Early Blades

fontmaure blade aggsbach

 

This is a retouched large blade (12 cm) from the Fontmaure Mousterian site. Pradel called this artifacts  “racloirs”, maybe only to confirm the doctrine that the Mousterian is a flake-based industry.

Anthropologists often suggest that blades are per se an indicator of cognitive superiority, especially in the context of the “modern behavior paradigm”. Anyhow it is not clear, why we should valuate a blade higher than any flake. Regarding the optimal exploitation of a core, discoid technology even seems superior to the detachment of blades from a blade core. Eren et al. showed that blades had only 1.57 times more cutting edges 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.

On the other hand, blades appeared early during human evolution. New data from stratified Fauresmith sites suggest that this industry, which combines small refined handaxes with technological components characteristic of the MSA (prepared cores, blades, Levallois points, convex scrapers), 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. Blade tools co-occur with Acheulian bifaces, Levallois flakes and points at the site of LHA/GnJh-03 in the Kapthurin Formation (Kenya) dated to 545-509 k.a.

In the Levant, the Amudian (between ca. 400-200 k.a.) is the first industry characterized by systematic blade production. The earliest Mousterian assemblages of the Levant (the Hummalian in Syria and the Tabun-D type of the Levallois-Mousterian at 250-150  k.a.) were even more blade-rich than the Amudian. During these times multiple core reduction strategies (the Laminar and Levallois Methods) were practiced simultaneousely in the  same assemblages. 

Samples of excavated Moroccan Aterian sites show that many elongated Aterian points (OIS6-3) have a blade character and that blades without tangs are often part of these ensembles.

In Europe first blade-rich industies (Markkleeberg, Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme Baker’s Hole, Rheindahlen B1/B2 Biache-Saint-Vaast – niveau IIA ) can be dated to the Early or Middle Saalian s.l. (MIS 8 or 7). During OIS 5 in Northern Europe, there are abundant evidence of a fully developed blade industry in France and adjacent parts of Germany (Wallertheim D, Saint-Germain-des-Vaux, Tönchesberg 2B, Riencourt-lès-Bapaume, Seclin – D7). Here again either Levallois and / or prismaticitc core techniques are present.

Shortly before the advent of the upper Paleolithic, the Neronian of the Mediterranean France and the MTA are examples of middle Paleolithic blade-rich industries during OIS3. Elongated Levallois points are often the hallmark of these industries.

Even in the Quina-Mousterian (OIS4/3) of S/W-France, blades can play a significant role as exemplified in the following picture, displaying blades from a Quina Mousterian site in the Charente

BLADES CHARENTE QUINA AGGSBACH

 

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