigraphy of Balve. This theory was falsified in the 1990ies by O Jöris, who showed that Prodniks were already present in the lower strata at the Balve cave. In addition several other ensembles (Salzgitter, Lichtenberg, Pietraszyn 49, DzierźyslawI, Mesvin4, Sesselfels), showing individual characteristics could not be easily incorporated into Bosinski’s succession.

At many sites Keilmesser are far more numerous than Micoquekeile  and Faustkeilblätter (Buhlen, Ciemna) and therefore more recently the term Keilmessergruppe is preferred. Calling the middle European Micoquian “Keilmessergruppe” (KMG) focus on ensembles with Keilmesser, and delineate entities ( e.g the “Moustérien à pièces bifaciales dominantes”) which share some elements with the KMG (bifacial scraper, Faustkeilblätter, Fäustel), but do not bear Keilmesser and surely have a very different conceptualization.

There are two interpretations about the Micoquian. To explain the data from the Sesselfels-Grotte, where “pure Mousterian levels” and “Micoquian” levels are interstratified, Richter proposes that a bifacial mode of artifact production was always present in the social memory of Neanderthals, but only one option in their repertoire. He supposes that the bifaciallity of implements is mainly the result of functional factors like the duration of stay, the field of activity at the site, and the mobility of the groups which used bifacial artifacts both as finished tools and high-quality cores. In Richters concept, Neanderthals adapted to the constraints of their environment, but made no conscious cultural choice. In addition Richter wants to confine the Micoquian to OIS3-which is certainly a violation of the data.

Some researchers (Jöris, Kozlowski, Neruda, Ringer), suggest that the KMG display a long-lasting tradition of Homo Neanderthaliensis beginning in OIS 6 or even earlier, which lasts until the late OIS3.

 In Europe first typical “Keilmesser” can be found at Mesvin IV (Belgium; U/Th dates: 250-300 k.a). The site Pietraszyn 49 in Upper Silesia, dated by TL at 130±10 ka, allready shows he whole spectrum of bifacially retouched Micoquien tools.

 The Micoquian can be found beginning with OIS 5e along the rivers of the large East European Plain: Ripiceni Izvor III and Korolevo IIa at the river Pruth;, Zotomir and Rhikta (Dnieper), Chotylevo (Desna), Antonowka, Nosovo (Don) Sukhaya Mechetka (Volga). Numerous sites are known from the Krim (Ak-Kaya; Zaskalnaya, Prolom, Sary-Kaya, Volchy Grot, Kabazi I und V).

Many sites assigned to the Micoquian in middle Europe seem to be from the early last glacial (OIS 5 c and a; Ciemna, Zwolen, Okkienik, Wylotne, lower levels at Balve, Buhlen, Kůlna 9b ) and from OIS3 (Kůlna 7a,6, Lichtenberg, Salzgitter Lebenstedt and the G-layers of the Sesselfels-Grotte), while no Micoquian settlements in Middle Europe are known during OIS4. 

In Northern France, several ensembles, who have many affinities to the Middle European Micoquian have been described after the reception of Bosinski’s work during the last years: Mont de Beuvry and Tréissény (Bretagne), Champlost and Germolles in the Bourgogne, Saint-Acheul and Gentelles at the Somme, Riencourt les Bapaume near Callais and Verriers and Vinneuf near Paris.  An extremely interesting site is the Abri du Musee at Les Eyzies with classic prodniks during OIS4 (?)

Ruebens recently showed, that at several sites in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Western and Northern France both typical Micoquian and Mousterian bifacial elements occur, leaving a typological dilemma as to which technocomplex they should be assigned.This “mixed ensembles could indicate technological exchange over a contact zone of populations with a different stone knapping tradition. 

Although it is clear the all the factors, that Richter takes into account for the explanation of his MMO (“Mousterien mit Micoquien-Option”) play a role in the composition of Middle European Middle Paleolithic Ensembles, I would agree with Karen Ruebens that “the Mousterian and Micoquian are two closely interlinked but different taxonomic entities. Despite the similar basic knapping and touching techniques, some clear differences (especially in the character of the bifacial elements and their regional patterning) occur”.


Suggested Reading:

Prodniks from Buhlen at the Hessisches Landesmuseum Kassel




10097 Views since 2/2016 3 Views Today

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.

This entry was posted in Plaeolithics and Neolithics and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Keilmesser

  1. Pingback: Backed handaxe from Remi sur Creuse /France | Aggsbach's Paleolithic Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *