This is a very large complete Magdalenian crested core from Leigne les Bois (Poitou-Charentes) which is 220mm long. This piece has two opposed striking platforms for extracting large blades from the arched convex side with an organic punch. Such artifacts have been recognized in a late Magdalenian context since the early 20th century, and it was H. Breuil in 1908 who first suggested their use as cores.
Other authors preferred to call such implements “scraper” or “axes” and compared them typologically with artifacts from the N-European Mesolithic or the Quina-Mousterian. Conversely, H. Kelly in 1960 labeled these instruments more indifferently: “grandes pièces arquées du Magdalénien” (Large arched pieces of the Magdalenian) and argued for a multifunctional interpretation. After the excavation of a cache of 5 arched cores in different stages of reduction at Montgaudier, Montbron (Charente) and after technological studies on the lithic materials from the large multilayered sites of the Paris basin (Pincevent, Verberie, Etiolles), it became finally clear, that these large arched pieces were complete sophisticated blade cores before the first steps of core reduction.
At Etiolles, French researchers have suggested that technological knowledge was differentially practiced and shared under a system of tutelage. Research on operational sequences was able to identify individuals with variable skill levels in blade production and their differential spatial distribution around discretely separated hearths. Such observations suggest certain hierarchies of competence but we do not know if and how these hierarchies were translated into hierarchies of power or status.
Large and complete cores (> 18 cm) are rare. Some of them are up to 60 cm long (Etiolles). To my knowledge they come selectively from the upper Magdalenian and are known from only a handful of sites :
- Saint-Germain-la-Rivière (Gironde) 435 mm
- Chollet, Porchères (Gironde) 524 mm
- Gabastou (Dordogne) 355 mm
- Les Galinoux (Dordogne)
- La Fourtonie (Dordogne) 345 mm
- Laugerie-Basse (Dordogne) 330 mm
- Eglise d’Excideuil (Dordogne) 181 mm
- Longueroche (Dordogne) 240, 200,190 mm
- Lestruque (Dordogne) 232 mm
- Le Soucy (Dordogne) 200 mm
- Moulin-de-Madone (Lot et Garonne) 330 mm
- Montgaudier, Montbron (Charente): Cache of 5 cores; 247-316 mm
- Verlet, La Roche-Posay (Vienne) 405 and 250 mm
- La Goulaine (Saône-et-Loire) 330 mm
- Les Fadets, Vilhonneur (Charente) 197 mm
- Les Genêts (Leigné-les-Bois, Vienne): several large blade cores, usually unfinished up to 50 cm long
- (Poitou-Charentes) 220mm
- Andernach (Rheinland-Pfalz) 180, 160, 150 mm
- Pincevent, Verberie, Etiolles, (Paris basin) : 12-15 pieces up to 600 mm
Smaller Magdalenian arched cores are known from several late Magdalenian sites in France and Middle / Northern Europe. Please note that smaller items are not exhausted cores , but that they were complete arched cores for the production of smaller blades (and even bladelets ?). One example (6,5 cm long) is shown here: