This is a delicate and very thin (3 mm at the base, <1 mm at the tip), partially retouched Levallois Flake (8 cm long) from Garba III (Melka Kunture near Addis Abeba); (http://www.aggsbach.de/2011/11/early-middle-stone-age-from-garba-iii/).
Contrary to mainstream thinking, technological innovations during the Paleolithic occurred across the borders of different forms of the Genus Homo as exemplified by the evolution of the Levallois technique in Africa, evidenced in Africa since MIS 10-9, or the simultaneous use of this technique by H. sapiens and Neanderthals in the Near East. Progress in human culture was by no means strictly correlated with brain volumes or a suggested level of intelligence. The glorious “Human Revolution” and “Behavioral Modernity” are chimeras that heavily hinder a real understanding of the human cultural evolution.
Increased intelligence may be one factor of this cultural evolution, but is not a conditia sine qua non. Combination of earlier inventions and increased intra- and intergroup communication may have played a much larger role than increased intelligence or a sudden “Great Leap Forward” (another chimera).
The Levallois Technique in East Africa appears in a sequence of Acheulian and MSA sites from the Kapthurin Formation of Kenya dated to ∼200–500 k.a. Evidence from these sites suggest that MSA Levallois technology developed from local Acheulian antecedents, and support a mosaic pattern of lithic technological change across the Acheulian-MSA transition. However, Acheulian and early MSA sites show important differences among several technological variables: 1) Flake size decreased over time, 2) Acheulian Levallois flakes were produced exclusively by the preferential method, while both preferential and recurrent methods are present in the MSA assemblages, 3) Acheulian Levallois flakes were made almost entirely of a single variety of phonolitic lava, whereas the early MSA material showed the use of wider range of lavas, some of them finer grained.
These observations are consistent with evidence from other African sites indicating that Levallois technology is a late or final Acheulian phenomenon dating to the later portions of the Middle Pleistocene. Within the Atlantic coastal Moroccan sequence, Levallois production of handaxe and cleaver blanks is dated to ∼300– 350 k. a by ESR age estimates at the Grotte des Rhinoceros and by OSL at Cap Chatelier. A similar age is estimated for rare examples of handaxes transformed into Levallois or Levallois-like cores from the mound-spring site of KO10 at Kharga Oasis, where U-series dates on tufa of ∼300–400 k.a are reported. New chronological 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). Although these dates have been assembled by several lines of evidence (Kathu Pan: minimum OSL age of 464 ± 47 k.a. and a combined U-series–ESR age of 542−107+140 k.a) , some scholars suggest a mixing of the Fauresmith strata with older ones. A very polemic, nevertheless serious critique can be found in Bob Gargetts blog (http://www.thesubversivearchaeologist.com/2012/11/there-ya-go-again-part-one-putative.html): “they (the authors of the Kathu Pan paper) ignore very basic principles of stratigraphy and geomorphology, to say nothing of informal logic”.
In Egypt (Western Desert) and East Africa, the data indicate the beginning of the Levallois technique in a fully developed MSA context at roughly 250-300 k.a. BP. The important sites at Gademotta near Lake Ziway, Ethiopia, where prior K/Ar age estimates of >180 ka have been revised to >235 k.a show the presence of recurrent and preferential Levallois cores at a similar time depth at site REF-4 at Kharga Oasis, Egypt, in assemblages underlying a tufa dated by U-Series to 220 k.a.
Compared to the Oldowan and the Acheulian, the MSA at Melka Konture MSA is poorly known. We have unfortunately no final reports about the MSA at Garba III and only some, partially contradictory short communications about the site and the MSA from the nearby Gondar locality, without any detailed description and illustration. Garba III is dated to late OIS6 or early OIS5. The basal MSA levels from Garba III show some small handaxes and cleavers together with uni- and bifacially retouched points.
The recurrent Levallois ﬂaking method (centripetal and unipolar) on smaller blocks of obsidian was well established. The unipolar method, which is predominant, was recognized in more than half of the Levallois blanks according the reevaluation of the site and publication by Mussi et al. in 2013. During the sequence an abundance of relatively thick denticulates, with either accurate semi-step retouch or with a retouche écailleuse producing a denticulate delineation of one or more edges, has been observed. Scrapers, on rather thick blanks, are less numerous, with either minute or écailleuse retouch which often grades into denticulation. The production of points, often abundant at other early MSA sites in Ethiopia, was clearly not the intention of the knappers.
In Eurasia, Guado San Nicola (Monteroduni, Molise) was recently dated to the MIS 11-10 boundary by the 40Ar/39Ar method and provided an ensemble of Levallois products within an Acheulean context. This is older than the recently reported “earliest Levalloisian from Eurasia” at Nor Geghi 1, Armenia (OIS10/9e boundary). This site shows the synchronic use of bifacial and Levallois technology outside Africa. Units 5 to 4 at this site are correlated with late OIS 10/early OIS 9e, whereas Units 3 to 2 with OIS 9e (335 to 325 k.a.)
Subterranean Homesick Blues
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