The Story of Levallois Points

lenderscheid aggsbach2This is a perfect, razor sharp Levallois Point made from Quartzite , found in 1988 near Lenderscheid; Hesse; Germany (http://www.aggsbach.de/2010/07/middle-levallois-point-from-lenderscheid/). Within the Levallois concept, an important variability exists in the implementation of knapping operations. Production objectives can also be varied and getting oriented to the obtainment of Levallois points (débitage Levallois à pointes).This production aims at the making of triangular flakes, which were used without further modifications (as knifes or more rarely as projectile points) or used as blanks and subsequently modified with retouches. Bordes described for the first time the flaking of a Levallois points, in different industries from northern France (Seine Maritime and Somme) and Jordan (the site of Abu Sif). Later he described the production of Levallois points according to two modalities of preparation; (1) preparation by unipolar convergent removals flaked from the striking platform of the future point (Classical preparation), (2) preparation from cores, that were later called “Nubian cores”. Triangular “Nubian” cores were first described in detail by the Guichards during the late 1960ies. The first type corresponds to a Levallois point with a preparation by two unipolar divergent removals from an opposite striking platform to that of the point (Nubian core Type I), and a second type with an elaborated centripetal preparation on a block of triangular morphology from which will be produced a Levallois point(Nubian core Type II). Fig. 2,3,4 show examples from Nubian cores. More recently, from the material found on the site of Umm el-Tlel (Syria), Boëda illustrated the diversity of the procedures implemented for the production of points. After analyzing the points and sub products, Boëda defined two main groups: the so-called “three hits” points ( “classical” points), which are distinguished from the “constructed” points in which different schemes coexist depending on the direction of the preparation removals. Furthermore, Boëda had previously proposed around 30 theoretical patterns of Levallois “three hits” points’ production, from an experimental corpus. The oldest Levallois points so far were found in South Africa. New data from stratified Fauresmith sites in S-Africa suggest that this industry, which combines small refined handaxes with technological components characteristic of the MSA (prepared cores, Levallois cores, blades, Levallois points, convex scrapers), maybe as old as 542–435 k.a. (Wonderwerk Cave MU4 , Kathu Pan 1). In Africa the Levallois concept remained to be present at several early and late MSA sites until 40 k.a. BP. levallois preferential aggsbachIn the Levant, first Levallois elements (“Tabun D-ensembles” ) appear after 250 k.a BP in Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and the El Kowm region in Syria. They are replaced by “Tabun C and Tabun B” ensembles. In the Tabun D type assemblages show a unidirectional and some bidirectional core reduction with little, if any, classic radial core preparation. Elongated blanks characterize these assemblages and the numerous blades generally have parallel or converging edges. The Tabun C assemblages can be described as based on Levallois recurrent centripetal methods. Blanks tend to be relatively large and ovoid in shape. Type B assemblages, on the other hand are characterized by high frequencies of convergent removals. It has been suggested that this represents a very specific reduction process and is best described as a unidirectional convergent recurrent method. The blanks produced through this procedure are generally short, broad and triangular in shape resulting in high frequencies of Levallois points. The production of Levallois points is also attested in Nubia and Egypt during the Middle Stone Age (with very little chronometric data, these are dated between 300 and 50 k.a. BP), but the evidence is much less abundant than in the Levant. Preparation types are very different from those encountered in Levantine deposits: levallois core aggsbachThere are two sub-types of Nubian Levallois core preparation, referred to as Nubian Type 1 and Type 2. The Nubian type-1 core method enables the production of Levallois points and pointed blades by means of a central ridge created from the platform opposed to the one from which the future Levallois flake would be struck. The distal ridge, which lies approximately along the axis of the core is created by striking two unidirectional divergent removals undertaken from the distal part of the core. A series of smaller flakes is then removed from the sides of the other end of the core and a facetted platform is prepared for the removal of the Levallois point. Type 2 cores are marked by an elaborated centripetal preparation arranged perpendicularly to the central axis of the triangular silhouette of the Levallois surface from which a Levallois point, unlike the ‘‘classical’’ Levallois points is struck (Classical points are usually produced by a preferential Levallois point production with unidirectional convergent preparation; Guichard and Guichard  1964; http://www.aggsbach.de/2013/08/the-early-nubian-complex/).  In the Horn of Africa, several sites have delivered MSA assemblages featuring Levallois points. This is particularly the case in Ethiopia at the Gorgora rockshelter (undated) using mainly a unipolar convergent management, and at Kone (undated) where Nubian type cores were present. Industries that have shown a significant number of Levallois points are known in northern Somalia at Midhishi 2 (undated). Some points have been found at MSA of Omo Kibish (120 k.a. BP). Mussi recently reported about Levallois points at Garba III, in the upper Awash Valley of Ethiopia with remains of AMH, dated to ca 150 k.a. Porc Epic Cave (Ethiopia) at the southern Afar Rift of Ethiopia is dated at ca 80 k.a (Obsidian hydration method). Porc Epic produced a well stratified MSA assemblage featuring Levallois and blade core products, denticulates, and bifacial/foliate and unifacial triangular points. Levallois points are well attested at the site. In the East African MSA, tools are characterized by points with unifacial and bifacial retouch on non-Levallois and Levallois blanks, partially made from Nubian cores. This is the case at Gademotta (ETH-72-8B before 276±4 k.a BP; ETH-72-6 after 183±10 k.a BP) and at Kulkuletti (200–300 k.a BP) and Aduma ( ca 60-80 k.a. BP). Other examples come from Melka Kunture (Garba III), Gorgora and in Somalia at Gogoshiis Qabe (undated). The great difference between Levallois points from the East African MSA and those from the Levantine Middle Paleolithic is a much less systematic production of Levallois points during the East African MSA (examples of MSA points: http://www.aggsbach.de/2010/08/msa/). Much emphasis has been invested into the MSA industries of the Arabian Peninsula, during the last years. The production of Levallois points in Hadramawt, in the east of Yemen, for example presents an extraordinary diversity of reduction patterns, as recently described byRémy Crassard and Céline Thiébaut. The Levallois technology in W- Europe appeared  during early OIS 8 (Orgnac 3, Baume Bonne, Bakers Hole, Crayford), is present during OIS7 at Biache-Saint-Vaast II and Maastricht-Belvedere, and very common during OIS6. After OIS6 other techniques become more important (discoidal  techniques, Quina technique, laminar technique), but the Levallois technique never disappears until the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic.

