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Abstract

The introduction of biface technology in the Lower Palaeolithic arguably marked a fundamental change in how early hominins dealt with their world. It is suggested to reflect changes not just in tool form and innovative shaping, but also in planning depth, landscape use and social structures. This paper examines in detail the chronology of the first Acheulian industries in north-west Europe with the earliest sites from c. 700 ka through to later sites at c. 400 ka. It asks whether evidence from these sites can further our understanding of how the Acheulian and the bifacial technology emerged in this region, but more critically whether it was the underlying behavioural changes that enabled the more sustained occupation of northern latitudes. In particular the paper assesses whether cultural signatures can be identified and whether this reflects changes in group dynamics and social structures that could be a fundamental aspect of surviving in more seasonal, cooler climates.

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... Recent studies of the European Acheulean technocomplex have enabled improved reconstructions of complex human occupation patterns during the Middle Pleistocene (Santonja and Villa, 2006;Moncel et al., 2015;Gallotti, 2016;Rocca et al., 2016;Santonja et al., 2016;Sharon and Barsky, 2016). However, significant debate surrounds the spatial and temporal dynamics of the Acheulean technological tradition Voinchet et al., 2015;Santonja et al., 2016;Villa et al., 2016a), particularly at individual regional scales (Santonja and Villa, 2006), owing to non-trivial gaps in the Middle Pleistocene archaeological and chronological record. ...
... However, significant debate surrounds the spatial and temporal dynamics of the Acheulean technological tradition Voinchet et al., 2015;Santonja et al., 2016;Villa et al., 2016a), particularly at individual regional scales (Santonja and Villa, 2006), owing to non-trivial gaps in the Middle Pleistocene archaeological and chronological record. From a pan-European perspective, the Acheulean technocomplex is a phenomenon restricted to the occidental and southern regions; the manifestation of which appears to become increasingly weak northwards along the Rhine River, and is, as-Acheulean covers a time period spanning MIS 16, and possibly even earlier (see an overview in Moncel et al., 2018), to MIS 6 (676-130 ka) (Santonja and Villa, 2006;Moncel et al., 2015;Ollé et al., 2016;Rubio-Jara et al., 2016;Santonja et al., 2016;Duval et al., n.d.), which is significantly shorter than the documented age range of the African Acheulean technocomplex (~1.7-0.3 million years ago or Ma) (Asfaw et al., 1992;Clark, 1994;Lepre et al., 2011;Diez-Martín et al., 2015;Gallotti, 2016;Sharon and Barsky, 2016;Deino et al., 2018). ...
... Whenever there is a large range of raw materials available and flint is found among them, quartzite is the preferred rock for shaping LCTs, while flint is selected to obtain flakes or flake tools (Santonja and Villa, 2006;Rubio-Jara et al., 2016). The use of coarse raw materials, such as quartzite, basalt or sandstone is recurrent in the Acheulean record of Africa, Near East and India (Sharon, 2007), but these signal an important difference when compared to the raw materials used in northern Europe (Santonja and Villa, 2006;Tuffreau et al., 2008;Sharon, 2011;Moncel et al., 2015). ...
Article
The arrival and disappearance of the Acheulean technocomplex in Europe, and specifically in the Iberian Peninsula, is a longstanding topic of discussion with relevance for unravelling the Middle Pleistocene human occupation dynamics of the continent. Despite containing one of the first Acheulean sites excavated in Europe (As Gándaras de Budiño site), the Miño River basin (north-western Iberian Peninsula) remains understudied and has yielded relatively limited information on the temporal and spatial dynamics of the regional Acheulean technocomplex over the last fifty years. Here we present a systematic archaeological and numerical dating study of a previously undocumented Acheulean site located in the lower Miño River basin (Arbo site, Pontevedra, Spain). This newly discovered site preserves a late Middle Pleistocene Acheulean assemblage that has been dated to pre-Marine Isotope Stage 5 by a combination of post-infrared infrared stimulated luminescence (pIR-IR) and electron spin resonance (ESR) dating of sedimentary silicates. The new excavations reveal that the site preserves a dense concentration of artefacts made from allochthonous raw materials. Detailed lithic analyses show that the industry has some elementary flake production systems devoid of Levallois cores, but with supplementary non-standardised flake tool types and some large cutting tools (LCTs) - mainly handaxes that are usually finalized with soft-hammer. The results obtained at Arbo complement those obtained recently at the nearby Porto Maior site, as well as the seminal study of As Gándaras de Budiño, and demonstrate an important Acheulean and hominin presence in the Miño River basin during the second half of the Middle Pleistocene.
