Early Middle Palaeolithic blade technology in Southwestern Asia

Article (PDF Available) · January 2000with 155 Reads
Cite this publication
  • Article
    Full-text available
    Levallois technology has been used as both a chronological marker and a sign of cognitive evolution in hominins. The Levallois method is typically described as a specialized form of lithic manufacture, aimed at making products of predetermined shape. Analyses of Levallois technology tend to focus on the phenomenon of predetermination in the manufacture of specific products such as Levallois flakes, blades or points. Although it is widely recognized that some forms of recurrent Levallois technology actually produce diverse sorts of product, this feature is seldom emphasized or explored. We argue that despite similarities in how flaking is organized volumetrically, all varieties of Levallois are not simply equivalent means of creating blanks of predetermined form. In this paper we focus on Levallois production in the early Middle Paleolithic assemblages from Unit IX of Tabun Cave to provide an alternative perspective on some forms of Levallois production. The method used at Tabun is both flexible and efficient, yielding both large numbers of blanks and a range of products while reducing the waste of raw material. In these assemblages blades, flakes, Levallois points, and a variety of other products, were produced through systematic exploitation of different parts of the core's surface (or a series of surfaces). All types of products were transformed for use as tools, though perhaps to serve different ends. The choice to manufacture a range of products out of a single core highlights differences between the preferential and recurrent forms of Levallois technology. They represent fundamentally different approaches to lithic resource management.
  • Article
    The open-air site of Shlyakh, located near Volgograd in southern Russia, contains two assemblages of stone artifacts assigned to the Middle Paleolithic. Most of the artifacts are buried in low-energy stream deposits and appear to be in primary context (i.e., they do not exhibit signs of stream transport). The lithic technology reflects an emphasis on blade production and Levallois products are present. The artifacts lie in sediments formed during and immediately following the Laschamp Paleomagnetic excursion (41.2 ± 1.6 ka); they underlie the Mono Lake excursion (34.2 ± 1.2 ka). Although the radiocarbon dating is broadly consistent with the paleomagnetic stratigraphy, the wide range of ages obtained on bone from the upper assemblage suggests that older materials may have been introduced to one or both cultural layers. The dating and contents of Shlyakh are discussed in the wider context of events in Europe during ~ 50–40 ka. At this time, an Initial Upper Paleolithic (IUP) industry (Bohunician), characterized by Levallois blade technology and a high proportion of Upper Paleolithic tool types, is established in central Europe and on the southwest plain of eastern Europe. A different pattern is evident on the south-central plain, however, where the IUP is absent and a local “transitional unit” in the form of a Middle Paleolithic blade industry is represented at Shlyakh and other sites during 50–40 ka.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    The site of Rosh Ein Mor is constantly used as a cultural marker for the presence of "Tabun D" type industries in the Negev. A re-analysis of the lithic assemblage shows that the techno-typological characteristics fit better within the late Middle Paleolithic variability than within the early Middle Paleolithic. Using the powerful tool of U-series for dating calcite crusts on the artifacts a cluster of dates between ~70-35 ka has been obtained. Taking into consideration the central Negev highlands paleoclimate record and the geomorphological setting, this study presents valid data to suggest that Rosh Ein Mor was occupied during MIS 4 and possibly into MIS 3.
  • Article
    Hummal, located in the El-Kowm area of Central Syria, is a reference site for the Palaeolithic in the interior Levant due to its archaeological sequence of deposits from the Lower to Upper Palaeolithic. The open-air site offers an exceptional opportunity to study patterns of continuity and variability within the lithic assemblages of its eponymous industry, the Hummalian. The particular lithic assemblage recovered from Layer 7 is the focus of an attempted refitting and provides the data used in the research presented here. The collected pieces allowed the reconstruction of several chipped stone tool manufacturing episodes and reveals details of the technological working processes and the life cycle of archaeological objects through this refitting. It alludes to, after the primary blade reduction, the manufacturing of small debitage pieces which in turn testifies to the technological variability within the Hummalian. Combined with other studies such as attribute analysis, distribution patterns and geomorphological analyses they contribute to a greater understanding of the occupational history of the site as well as site disturbance processes. Furthermore, the Hummalian is the part of the Early Middle Palaeolithic (EMP) record and the presented refittings give evidence of the diverse technological behaviour of prehistoric humans not only within the Hummalian occupations themselves but also in comparison to other contemporary archaeological sites discovered in this and neighbouring regions. This case study contributes to the growing record of the EMP technological behaviour patterns and indicates the flexibility and dynamics of the technological organisation of prehistoric toolmakers from this period.
