Microlithic tools during the late Mesolithic of Europe

exctreme extreme

This is an extreme form of a trapezoid microlith from Denmark belonging to the late Kongemose or Ertebölle time horizon, which belongs to the late Mesolithic of this region.

The onset of the Late Mesolithic at 7,5-6,5 cal. BC in Europe witnesses a major technological change in stone tool industries. Extremely regular blades manufactured by pressure-flaking now dominate assemblages and the heat treating of stone raw material declines in importance. The microburin technique is almost always present. Trapezes made from these regular blades become the most characteristic microlithic form, presumably used as transverse arrow points. This technology contributed to the manufacturing of standardized and efficient composite weapons and tool technology. The appearance of this technology is part of a continental wide process of diffusion, suggesting communication networks ultimately linking most of Europe. In the late Mesolithic the regional differences of earlier Mesolithic times seem to have disappeared, although there remains some variability in stylistic details and raw material use.

It is not exactly known, where the idea of producing regular blades/ microblades by pressure-flaking came from. Was there only one or multiple origins? Were there only one invention or multiple inventions?  Some researchers suggest that such techniques first emerged during the late glacial in Asia.  In the southern Transbaikal area microblade production is proposed for the site Studenoye 2 and Ust’Menza 2 dated up to c. 17 k.a. BP . In Siberia the production of regular microblades and the use of pressure technology can be identified on Upper Palaeolithic sites dated after the Last Glacial maximum and before start of Greenland Interstadial 1.

Recent researches from peat bog sites detected in the Upper Volga area indicate that microblades in this area already appeared during the so called early Butovo Culture during the Preboreal.  It is well possible that the introduction of microblade technology and slotted bone tools in the late Boreal/early Atlantic period in the western Baltic was stimulated by contacts to eastern hunter-gatherers.

Another source could be the mode of blade production during the Epipaleolithic and PPN of the Near east. Based on calibrated C-14 data, Kozlowski described an important  route of  diffusion of late Mesolithic technique coming from the south as “Castelnovization”. The Castelnovian (from the Castelnovo region of the Mediterranean) is marked by the emergence of larger blade and bladelet tools, long distance transport of raw materials, and new types of geometrics (trapezes, rhomboids). It first appears in the south, at sites such as Franchthi Cave in Greece, and spreads north to Kongemose, Denmark, in only about 500 years, from 7 to 6,5k.a. cal BC. It immediately predates the appear­ance in Europe of Neolithic farmers.

There is no doubt that some of the early LBK arrowheads show precise analogies with certain late/final Mesolithic arrowheads (for example asymmetrical trapezes and triangles). In addition early LBK farmers continued to use established networks of the preceding Mesolithic as evidenced by raw material supply. The implications of such observations deserve an in depth discussion during a later post….

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