... Particularly, a significant ecological reorganization occurred during Marine Oxygen Isotope Stage (MIS) 16, around 700 ka (e.g., Manzi et al., 2011). The recurring Homo dispersals may be regarded, therefore, as a component of the faunal renewal that arose during the late Early Pleistocene and at the onset of the Middle Pleistocene, when large mammals of ultimate African and Asian origin spread in Western Europe (e.g., Moncel et al., 2013Moncel et al., , 2015Palombo, 2014). ...
... Fluctuations in global climate and the resulting ecological changes were probably one of the main constraints also for the subsequent hominin evolution in Europe, involving the relevant Paleolithic assemblages (McNabb, 2005;Moncel et al., 2015). Nevertheless, the exact relationship between the possible dispersal in Eurasia of hominins referred to Homo heidelbergensis (Rightmire, 2008;Mounier et al., 2009Mounier et al., , 2011Stringer 2012;Manzi, 2016) and the onset of bifacial or "Acheulean" technology remains questioned . ...
... A large-scale expansion over Western Europe of Acheulean assemblages occurs after the cold phase of MIS 12, when various regional traditions were developing in both the north and south of Europe (Nicoud, 2013;Moncel et al., 2015;Ashton and Scott, 2016). The period of MIS 11-9 is thus a second crucial period, recording evidence of behavioural changes towards the early Middle Paleolithic, such as more complex and standardized core technologies, organized hunting, or changes in land use patterns . ...
Article
The Ceprano human calvarium, dated around 400,000 yr, is a well-known fossil specimen. It represents significant evidence of hominin presence in the Italian peninsula during the Middle Pleistocene and may be considered representative of an archaic variant of the widespread and polymorphic species Homo heidelbergensis . Since its discovery (March 1994), systematic surveys in the Campogrande area near Ceprano, central Italy, identified 12 localities (CG1-12) with archaeological and/or paleontological assemblages. On this basis, fieldwork was carried out at Campogrande between 2001 and 2006, including drilled cores and excavations, allowing a detailed description of the stratigraphic and paleoenvironmental context associated with the human fossil specimen and the archaeological materials. In the present paper we focus on the stratigraphy and sedimentological features of the uppermost deposits, coupled with a detailed appraisal of the available lithic assemblages that mostly belongs to overlying sediments (CG9 and CG10 localities). We conclude that the Ceprano hominin died in a floodplain environment with a low topographic gradient, where a fluvial meandering channel occurred. The archaeological materials describe a network of sites that document common behavioural features of human groups of the mid-to-late Middle Pleistocene, representing evidence of the regionalization observed across Europe after Marine Oxygen Isotope Stage 12.
... In recent years, a major focus of research of the Middle Pleistocene human record of northwest Europe has been identifying the timing of human presence and its relationship to changing climate, environments and palaeogeography (e.g. Antoine et al., 2015;Ashton & Lewis, 2002;Ashton et al., 2011;Dennell et al., 2011;Moncel et al., 2015;Parfitt et al., 2005Parfitt et al., , 2010Roebroeks, 2006;White & Schreve, 2000;White et al., 2018). Alongside this has been continued interest in temporal patterning in the archaeological record and whether spatially and temporally discrete variation in lithic technology can be attributed to cultural differences or ecological and/or behavioural situational circumstances (e.g. ...
... Alongside this has been continued interest in temporal patterning in the archaeological record and whether spatially and temporally discrete variation in lithic technology can be attributed to cultural differences or ecological and/or behavioural situational circumstances (e.g. Davis & Ashton, 2019;Moncel et al., 2015;Ravon, 2019;Shipton & White, 2020;White et al., 2018White et al., , 2019. Our understanding of these issues is gained from a record that provides a range of resolutions, from the brief moments in time that represent single events of past human behaviour, sites in primary context that represent human occupation of a specific place over a limited time period, to the time-averaged lithic assemblages found in secondary context in fluvial gravels, which may represent the aggregate of human technological behaviour in a river valley across tens of thousands of years. ...
