Since the earliest classifications and sub-divisions of the Palaeolithic (Lubbock 1865; de Mortillet 1867; Breuil 1912), prismatic (volumetric laminar) blade technology has been seen as a recent and sophisticated technological strategy. Originally seen as a hallmark of “modern behavior” , laminar technology has now been refuted as a technological strategy solely used by anatomically and behaviorally modern Homo sapiens. It is now evidenced that Neanderthal populations in Western Asia, and Europe used laminar technology since MIS7 as well.
There are two production sequences of MP-blade making: Volumetric blade production and Levallois blade production. Distinguishing between Levalloisian and laminar blades is crucial. There are, however, many proxies for distinguishing between these systems. These include:
- The observation of a crested/semi-crested blade (lame à crête);
- The degree of standardization between end-products (laminar products are often more standardized than Levalloisian products);
- Laminar products are often narrower and longer with a lack of convergence on the parallel edges (with the exception of retouched laminar productions into elongated points);
- A trapezoidal or triangular cross-section is more apparent in laminar systems of blade production;
- The butt of a laminar product is often narrower than its maximum width;
- The appearance of a “chapeau de gendarme”, or éclats débordant, characteristic of some Levallois products, may be apparent.
One of the oldest sites with laminar production is Crayford probably dating to MIS 7, with 510 blades known so far.. At this site, unipolar convergent and bipolar recurrent parallel cores and blades were found. However, many opportunistic flakes were also present within this lithic assemblage. In the United Kingdom, similar lithic blade assemblages are often referred to as “Crayford-type blade dominated assemblages”. Another important characteristic of these “Crayford-type” lithic assemblages is that they never contain Levallois products. The “Crayford-type” toolkit is dominated by denticulated and notched pieces. However, some side-scrapers may be present. Finally, it is important to keep in mind that the “Crayfordian” (e.g. at Bakers Hole) is a different type of technology than the so-called “Clactonian”.
Blade rich ensembles before OIS 5 are not restricted to the UK: La Petite Rouge Cambre Pas-deCalais, France is another Saalian s.l. site. The “Lower Gravel” is characterized by some big laminar non-Levallois parallel cores. The morphology of the initial elongated flint nodules still characterizes the morphology of the resulting cores. The “Upper Gravel” is characterized by the presence of a Levallois blade assemblage. Within the fine sediments on top of the terrace (Couche 5), which were affected by periglacial phenomena, another non-Levallois blade assemblage has been found. Within the toolkits, many notched and denticulated pieces were present. Markkleeberg, Germany is an Saalian s.l. site, which is mainly characterized by Levallois blade reduction. However, Levallois flake cores and many side-scrapers, transverse sidescrapers and bifaces were also present within the lithic assemblage. Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme, is another example of non-Levallois blade production (n=133), which can probably be dated to the Early or Middle Saalian s.l. (MIS 8 or 7). The non-Levallois elongated cores, which were carefully prepared, were struck off from two opposed striking platforms. Only 39 blades were present. The active faces of the prismatic cores, from which the recurrent blade removals were struck off were usually semi-rotating. Rheindahlen B1/B2,, Monchengladbach, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany is arguably the most important open-air reference site in the West of present-day Germany. However, the chronostratigraphic position of the site has been debated. Now, the loess-soil sequence of Rheindahlen has been safely attributed to the Middle Saalian s.l., which is the terrestrial equivalent of MIS 7. The lithic assemblage of Rheindahlen is characterized by the presence of many Levallois and non-Levallois blades. Several crested blades were also found.
During OIS 5 in Northern Europe, there are abundant evidence of a fully developed blade industry in France and adjacent parts of Germany (Wallertheim D, Saint-Germain-des-Vaux, Tönchesberg 2B, Riencourt-lès-Bapaume, Seclin – D7). Here either Levallois and / or prismaticitc core techniques are present .
The laminar MP-Strategy could be the predominant production on the site or could be “embedded” in different technological systems. At Verrières and Vinneuf we find blades within a Micoquian / KMG-sphere. At Riencourt-lès-Bapaume the laminar volumetric production is embedded in a non-laminat Levallois-Mousterian.
The laminar MP-strategy occurred widely independly of raw material supply, duration of stay, the function of the sites and the mobility patters of Middle Paleolithic groups in this N/W-Europe. Maybe the most important trigger for producing blades was the wish of creating a standardized product, that could used in composite tools.