In the North of France, several assemblages from open-air deposits have shown a production of Levallois points. They are dated between MIS7-3. Limited microtraceological studies point to a predominant use as cutting tools, but we have to remember that the sites in N-France are mostly base camps with a lithic ensemble biased towards the domestic use of these artifacts. Like the majority of the Levantine assemblages, the classical production scheme (unipolar convergent) is the more common; for instance, the lithic material from the site of Houppeville, the B assemblage from Le Pucheuil, the N2b layer at Bettencourt- Saint-Ouen or the sector 1 at Le Petit-Saule. Only the collection from Therdone site (89-67 k.a. BP) differs from this set of Levallois points from the north of France by the presence of a greater diversity of patterns of preparation of the convexities: preparation by unipolar convergent removals, sometimes reworked by distal removals; preparation by unipolar opposed and bidirectional removals; or preparation of the convexities by centripetal removals. In S/W-France, Levallois points are omnipresent during the last Glacial, especially during the MTA and M. typique. In the Rhone Valley, some industries have points that are morphologically close to the Levallois point (at Mandrin, at Néron layer III: 43 ka BP and at Abri du Maras), but their realization seems to be far from the Levallois concept, according to Slimak ( http://www.aggsbach.de/2010/09/the-neronian-in-the-rhone-valley/).

In Central Europe, the use of the Levallois-technique is more restricted  (Markleeberg, Salzgitter, Königsaue B, Lenderscheid, Rheutersruh and Wahlen in N-Hesse;  “Taubachian” sites of central Europe (Taubach, Kulna, Lehringen, Weimar); several Micoquian strata of the Sesselfelsgrotte (G-strata), Balve IV; [OIS 7-3];  http://www.aggsbach.de/2011/02/the-reuthersruh-paleolithic/). Overall the frequency of genuine Levallois points in these industries is low.