... In addition, the context of many of the historic collections of handaxes from river systems such as the Somme is less certain than for example the Thames, due to the considerably thicker sequences of loess that overlie the fluvial gravels. Despite these problems, progress has been made in recent years that enables comparisons to be made (Antoine et al., 2015(Antoine et al., , 2019Moncel et al., 2015;Voinchet et al., 2015). ...
Article
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Fluvial terrace sequences of Pleistocene rivers provide a chronological framework for examining broad patterns of change in the Palaeolithic record. Collections of artefacts recovered from individual terraces represent a time-averaged sample of the range of lithic technology discarded in a river valley over thousands of years. These can be compared and contrasted with other terraces to identify the timing of the appearance of key technological innovations and chronological variation in lithic technology. In Britain, the punctuated nature of human presence during the Pleistocene means that archaeological variation across a river terrace sequence is likely to relate in part to successive phases of occupation by human groups derived from populations in mainland Europe. This paper presents an analysis of the Lower and early Middle Palaeolithic record of the River Test, Hampshire, which was a tributary river of the former River Solent. The timing of the first appearance of handaxes and Levallois technology is established, and chronological patterning in handaxe typology and technology is identified. The Test record is placed in its regional context, and its implications for understanding the human occupation history of northwest Europe during the Middle Pleistocene are discussed.
... These early Acheulean tools, often characterised by handaxes and cleavers, are typically thought to have been produced using hard-hammer percussion. Bifaces go on to typify the next >1 million years of the archaeological record across the Old World (Lycett & Gowlett, 2008;Gowlett, 2015;Moncel et al., 2015) until the onset of Middle Palaeolithic technologies ∼300 Kya (Moncel et al., 2011;Tryon & Faith, 2013;Adler et al., 2014). The nature and extent of any chronological changes to stone technology during the Acheulean are debated (e.g., Vaughan, 2001;Chauhan, 2009;Gowlett, 2011;McNabb & Cole, 2015;Moncel et al., 2015;Gallotti, 2016), however, there are indications that later Acheulean bifacial tools (handaxes in particular) were at times produced using soft-hammer percussion, became thinner relative to their width (more 'refined'), displayed greater evidence of intentional thinning, volume control (mass distribution), investment (e.g., time, skill), shaping and symmetry (Gowlett, 1986;Saragusti et al., 1998;Schick & Clark, 2003;Grosman, Goldsmith & Smilansky, 2011;Beyene et al., 2012;García-Medrano et al., 2014;Li et al., 2018;Moncel et al., 2016;Gallotti & Mussi, 2017;Iovita et al., 2017;Shimelmitz et al., 2017), and at times displayed evidence of platform preparation prior to a flake's removal (Stout et al., 2014). ...
... Bifaces go on to typify the next >1 million years of the archaeological record across the Old World (Lycett & Gowlett, 2008;Gowlett, 2015;Moncel et al., 2015) until the onset of Middle Palaeolithic technologies ∼300 Kya (Moncel et al., 2011;Tryon & Faith, 2013;Adler et al., 2014). The nature and extent of any chronological changes to stone technology during the Acheulean are debated (e.g., Vaughan, 2001;Chauhan, 2009;Gowlett, 2011;McNabb & Cole, 2015;Moncel et al., 2015;Gallotti, 2016), however, there are indications that later Acheulean bifacial tools (handaxes in particular) were at times produced using soft-hammer percussion, became thinner relative to their width (more 'refined'), displayed greater evidence of intentional thinning, volume control (mass distribution), investment (e.g., time, skill), shaping and symmetry (Gowlett, 1986;Saragusti et al., 1998;Schick & Clark, 2003;Grosman, Goldsmith & Smilansky, 2011;Beyene et al., 2012;García-Medrano et al., 2014;Li et al., 2018;Moncel et al., 2016;Gallotti & Mussi, 2017;Iovita et al., 2017;Shimelmitz et al., 2017), and at times displayed evidence of platform preparation prior to a flake's removal (Stout et al., 2014). Together, these technologies describe ∼3 million years of stone tool production and use during the Lower Palaeolithic. ...
