A Truncated Blade of the Early Upper Paleolithic from Kebara / Israel

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This is a broad blade (7×2,7×0,7 cm) with a straight, steeply retouched (around 90◦) edge aligned more or less perpendicularly to the long axis of the tool- a piece with streight truncation from the lower layers (Early Ahmarian) of Kebara cave. Such pieces, often with  a faceted platform, which is also present on the artifacts shown here, are present since the very early beginnings of the Levantine Upper Paleolithic.

A Review in Azouris publication of the lower strata at Ksar Akil  (IUP)(pdf:digital.library.stonybrook.edu/cdm/ref/collection/amar/id/158362) shows straight truncations, oblique truncations and concave truncations and many burins on strait or oblique truncations, in Strata 24-21 (IUP) together with end scrapers and chamfered pieces. They continue to be present until the early Ahmarian of Stratum 18.

Truncations could be instruments on their own right, anyhow truncation was also  a method for segmenting larger blades into smaller ones, especially during the later Levantine Epipaleolithic, or even  preforms for burins, as seen at Ksar Akil 24-21. Unfortunately, functional studies about their status are not available till now.

The “Initial Upper Paleolithic” (IUP) of the Levant refers to assemblages characterized by essentially Upper Paleolithic inventories of retouched tools (burins, endscrapers, truncations on blades and retouched blades) sometimes with still a significant number of Middle Paleolithic types (sidescrapers and broad points). They demonstrate a dominant hard hammer blade production from core reduction strategies following the Levallois and/or Laminar (volumetric) concepts.

Most of the blades (frequently with convergent edges) are wide, not very regular, with facetted platforms, indicating still the use of hard hammer technique in large proportion. In some cases, systematic bladelet production has been described (Umm el Tlel, layer III2a’ and II base). These Initial Upper Paleolithic assemblages are widespread in the Levant (for instance, Boker Tachtit levels 1–4, Ksar Akil XXIV–XXI, Tor Sadaf A–B, Uçagizli I–F, Intermediate Paleolithic in Umm-el-Tlel). Moreover, in a few sites with good organic preservation, bone tools and ornaments are already present (Uçagizli, Ksar Akil), demonstrating a developed tradition of ornament-making that continued in the following Ahmarian.

The geographic and temporal dispersal of IUP technology poses a fundamental question. What range of processes that can lead to the repetition of a constellation of technological features over time and space? Dispersal of a single group bearing a particular technological tradition is one such process, arguably the first one that many archaeologists think of. However, technologies can also disperse across existing social networks without people actually moving with them. A third, less frequently-considered possibility is that the broad dispersal of some characteristics of the IUP represents frequent convergent evolution.

The loose configuration of attributes that define the IUP may simply represent an “easy” pathway from late MP Levallois to UP prismatic blade technology.  The variability observed could represent a series of radiations or distinct dispersal events, at various geographical scales, occurring within a narrow time window. Although one should be very cautious in interpreting radiocarbon dates greater than 37 000 14C years, the existing corpus of dates  is inconsistent with the hypothesis that the global IUP represents a single dispersal event. There is a broad time trend in dates within the IUP range, running from southwest (the Levant) to the northeast (Mongolia and northwest China) but the trend is hardly clear or monotonic. For example, the dates from Kara Bom in the Siberian Altai are among the oldest in the entire sample, approaching the current age estimates for the base of Boker Tachtit.

In the broadest sense of the term, the industries defined as Initial Upper Paleolithic share only a few basic traits. They are united mainly by the use of hard hammer percussion, facetted platforms and relatively flat exploitation faces on some cores, all of which are tightly linked traits from a technological point of view. Locally, other features are highly variable.  In some assemblages, (Üçagızlı FeI, Ksar Akil, Boker Tachtit 4) blank production is almost exclusively unidirectional. In others (Boker Tachtit 1, 2, the Bohunician sites, Kara-Bom (OH5eOH6), Tolbor 4 (OH5eOH6), Shuidonggou 1, 2, blank production involves bidirectional removals.  Even bidirectional technological systems are not homogeneous. Sometimes bidirectional cores have platforms on opposite ends of the same broad face of the core (e.g Bohunician), but often the reduction took place on a broad flaking surface and at the intersection with a narrow face or lateral edge (e.g. Kara-Bom). These variants can sometimes coexist and may at times represent different stages of reduction.  Some IUP technological systems appear to have been oriented toward production of pointed pieces, others toward the production of blades or even elongated flakes.

Suggested Reading:

Fundamental Text about the IUP at Ksar Akil:

digital.library.stonybrook.edu/cdm/ref/collection/amar/id/158362

Kebara Upper Paleo: 

http://www.persee.fr/doc/paleo_0153-9345_1978_num_4_1_4231

Uçagizli:

iteseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.522.950&rep=rep1…pdf

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2 Responses to A Truncated Blade of the Early Upper Paleolithic from Kebara / Israel

  1. Douglas Todd says:

    What a tremendous job you have done researching and presenting here for everyone around the world to enjoy! I salute you and your passion and your energy!

  2. Katzman says:

    Thanks- I need such confirmation from time to time…

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