Eastern Europe: The southwestern part of East Europe (Ukraine, Moldova and Romania), including the region between the Dniester and Prut rivers, is comparatively rich in Middle Palaeolithic sites. Absolute dates are still not numerous and their reliability is under question. According to the available chronological and stratigraphical data the Middle Palaeolithic survived at least till the Hengelo interstadial. The period from MIS 5 to MIS 3 witnessed coexistence of several variants of the Middle Palaeolithic, including the Eastern Micoquian and Levallois-Mousterian. Kabazi in the Crimean Peninsula and the Molodova site offer the the most important informations about the local Levallois-Mousterien during the last glaciation. The Crimea, although a “Cul-de-Sac” during the Paleolithic, contains the richest concentration of Middle Paleolithic sites in Eastern Europe. levallois aggsbachMore than 100 Middle Paleolithic sites are documented at present, among which are 30 multi-layered stratified sites The Crimean Middle Paleolithic seems to cover a time range from 127 k.a to approximately 29 k.a. BP, though the majority of the Crimean Middle Paleolithic occupations date to MIS 3. The Western Crimean Mousterian (WCM; Levallois Mousterian with relatively high mobility) and the Crimean Micoquian (Bifacial component, non-Levallois, and lower mobility) co-existed during at least 15,000 years during the end of MIS3. A detailed analysis of the WCM showed a special method of Levallois technique, which seems to correspond to an intermediate position between the classical Levallois method with centripetal preparation and the Levallois method for uni-directional convergent points. Interestingly although the Crimean Levallois-Mousterian had a high laminar index and exhibited extraordinary elongated Levallois points, the reduction system never evolved towards a Leptolithic industry comparable to the Emiran / Bohunician. The Middle and Upper Paleolithic site of Molodova is located on the Dniester River in the Chernovtsy province of Ukraine, between the Dniester River and the Carpathian mountains. Molodova I has five Middle Paleolithic Levallois-Mousterian occupations (called Molodova 1-5) and three Upper Paleolithic occupations. The Mousterian components are dated to >44 k.a. BP based on charcoal radiocarbon from a hearth. The Molodova V site shows a very similar Levallois-Mousterian, which has been technologically described in some detail. Interestingly, the Levallois reduction strategy of Molodova V repeats the strategy of reduction and the typology of Levallois cores and Levallois end products as found in the Middle Palaeolithic level II/8 of Kabazi II in all details.

Upper Paleolithic Levallois Points: Elongated Levallois points were the desired end product of the Bohunician / Emiran technology. The reduction strategy of these entities may be, according to P. Skrdla-a highly productive Archaeologist- reconstructed as follows: the core was shaped as a typical upper Paleolithic prismatic core with a frontal crest and two opposed platforms were created. Consequently a series of blades was removed from both opposed platforms in order to form the frontal face of the core into a shape (triangular, elongated) which allows Levallois point production. Although the end product (Levallois point) has affinities to the older Middle Paleolithic Levallois technologies, the volumetric concept is fully Upper Paleolithic and not a “transitional” industry! The Bohunician / Emiran  dates roughly between 45-32 k.a. BP. This technology was first independently described at Boker Tachtit 1 and at Brno Bohunice in  Moravia in the 1970ies. Ensembles similar to Boker-Tachtit 1 were found in not only in the Levant (Üçağızlı and Ksar-Akil)., but also in Bulgaria (Temnata  TD2/6,  Bacho Kiro 11), near Brno (Bohunician at Brno Bohunice, Stránská skála Ss-IIIa-4, Brno Líšeň , Tvarožná, and Želeč), in Moravia (Rataje, Ondratice, Mohelno) in eastern Slovakia (Nižný Hrabovec), in the Ukraine,at Obi-Rakhmat Grotto, situated 100 km northeast of Tashkent in the  Republic of Uzbekistan and in the Altai (Kara Bom).

First description of the Bohunician: Karel Valoch, 1976. Die altsteinzeitliche Fundstelle in Brno-Bohunice. Studie AU CSAV IV/I. Academia, Prague.

Dilemma: A problem that seems to defy a satisfactory solution

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