... The terms EAH and LAH used here refer to general increases in flaking extent, shaping, volume control, symmetry, the use of intentional 'thinning' flakes, soft-hammer percussion and prepared flake platforms in later Acheulean handaxes (Saragusti et al., 1998;Schick & Clark, 2003;Grosman, Goldsmith & Smilansky, 2011;Diez-Martín et al., 2014;Stout et al., 2014;Gallotti & Mussi, 2017;Iovita et al., 2017;Shimelmitz et al., 2017). While these differences are often clearest when tools produced >1 Mya are compared to those produced after ∼0.5 Mya, we do not mean to imply uniform linear progression of forms across regional records (Vaughan, 2001;Gowlett, 2013;Moncel et al., 2015;McNabb & Cole, 2015). Rather, we seek to investigate if handaxe forms produced using distinct techniques may be limited by biomechanical capabilities, as inferred from manual pressure records (see below). ...
Article
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The causes of technological innovation in the Palaeolithic archaeological record are central to understanding Plio-Pleistocene hominin behaviour and temporal trends in artefact variation. Palaeolithic archaeologists frequently investigate the Oldowan-Acheulean transition and technological developments during the subsequent million years of the Acheulean technocomplex. Here, we approach the question of why innovative stone tool production techniques occur in the Lower Palaeolithic archaeological record from an experimental biomechanical and evolutionary perspective. Nine experienced flintknappers reproduced Oldowan flake tools, ‘early Acheulean’ handaxes, and ‘late Acheulean’ handaxes while pressure data were collected from their non-dominant (core-holding) hands. For each flake removal or platform preparation event performed, the percussor used, the stage of reduction, the core securing technique utilised, and the relative success of flake removals were recorded. Results indicate that more heavily reduced, intensively shaped handaxes with greater volumetric controls do not necessarily require significantly greater manual pressure than Oldowan flake tools or earlier ‘rougher’ handaxe forms. Platform preparation events do, however, require significantly greater pressure relative to either soft or hard hammer flake detachments. No significant relationships were identified between flaking success and pressure variation. Our results suggest that the preparation of flake platforms, a technological behaviour associated with the production of late Acheulean handaxes, could plausibly have been restricted prior to the emergence of more forceful precision-manipulative capabilities than those required for earlier lithic technologies.
... Recently, new chronologies have been published for a diverse number of Acheulean sites of "European facies" from NW Europe 9,18 . The numerical age control available for these sites would place the earliest Acheulean in this region and Italy to pre-MIS 12 9,17,18 . Importantly, however, the technological characteristics at these sites are different to those observed in SW Europe (Iberia and Aquitanian region), whose distinguishing features include the use of large flakes as blanks (LFB industries) for the LCTs and the presence of flake cleavers 4,5,23 . ...
... For the first time, the cultural connection between the two continents can be extended to include the type of occupation site (extensive LCT accumulations), thereby providing additional insight into the origin of the European Acheulean technology. The MIS 8-7 chronology obtained for Porto Maior sequence confirms the co-existence of the LCT Acheulean and EMP industries in SW Europe 3,9,74,78 . This situation would potentially suggest the co-existence of different human species in southwest Europe during the Middle Pleistocene; a scenario also reflected by emerging palaeoanthropological evidence from European fossil hominin sites 75,79-81 . ...
Article
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We describe a European Acheulean site characterised by an extensive accumulation of large cutting tools (LCT). This type of Lower Paleolithic assemblage, with dense LCT accumulations, has only been found on the African continent and in the Near East until now. The identification of a site with large accumulations of LCTs favours the hypothesis of an African origin for the Acheulean of Southwest Europe. The lithic tool-bearing deposits date back to 293–205 thousand years ago. Our chronological findings confirm temporal overlap between sites with clear “African” Acheulean affinities and Early Middle Paleolithic sites found elsewhere in the region. These complex technological patterns could be consistent with the potential coexistence of different human species in south-western Europe during the Middle Pleistocene.