  • Article
    The southern Caucasus is home to a particularly rich record of Middle Paleolithic (MP) occupation. However, the potential contribution of the southern Caucasus to broader discussions of MP behavior and adaptations has remained largely unfulfilled because many key archaeological assemblages, deriving as they do from either surface scatters or sites that were excavated without the benefit of modern archaeological techniques, lack critical contextual information. What is more, the relatively small sample of sites where such data are available has been heavily biased towards caves and rockshelters. Here, we present a preliminary report on Bagratashen 1, an open-air MP site stratified within an ancient terrace of the Debed River in northeastern Armenia. While no faunal material has yet been recovered, site formation analysis suggests that the lithic assemblage, although subjected to subaerial exposure and some degree of post-depositional alteration, is neither severely biased nor substantially reworked. The presence of numerous cores and primary flaking debris indicate that at least some reduction occurred on-site. It appears that a majority of the raw material was probably procured locally from the nearby river channel, although a handful of obsidian pieces reveal raw material movements on the order of 80 km. The Bagratashen 1 lithic assemblage also includes several elongated points that recall early MP artifacts from the Levant and other sites in the southern Caucasus that date to between 250 and 90 ka BP. Optically Stimulated Luminescence samples from within the find horizon, however, returned dates of ~ 34 ka BP. While a terminal MP date requires confirmation, Bagratashen 1 provides an interesting case with which to test the utility of formal lithic artifacts as chrono-cultural markers.
  • Article
    Full-text available
    Blade technology, long associated solely with the Upper Paleolithic (UP) as an indicator of modern behavior, appears as early as the Middle Pleistocene and is present during the Middle Paleolithic (MP) and the Middle Stone Age (MSA). The nature behind the appearance of early laminar assemblages remains poorly understood. Yet current excavations at Sibudu Cave (KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa) have yielded MIS 5 lithic assemblages that contribute to the understanding of the diversity of blade technologies during the MSA. Following the chaîne opératoire approach, we explain how the knappers at Sibudu developed a laminar reduction strategy characterized by unidirectional cores with a lateral crest opposite a flat surface. The core configuration facilitated the production of blades with different intended morphological characteristics. Our results highlight the distinctiveness of the laminar reduction system of the D-A layers and foster the discussion on the role of this technological choice within the Southern African MSA.
  • Chapter
    The late Quaternary African hominin fossil record provides a tantalizing glimpse into considerable temporal and geographic morphological diversity within the genus Homo. A total of 50 sites that can be constrained from MIS 6-2 have yielded specimens ranging from isolated teeth to nearly complete skeletons. However, only a dozen or so provide particularly informative or interesting evidence spanning this period of nearly 200 kyr. In addition to the rather paltry nature of the record, one of the seemingly more intractable problems that bedevil its interpretation is the nature of the chronometric record for many of the sites. The Late Pleistocene terrestrial climatic record for Africa is also rather patchy, making continent-wide generalizations difficult. Attempts to link large-scale environmental perturbations in Africa to patterns of human evolution and behavior are even more problematic. Although the African fossil (and archaeological) record is most often viewed from the perspective of a single lineage culminating in the appearance of Homo sapiens and thence modern humans, the degree of morphological diversity evident even in this meager assemblage can be rather striking. Some of this diversity may be related to geographic and/or temporal differences, but in other instances, there are noticeable differences among remains that are contemporaneous, or at least penecontemporaneous. The Late Pleistocene African hominin fossil record, despite its manifestly incomplete nature, finds consistency with an impressive array of genetic evidence that points to an African origin for our species, and it also has consilience with genetic data that indicate a coalescence of lineages to the common ancestor of Homo sapiens at around the beginning of MIS 6. Although multiple lines of genetic evidence indicate a deep separation of lineages, with the ancestors of the southern African Khoesan diverging early on from that which gave rise to all other groups, there is a notable paucity of human remains that predate MIS 2 that exhibit strong phenetic resemblance to recent African populations. A number of the human dental samples from Late Pleistocene South African sites possess morphological variants that characterize the teeth of the recent inhabitants of sub-Saharan Africa, but these similarities do not necessarily signify a close evolutionary relationship with any of these populations because they appear to be plesiomorphic.
This research doesn't cite any other publications.