The Prądnik (KMG) complex in Central Germany revisited

 

micoque kmg aggabch

Fig. 1 shows some implements of the Middle European Micoquian ( two bifacial scrapers and one flatt small biface / Faustkeilblatt), found during the 1950ies at Kleinheppach in S/W-Germany. Fig. 2 shows some Leaf-shaped artifacts from the same site.

The Middle European Micoquian (Prądnik Culture , Keilmessergruppen (KMG) or  Mousterian with Micoquian Option [MMO]) is characterized by bifacial tools, although a large monofacial (“Mousterian”) tool component may also be present. From a technological view the Quina, Discoid or Levallois system may be present in such ensembles.

The bifacial tools  may be symmetric but are more often asymmetric and are often plano-convex in their cross section. Bifacial tools consist of  handaxes (sometimes with a  trihedral concept (“Micoquian style”), but also cordiforms, very thin leaf-shaped handaxes (Faustkeilblätter) and very small handaxes (<5cm; “Fäustel”).

Research traditions sometimes prevent to see similar concepts on other continents. For example in an MSA context the small handaxes and Faustkeilblätter would be called: uni / bifacial points.

The most characteristic tools are Keilmesser (bifacial backed knifes). Much work has been invested establish a relative chronology of different types (Ciemna, Königsaue, Klausennische, Bockstein, Volgograd, Buhlen, Tata- knifes). Anyhow, such approaches were not very successful. Especially any Keilmesser can be the reworked example of another Keilmesser type after reworking. A Prodnik sensu stricto  is a bifacially worked tool, usually asymmetrical, often D-shaped, with one straight edge and  with a special resharpening called “tranchet” at the tip. The concept of a back opposite a sharp cutting edge in relation to a retouched tip (Keilmesser-concept) was carried out flexibly on simple flake tools, unifacial tools and bifacial tools and explains part of the observed variability of the Prądnik Complex. It seems that this tradition is deeply rooted in the early Central / North European Middle Paleolithic.

Towards the end of Lower Paleolithic a trend towards  “asymmetrisation” of bifacial artifacts over the European Plain and the bordering highland zone can be observed. This can, for example be observed at Mesvin IV (Belgium; U/Th dates: 250-300 k.a) and Pietraszyn 49 in Upper Silesia, dated by TL at 130±10 ka and at some sites in Northern France. A Micoquian camp  of Inden-Altdorf near Jülich in the Rhineland (Germany) has been securely dated to OIS 5e.The artefact assemblage from Inden Altdorf includes typical Micoquian tools like unifacial knives, Keilmesser, Levallois flakes and cores, but also “Upper Palaeolithic” elements like burins, end scrapers, blades and blade cores, but no handaxes. It is one of the rare Paleolithic sites where birch pitch residues were found on  tools and offers   evidence for the production of synthetic pitch for the use of composite tool technology from the Neanderthal world. Two flakes with birch tar residues from Campitello, Central Italy, dated before OIS 6 are the earliest indication for this technology so far.
leaf shaped micoque aggsbach

During the first weichselian interstadial (OIS 5c) human activities took place at the sandy shore of a shallow lake at the northern edges of the Geisel valley about 25 km south of the city of Halle ( site Neumark-Nord 2/0). The lithic assemblage contains several characteristic artefact types, indicating that the producer of the lithic artefacts belonged to the  the Micoquo-Prądnikian ( KMG).  Neumark-Nord 2/0 is at the recent state of knowledge the oldest KMG-site in central Europe. The artefacts, especially the bifacially backed knifes showing affinities to  the KMGs in the Russian plains and the northern Caucasus.

During the early last Glacial, Königsaue A-C (?) , Buhlen (?), Zwolen, and the Prodnik-Micoquien of numerous Rock Shelters in Poland are clear examples of an “asymmetric tradition”. “Keilmesser” represent a new conceptualization of asymmetry, reflected in many aspects of lithic technology including also debitage methods. During OIS3 some KMG sites in central/east Germany. show the variability of this group during this time interval.

