Down with the “MP-UP Transitional Industries” of Europe !

pech de bourre aggsbch

This is a blank for a Châtelperronian point found at Pech de Bourre by D. Peyrony early in the last century. Pech de Bourre is one of the numerous smaller Abris near the tributaries of the Dordogne, excavated to early to be of importance for current scientific discussions.  Occasional diggings began with Dupiellet (1900) who was followed by M Mortureux (1921) and finally by D. Peyrony (1921). Peyrony described three layers of Mousterian (probably a succession of Charentian-MTA as suggested by Mellars) followed by a Chatelperronian. This succession ended with a typical Aurignacian, contested by a fine carinated scraper [(core); Sonneville-Bordes 1960).

Very different entities and constructs in Europe are subsumed under this label of a MP-UP transitional industry: Althmühlian, Szeletian, Bohunician, Châtelperronian, Lincombian-Ranisian-Jerzmanovicien (LRJ) and Uluzzian. It is generally suggested, that  such industries would combine  Middle and the Upper Paleolithic components  both on a typological and technological level.

Due to a better technological understanding of many of these entities, “MP-UP transitional industries” have become a suspect typological construct, as recently shown for the Châtelperronian and the LRJ, which are by no means “transitional” at all, but fully Upper Paleolithic (

In contrast to older observations of mixed ensembles, the Châtelperronian, as defined from newer excavations, seems to be a pure Upper Paleolithic industry without any Mousterian component. Châtelperronian points, endscrapers, especially semi-circular end-scrapers, and some burins on a break and borers/becs are always present, although the production of Châtelperronian points is always the focus of lithic production (up to 70% of the retouched artifacts) . “Middle Paleolithic” technological components like Denticules and side scrapers, which by the way, are found in small numbers in many Upper Paleolithic industries,  are absent or rare from modern excavations of Châtelperronian layers.

The Châtelperronian blade production differs both from Middle Paleolithic and Aurignacian / Protoaurignacian blade production. The blades are detached by direct percussion with a soft hammer and are relatively standardized in their dimensions and morphology. Chatelperronian points were made from rather straight and slightly curved blanks, as seen in this post.

At Quinçay, Roussel described cores with a asymmetrical volume, that were exploited from  two surfaces, one narrow and one wide, with a triangular section. Blades were subsequently removed by independent unipolar series of blades on the narrow and on wide surfaces of the core. Each surface of a blade core was an independent flaking surface. The goal of the blade production was to obtain blanks, symmetrical or asymmetrical in section for Châtelperron points. Twenty percent at of the Châtelperron points Quinçay have an asymmetrical section with a natural back, ready for further backing by only minimal retouching.

The next picture shows a 6 cm long Jerzmanowice point fro Kleinheppach, Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany:

korb kleinheppach er1

The LRJ complex has been identified at 41 sites, dating to ca 40-35 k.a. uncalibrated BP. Most of them are found in Great Britain, assemblages from continental Europe (Belgium, Netherlands, Northern Germany, and Kraków-Częstochowa Upland) being clearly less numerous. Main Features of the LRJ Lithic Industry Jerzmanowice points being the” fossile directeur” On average, they have a length around 9–10 cm, width of 3 cm, and thickness of 1 cm.

No use-wear study has ever been made on Jerzmanowice points. Nonetheless, these pieces being pointed and symmetric, and likely axially hafted as suggested by the importance of proximal shaping  as well as likely impact fractures (burinlike removals, “spin-off” removals, strongly marked bending fractures).  In addition to Jerzmanowice points, LRJ assemblages may also contain bifacial Leafpoints. Other tool types are much less common. However, pointed blades, retouched blades, end scrapers, and burins (dihedral, on truncation or on break), sometimes made on former Jerzmanowice are part of larger ensembles.

The most common knapping method corresponds to blade production using cores with two opposed platforms (bidirectional) of blades from bidirectional debitage, although unidirectional blade production is sometimes also documented. Blade knapping is most of the time done with an organic soft hammer, based on the relative thinness of blade platforms and the frequent presence of a lip. Blade production is volumetric, involving preparation of the cores by different crests.

What is independent from any archaeological discourse is the question, who made these industries. It remains odd that even intelligent researchers often mix this question with the description of “transitional entities” to prove or disprove their personal views about the Neanderthal / H.. Sapiens interaction.

Elongated Levallois point like blades were the desired end product of the Bohunician / Emiran technology. The reduction strategy of these entities may be, according to P. Skrdla 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).

Levallois-like pointed blade from the Bohunician / Emiran:



The Uluzzian is a flake-dominated industry that brings together a set of technological innovations. Blanks are detached using a unipolar method, with a single striking platform by direct percussion, and from a bipolar knapping on an anvil, which produces splintered pieces used mainly as wedges on medium-hard material.

The principal objective was the production of average-thickness flakes and laminar flakes, sometimes naturally backed. Several tool-types are identified as part of the technocomplex: various end-scraper types, side-scrapers, few burins, denticulates, retouched blades and bladelets.

The geometric crescent-shaped backed piece, normally referred to as ‘lunate’  is the fossile directeur of the industry; an innovation sometimes of microlithic dimensions. Bone industry, shell ornaments and pigments were found along with the distinct lithics and microlithics and give the industry along with the lunates a special Upper Paleolithic character. The Uluzzian arrived in Italy and Greece shortly before 45,000 years ago and its final stages are placed at 39,500 years ago, its end synchronous with the Campanian Ignimbrite eruption

While the Châtelperronian Bohunician, Uluzzian and Lincombian-Ranisian-Jerzmanovicien are clearly Upper Paleolithic industries, the Althmühlian, is a late middle Paleolithic entity.

The Mauern-Zone 4 assemblage became the reference phenomenon of the so-called “Altmühlgruppe”, characterized by large, perfectly shaped leafpoints. The Zone 4 inventory comprises 43 of these tools. Some of them are very large and thin, due to the high quality of the local raw material, consisting of Jurassic Flintstone slabs. It has been emphasized, however, that both assemblages, Zone 5 (classified as Micoquian) and Zone 4 (classified as “Althmühlian”) display inventories of an essentially identical type, standard Middle Palaeolithic tools ( many Quina scrapers) prevailing along with some bifacial tools of Micoquian character, such as Faustkeilblätter and Keilmesser. Therefore when we a talking about the Althmühlian and its local roots, we are talking about a specialized Micoquian.In turn, fragments of perfect Leafpoints are known from some pure Micoquian ensembles in S/W-Germany.

Leaf Point From Mauern:
mauern_weinberghöhlen_leafpoint_verso mauern_weinberghöhlen_leafpoint_recto



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