Discoid Core from Condé en Brie (Aisne)

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This is a discoidal core (9×6 cm) from Condé en Brie (Aisne; Northern France).

Compared to the Levallois concept, discoidal cores are characterized mainly by their lack of hierarchy between the striking surfaces. Discoid debitage was and is still sometimes considered to be more “primitive / opportunistic” compared with Levallois or blade concepts.

It was finally recognized that the discoid mode was more elaborate / sophisticated than formerly thought and that this technique was characterized by an extremely large internal variability. Important contributions towards the redefinition of the discoidal debitage were made in the 1990 and published in 2003 (Discoid Lithic Technology: Advances and Implications [BAR]). Basically, discoidal methods produce two types of blanks: Centripetal reduction produces blanks which are obtained by cutting towards the center of the core. Centripetal flakes come in two basic versions: Rectangular wider than longer and square flakes. Cordial reduction takes place tangential to the center of the core, producing either débordant  flakes and pseudo-Levallois points.

Early examples of discoid cores already are present during the early MSA of South / East Africa and are maybe as old as 542–435 k.a. (Wonderwerk Cave MU4 , Kathu Pan 1). The presence of blade tools and prepared core technology in deposits dated to >400 k.a. at KP-1 is of considerable interest. In East Africa discoid cores together with elaborated MSApoints have been found to be older than 276 ± 4 ka at Gademotta (Ethiopia) unit 9.

After 250 k.a. the discoid and Levallois techniques are omnipresent during the MSA and the European Middle Paleolithic. Of course, these modes are not entirely mutually exclusive, but a core can start as a Levallois core and end as a discoidal core. In general there seems to  be no correlation between the use of discoid lithic technology and the typology of retouched tools, nor any relationship with raw material availability, the setting of the sites in open-air or in caves, or with the hunted species represented at the sites.

Discoid cores and debitage were described as a part of the Zagros Aurignacian at some sites (for example Warwasi). Discoidal cores were also present in some “transitional” entities in Europe. The Archaic Aurignacian in levels 9 and 8 of the Cueva Morin (Villanueva de Villaescusa; Cantabria) and at Gatzarria (Isturitz) is not only characterized by the production of bladelet and blades from unipolar prismatic cores but also by blanks from discoidal cores. The Szeletian ensembles of Moravský Krumlov IV and Vedrovice V in Moravia were based on flakes from both subprismatic and discoid cores. Some Uluzzian ensembles (for example at Mario Bernardini) also display an elaborate discoidal technology (Riel-Salvatore).

On the other hand, classic Aurignacian and later upper Paleolithic industries do not exhibit a discoid component, but there is a short reappearance of this technique at some Badegoulian sites in the Paris basin.

Finally it comes not as a surprise, that the production and use of this versatile and expedient technology was even observed at some Mesolithic and Neolithic sites.

Suggested Reading:

Boëda, E. 1993. Le débitage discoide et le débitage Levalllois recurrent centripète. Bulletin de la Société Préhistorique Française 90 : 392-404 (via Persee).

 Peresani  M. (Ed). Discoid Lithic Technology: Advances and Implications BAR International Series 1120. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2003 (via your personal Bookstore).

 

 

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