Mousterian Points in the Levant

levallois israel aggsbach1Mousterian points are defined as triangular flakes, made by Levallois or non-Levallois chaine operatoire, with extensively retouched lateral edges that are either straight or mildly convex in plain view converging to a sharp distal edge. The dividing line between a Mousterian point and a retouched Levallois point is not clearly demarcated. In practice with retouch extending along their lateral edges past the midpoint of the artifacts long axis are usually classified as Mousterian points.

Very thin Levallois points are not appropriate for secondary modification, as exemplified by the razor-sharp Levallois points and flakes from the upper Strata of Kebara cave (http://www.aggsbach.de/2012/01/razor-sharp/). A certain thickness is therefore a conditio sine qua non for the production of secondary modified Levallois points. Other variables that influence the modification of these items are raw material properties, duration of stay at the site and functional requirements.

During the early southern and central Levantine Middle Paleolithic (150-250 k.a. BP), Mousterien points are often elongated (“Tabun D”; “Abu Sif Knifes”; “Hummalian Points”), but non-elongated examples similar to the point displayed in this post, were also present. At Tabun D, only 11.3% of the blanks were modified by abrupt or scaled retouche. No differences among the four most common “diagnostic” blank types—blades, Levallois flakes, short Levallois points, and elongated Levallois points—in terms of the number of retouched edges were found.

During the later phases of the Levantine Mousterian, unretouched Levallois points fairly outnumber the retouched ones. As shown at Tabun, the with/thickness ratio increases from Tabun D to Tabun C/B, and as a consequence the possibility of a secondary modification decreases, but again other than purely technological constraints may have played a role in this process.

At Tabun, the changing /thickness ratios were suggested to be part of a larger “Mugharan tradition” between Tabun D and B (250-40 k.a), but the sequence at this site may not be as representative as initially thought. That Mousterian points may dominate the artifactual spectrum even later than Tabun D ensembles, was recently shown at  Nesher Ramla. The site presents evidence for human occupation or use during MIS 6/5 (190-70 k.a. BP; http://www.aggsbach.de/2014/02/retouched-tools-from-the-middle-paleolithic-in-israel/). In this context it is interesting, that at the (non dated) last Levallois-Mousterian strata at Yabrud the same phenomenon was present.

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