The open-air site Königsaue is situated in the northern Harz foreland of Saxony-
Anhalt and could be placed either in early MIS 3 (by C-14 data outside the calibration curve and well beyond a reliable cut-off of the method) or MIS 5a (on good geological arguments), the exact dates being a hotly debated issue. Three strata on an ancient lakeshore have been described. Königsaue A and B are characterized by the Levallois technique with variable quantities of bifacial tools. 25 of 102 tools are bifacially shaped. KöA shows bifacial backed knives , leaf-shaped handaxes (Faustkeilblätter) and others, while a bifacial component at KöB is almost missing. KöC has also a blank production on prepared cores. Among the bifacial tools, there are bifacial backed knives, leaf-shaped handaxes, leaf points and bifacial scrapers. Eight of the bifacial scrapers have a Quina-like edge retouch. The Landesamt für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Sachsen-Anhalt – Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte published the most important artifacts on the web (search  at Google pictures with the tags: königsaue halle museum)

Salzgitter-Lebenstedt, allready introduced during an earlier post is situated about 12 km southwest of Brunswick, Lower Saxony  Stone artifacts have sharp edges and bones were found in anatomical connection in different geological layers suggesting low energy fluvial deposition with the finds not exposed to strong post depositional processes. Recent radiocarbon dates on worked animal bone  range from 1 ~45 k.a. calBP to ~50 k.a calBP and confirm the OIS 3 age obtained from prior dating efforts. The assemblage of Salzgitter-Lebenstedt  includes unidirectional, and bidirectional Levallois concepts as well as the presence of non-Levallois blade / bladelet cores.  The site is well known for its handaxes, and other bifacial tools include also leaf-shaped bifacial tools, bifacial backed knives and bifacial scrapers. Fascinating is the co-occurence of a Keilmesser-concept, Quina like scrapers, a blade-concept with pyramidal cores and a fully develloped Levallois industry with typical Levallois points. The Keilmesser-concept was appilied on scrapers with retouched tips, sometimes in combinations with a natural back (http://www.aggsbach.de/2011/02/salzgitter-lebenstedt-an-imprortant-paleolithic-site-in-n-germany/) .

Lichtenberg is an open-air site in Lower Saxony.  The TL-ages for the find layer indicate an age between 60-50 k.a. and place the site most likely in early MIS 3 or MIS 4. The ensemble consists of  bifacial backed knives, leaf-shaped scrapers, handaxes and leaf-shaped handaxes which were often produced on frost fractured materials or natural cobbles that had already the shape of the desired tool and required less form shaping. The most common feature of the Lichtenberg bifacial and unifacial tools is a convex cutting edge opposite a blunt edge or back, which shows that the Keilmesser-concept had been adapted to the local circumstances and raw material characteristics. Levallois concepts are visible in Lichtenberg, although most flakes in this assemblage seem to be the result of retouch or bifacial knapping. See the wonderful pictures of some artifacts at:http: //kulturerbe.niedersachsen.de/viewer/objekt/isil_DE-MUS-163517_NLMH_AR_49521_494825/6/#topDocAnchor.

The site Pouch/„Terrassenpfeiler“ is situated in the former brown coal quarry Tagebau Goitzsche – Baufeld Rösa-Sausedlitz, east of Bitterfeld (Saxony-Anhalt)  was dated by OSL for the find layer between 46-47 k.a. BP  with consistent C-14 data ( C-14:  40 –44 k.a. calBP). The inventory consist of scrapers, flakes with use-wear, backed knives, backed bifacial knives and leaf-shaped scrapers. Blank production is dominated by uni- and bidirectional prepared core methods. Very interesting is the presence of backed knifes on flat flakes, similar to the backed knifes of the late MTA. Many years ago, Lutz Fiedler described such artifacts in the late Mousterian in Buhlen also. The ensemble has numerous similarities to Lichtenberg, Salzgitter and Königsaue. The publication of Marcel Weiß is worth reading at academia.edu:  Stone tool analysis and context of a new late Middle Paleolithic site in western central Europe – Pouch-Terrassenpfeiler, Ldkr. Anhalt-Bitterfeld, Germany.

The central German record of such ensembles is only one small detail of a much larger “Micoquian interaction sphere” stretching over vast amounts of eastern Europe (Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Krim peninsula  and the Caucasus region) much larger than the Mousterian regions in W-Europe. Neanderthals in this regions learned about and knew about  the “bifacial option” , and used it versatile when it was necessary.

“Bifacial tools are considered social makers. The entire operational chain is seen as reducing social insecurity by materially reinforcing intimate social ties in regular face-to-face-contacts, whereas the tools alone signal social identity in contexts of less frequent interaction with socially distant individuals or even random contact with members of other collectives” (Thorsten Uthmeier 2016)

 

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