Emireh points and the Levantine Initial Upper Paleolithic

.emireh aggsbach

These are two convergent triangular “points” (3 and 3,2 cm long) from the Early Upper Paleolithic of Israel ( Carmel area) with basal thinning (Emireh points). Except the absence of ventral laminar retouch they fulfill the rather narrow definition of this artifact. They have a marked dorsal basal retouch (Fig.3), a scar pattern suggestive of a triangular point blank, a V-shaped profile and a basal bevel, straight in cross-section (Fig. 1,2).

emireh aggsbach22Lorraine Copeland  (Paléorient, 2000, vol. 26, n°1. pp. 73-92) concluded that  a “Standard Emireh point”  could be “described as a triangular point, Levallois or not, elongated or of moderate length, struck from a bipolar (or more rarely a unipolar) core after which all of the striking-platform and most of the bulb of percussion were removed by lamellar bifacial retouch (i.e. carried out on both faces of the proximal end) forming a bevel, V-shaped in profile and straight or slightly wavy in cross-section. The piece would emireh aggsbach1most often have a Y-arete pattern on the distal dorsal face and either a straight or convex profile. …. not every specimen conforms perfectly ; each may lack one or other of the criteria noted above but this is acceptable unless a piece is deficient in more than one respect, or has no bevel on the base”.

The Initial Upper Paleolithic industries (IUP / Emiran) of Levant date back roughly to about 45 k.a.  BP.  Ksar Akil in northern Levant and Boker Tachtit in southern Levant are the best reference sites showing evidence of continuity for the intermediate phase between the local Middle and Upper Paleolithic.

Typologically the “index fossil” of the IUP is the Emireh point and /or the chamfered pieces. Emiran points are known from the Lebanon and some sites in Israel, including Boker Tachtit. Chanfreins are more isolated to the Lebanese coast and known from the IUP at Haua Fteah cave (Cyrenaica, northeast Libya). On this tool a bevel has been formed at the distal end by a transverse blow resembling a burin blow, but probably functioning as a scraper-edge.

The IUP of the Levant is characterized by a parallel blend of old (MP) and new (UP) traits. Refitted cores from Boker Tachtit demonstrated that morphologically Middle Paleolithic artifacts (Emiran points,  Levallois points) were produced by Upper Paleolithic  blade technology; a change in the knappers’ concept of the nodule’s volume. During the IUP of Ksar Akil (stratum XXV-XXI /Ksar Akil Phase A), blades were manufactured by recurrent Levallois cores, which were later transformed into volumetric cores for the production of Levallois points and “Upper Paleolithic” tools.

It was at the small cave of Abu Halka, 6 km south of Tripoli in northern Lebanon, that the first stratified Emireh points were found ; they occurred in two levels, IVf and IVe, on virgin soil and were overlain by the Aurignacian. The ensemble at Abu Halka IVf/e is made from flakes and blades with faceted platforms. Among the formal tools, chamfered pieces, Levallois points, Emireh points and endscrapers are present- a classic Emiran.

A continuity between the Emiran and the Early Ahmarian (beginning at ca 42 k.a. BP) has already been recognized. This continuity  is expressed by some similar technological characteristics, exemplified by the continued use of faceting as part of core preparation. The Early Ahmarian is characterized by the production of blade and bladelet from several types of prismatic cores with the purpose of manufacturing blade/bladelet tools, particularly el-Wad points.

While usually an Emiran is followed by the Ahmarian (Manot cave, Ksar Akil, Boker area) undisturbed sites like Mughr el-Hamamah in the Jordan valley document operational sequences and characteristic lithic artifacts of both entities together, revealing a greater technological variability than previously thought.

This brings me back to the cave where all began: The Mugharet el-Emireh consists of three small caves, where F. Turville-Petre excavated an ensemble, which he insisted to come from one single archaeological level.  This ensemble was not only characterized by a typical “IUP” ensemble, but also by the presence of  El Wad points. Maybe the “type-ensemble” at Emireh is  a mixing between an IUP and an early Ahmarian or showed the same variability as Mughr el-Hamamah. The ongoing discussion about  the best dating techniques and high resolution archaeological data certainly will remain exciting…

emireh aggsbach2


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