l’idée Levallois fait son chemin

(This sentence comes from Marcel Otte)

MIS 7 was a long and complex interglacial phase (spanning more than 50,000 years). In Northern and Central continental Europe we observe the rise of the Levallois technology, although this technique was observed in Europe for the first time around the OIS9/8 boundary.  Not all sites in Northern France are characterized by Levallois, but sites with discoidal production and blade procurement are also known.  The most famous site from this period is Biache-Saint-Vaast (Pas-de- Calais), where two Neanderthal skulls were unearthed. We should not forget very similar material from the excavations of V. Commont at Montiers at the Somme at the beginning of the last century.

The lithic technology from this period is characterized by the prevalence of high quality Levallois debit- age, often with products of large dimensions- which seems to be a hallmark of the regional Paleolithic. . The molluscs and mammalian fauna  at Biache suggest a change from fully temperate conditions from below the archaeological horizons, getting progressively cooler and more open during the human occupation. A date towards the end of MIS 7 or early MIS 6 is suggested. Levallois is an important component of the lower assemblages (IIa and base of II) together with a range of side scrapers.  Many of these scrapers are double convex scrapers and convergent scrapers foreshadowing the Ferrassie ensembles of the last glaciation. The composition of the assemblages and associated fauna suggests a range of activities in each of the different levels including primary knapping and butchery.

The settlement of Piégu (Côtes-du-Nord) is a rock shelter at the bottom of a cliff which was frequented on a marine regressive period. The industry is mainly of flint and has been collected on the beach. lts outstanding features are a Levalloisian technique, characterized by numerous Levalloisian points and well-made side-scrappers.

Therdonne: The excavation of Therdonne site (Oise, France) in 1999 delivered a lithic assemblage dominated by tall Levallois points (niveau N3; OIS7).

Three long bones from the same left upper limb, attributable to the Neanderthal lineage, were discovered at the open-air site of Tourville-la -Rivière (La Fosse-Marmitaine; Normandy, France).  U-series and combined US-ESR dating on animal teeth produced an age range for the site of 183 to 236 k.a. In combination with paleoecological indicators, they indicate an age toward the end of MIS 7. Again the production of large Levallois debitage is prevalent.

The newly detected multilayered open-air site of Etricourt-Manancourt contains at least five prehistoric levels, extending over the period of 330,000 to 80,000 years ago.. The archaeological layers LRS and LGS testify to two human occupations preserved in situ and dates respectively to ca. 220 k.a. and 190 k.a. The Levallois method aimed to obtain elongated flakes with a ready-to-use unretouched but regular cutting-edges.

Maastricht-Belvedere (Netherlands) consists of a complex of sites from fine-grained fluvial sediments containing fully temperate faunas, and probably attributable to MIS 7. TL dates suggest an age between 250–290 k.a. Some of the sites (Site C) display Levallois technology, while at others (Site K) most of the knapping is from disc cores. None of the assemblages have handaxes. Differences in the composition of the assemblages also suggest different site functions, from primary knapping locations to possible animal procurement and processing sites, as well as the sporadic drop-out of tools and rejuvenation waste as such material was transported around the landscape.

Whereas the assemblages from these flint-impoverished occurrences rarely contain Levallois elements, more substantial assemblages were recovered from decalcified loess deposits overlying the younger main terrace of the Meuse (Rheindalen B1, B3 and B5). The earliest human presence (B5) is attested by a Levallois core and retouched Levallois blade, together with other flakes, from the top of a soil sealed by loess. The most substantial assemblage comes from level B3, an interglacial soil higher up the sequence, and is dominated by Levallois flaking of Meuse gravel flint. Heavily retouched flake tools are common, especially convergent and pointed forms on large Levallois blanks. A handaxe was recovered from the loess which seals this horizon, whilst a further substantial assemblage (B1) was recovered from the uppermost part of the interglacial soil, comprising small blades, many of which are retouched. Originally, the upper interglacial soil was correlated with the MIS5e, but recent attempts to refine the regional stratigraphy suggest that these levels form part of the unique “Erft Solcomplex”, which luminescence dating places within MIS 7 (200 k.a.) No direct indications of environment have been recovered from any of these levels.

Taken into account the chronology of the Levallois technology, in Central Europe, two periods can be distinguished. The first period is characterized by the incidental appearance of traces of the small-scale use of predetermined methods in isolated places. The second period, which begins either in MIS8 or even in MIS7 and 6, is characterized by the rapid spread of the technology in various forms. Traces  are known only from the second period (MIS8-MIS6). The later arrival of the Levallois technology to CEntral Europe is probably due to the fact that this area was not as visited as often as other territories because of its proximity to glacial icesheets.

A site with large convergent Levallois products is found incorporated in the lower travertine at Weimar-Ehringsdorf  , most probably from OIS7: http://zs.thulb.uni jena.de/servlets/MCRFileNodeServlet/jportal_derivate_00230982/TLA_1961_Bd04_01.pdf

As in other areas, the distribution of Levallois technology in Central Europe was dependent on the presence of adequate raw materials. The Levallois strategy occurs mainly in the northern zone where the high quality flints occurred (the North German Lowland, the Silesian Lowland and the Kraków Częstochowa Upland). As in other territories, the Levallois concept almost from the beginning shows technical maturity, internal differentiation and flexibility.

Among these rare sites is the famous Markkleeberg site near Leipzig, Germany.  After more than 100 yrs. of discussion it remains unclear if the archaeological horizon dates to early MIS 8, or may be as young as MIS 6. The Markkleeberg assemblage combines bifacial tools (handaxes and bifacial scrapers) with highly developed Levallois products of various kinds.

Further east, from MIS8 and MIS7 come several sites with asymmetric bifacial tools or one-sided tools, accompanied by the Levallois technology. These sites may represent a non- Acheulean milieu. Kozlowski presented a debatable hypothesis that these sites might have represented the oldest KMG-groups of Central Europe. Unfortunately, this theory is based on very few sites with poor chronological data.

The scrapers (> 10 cm) of this post were found in NW-France and resemble the findings described in this blog.


Suggested Reading:



Victor Commont and the French Prehistory in the early 20th century

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About Katzman

During my whole life I was fascinated by stone age artefacts. Not only the aesthetic qualities of these findings, but also the stories around them and the considerations arising from their discovery, are a part of my blog. Comments and contributions are allways welcome! About me: J.L. Katzman (Pseudonym). Born in Vienna. Left Austria in 1974 and did not regret. Studied Medicine and Prehistory at a German University. Member of a Medical Department at a German University. Copyright 2010-2017 by JLK. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to use material in these posts so long as you cite the work.
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