Large blade production during the Paleolithic and Neolithic

aggsbachs-big-bladeThis large patinated blade (19 cm long) is a isolated bog-find from the 1920ies, detected near Varel (Oldenburg; Lower Saxonia, N-Germany). This artifact is probably related to the late Neolithic/early Bronze Age of this region.

The knapping of long blades is a discontinous process in old world prehistory. Isolated findings are known from the Gravettien of western  Slovakia  (Moravany) and in the Ukraine (Molodowa and other sites). The upper stratum of Willendorf II (Willendorf-Kostenki complex; stratum 9) also show some long blades (>12cm). Long blades are also known from the Protomagdalenian of S/W-France (Laugerie, Pataud,Blot).

Long Blade  assemblages, in Europe  seem to occur at the very end of the Pleistocene and beginning of the Holocene in North Europe and may overlap with the earliest Mesolithic. These ensembles are characterized by  blades larger than 12 cms in length and they were knapped from large bipolar blade cores. They are known from  for Britain mainly in floodplain or river valleys close to the sources of high quality in situ flint, Nothern Germany, where “Riesenklingen” are associated to the Ahrensburgian technocomplex and at some sites in northern France (Somme region).  The long blade ensembles are defined by the occurrence of lames mâchurées, large blades with distinctive battering damage on their lateral edges.

Pressure knapping for the detachment of obsidian or flint blades has been in use in the Tigris and Euphrates High Valleys and on the Anatolian plateau since the Early Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (EPPNB), during the middle of the ninth millennium cal BC. The knapping methods associated with the pressure technique evolved significantly during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic, leading to more regularized and standardized products. In this context, the appearance of large obsidian blades produced by pressure with the use of a lever could be interpreted as the result of technological experimentation and innovation for the purpose of producing exchange items of high social value. Evidence for the early production of large obsidian blades during the Late Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (LPPNB) / early Pottery Neolithic (EPN) context is known from the site of Çayönü Tepesi, dating to the second half of the eighth millennium cal BC, and from the site of Sabi Abyad I, dating to the seventh millennium cal BC. Compared to indirect percussion, the use of a lever leads to more regular and less curved blades.

Large early Neolithic flint blades (mid 7th millennium BC cal.) were found at Franchthi, a very large cave open near the seashore in eastern Peloponnese, with occupations from the late Pleistocene until the Bronze Age. The lever pressure was certainly used to produce most if not all of them.

The famous graves of the Varna Necropolis, dated to the local Chalcolithic at 4,6-4,3 cal BC contained large amounts of very large and regular flint blades produced by lever pressure.  In one of the richest grave of the Varna Necropolis, that contained 225 gold objects, was also found the longest flint-blade known so far, with a length of 43,3 cm.

The most famous mass production of extraordinary long blades, which were used to produce Neolithic daggers in Europe, is known from the Grand Pressigny area, dating to the mid 3th millennium BC cal. These blades were massive: 25 to 38 cm long, 4 to 6 cm wide and about 1 to 1.5 cm thick and detached from special cores (“livre-de-beurre” cores). In 1970, a cache of 134 to 138 fresh blades was discovered at “La Creusette” and carefully excavated. The technological analysis of this cache revealed, that the blades were detached from the “livre-de-beurre” cores by an individualized indirect percussion technique. “Livre-de-beurre” cores as smaller scatters have been detected at some other sites in S-W-France, suggesting that some craftsman ordinarily working at Grand Pressigny helped to spread the “savoir faire” of such long blade and dagger production around an extended area.

Suggested Reading:

http://www.sau.se/filarkiv/rapporter/skilled_production.pdf

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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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