... While the Levallois method was once widely viewed as a Middle Paleolithic innovation, the idea that it was practiced in the Levantine Acheulian, and especially the late Acheulian assemblages, is no longer outside the mainstream. Its roots in the Lower Paleolithic Acheulian have been demonstrated by a plethora of studies during the last four decades in sites in Africa (Rolland, 1995;Tryon, 2006;de la Torre, 2010;Wilkins et al., 2010), Europe (Villa, 2009;Despriée et al., 2010;Nowell and White, 2010;Moncel et al., 2011;Moncel et al., 2011;Rodríguez et al., 2011;Ollé et al., 2013;Picin et al., 2013;Moncel et al., 2015;Hérisson et al., 2016), the Levant (Gilead and Ronen, 1977;Goren, 1979;Ronen et al., 1980;Goren-Inbar, 1985;Chazan, 2000;DeBono and Goren-Inbar, 2001;Goren-Inbar, 2011;Shimelmitz et al., 2016;Zaidner and Weinstein-Evron, 2016;Goren-Inbar et al., 2018;Chazan 2020), and the Caucasus (Adler et al., 2014). Additionally, recent publications demonstrate that the Levallois method appears earlier than previously thought in India (Akhilesh et al., 2018) and perhaps even in China (Hu et al., 2019, although see Li et al., 2019. ...
... Pre-Middle Paleolithic cores displaying Levallois characteristics are defined differently for the different sites, seriously impeding any effort to clearly portray the chronogeographic distribution of these items. The various definitions include, for example, prepared cores, centripetal cores, mode 3 technology, hierarchical cores, radial cores, proto-Levallois cores, and more (White and Ashton, 2003;Wilkins et al., 2010;Moncel et al., 2015;Picin, 2017;Leader et al., 2018, to name but a few). To try and mitigate the confusion arising from the multiplicity of terms used to describe these items, we will consider all of them to be prepared cores, sharing new concepts of flake production technology, as will be described in detail later. ...
Article
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The life cycle of a successful technological innovation usually follows a well-known path: a slow inception, gradual assimilation of the technology, an increase in its frequency up to a certain peak, and then a decline. These different phases are characterized not only by varying frequency of use but also by degree of standardization and distinguishability. The Levallois method, a sophisticated Middle Paleolithic technology aimed at producing desired stone items of predetermined morphology, is one such innovation. It has been repeatedly suggested that the Levallois method originated within earlier Lower Paleolithic Acheulian industries, and this work contributes to this discussion. We analyze the reduction trajectory of prepared cores and predetermined blanks from the late Acheulian sites of Jaljulia and Revadim, adding important new evidence for the Lower Paleolithic origins of the Levallois method and its adoption and assimilation in the human stone-tool repertoire of this period in the Levant. Revadim and Jaljulia also provide a rare opportunity to study patterns in the early assimilation of technological innovations. These sites yielded rich lithic assemblages typical of the late Acheulian in the Levant. The assemblages include handaxes but are mostly dominated by flake production technologies and flake-tools. The early appearance of prepared cores at both sites signals, in our view, the inception of concepts related to the Levallois method, termed here proto-Levallois, in the late Acheulian Levant. Through a detailed analysis of prepared cores and their products, we are able to characterize the early stages of assimilation of this method, using it as a case study in a broader discussion of the adoption and assimilation of technological innovations during Lower Paleolithic times.
... Important differences also exist in the specific technological features of the Acheulean tradition across Europe. In particular, there are notable regional differences in the occurrences of cleavers (on flakes), the use of large flake blanks for the configuration of LCTs and the first occurrence of the standardized core reduction pattern (Levallois method) between the Iberian Acheulean tradition (Santonja and Pérez-González 2010;Santonja and Villa 2006;Sharon 2011;Sharon and Barsky 2016) and industries found in northwest Europe (Lhomme 2007;Tuffreau et al. 2008;Moncel et al. 2015Moncel et al. , 2020bHérisson et al. 2016a, b;Lamotte and Tuffreau 2016;Locht et al. 2019). In this context, the site of Porto Maior (with its extensive LCT accumulations) provides noteworthy behavioural evidence to support the relationship between the Iberian and African Acheulean industries (Méndez-Quintas et al. 2018b). ...
... Over this age range, there are many examples of archaeological sites across the region that display distinctly different technological features to those of the African Acheulean tradition; including the middle stratigraphic unit of Ambrona, Level TD10.1-2 at Gran Dolina (Atapuerca), Bolomor Cave, Cuesta de la Bajada and possibly Gruta da Aroeira (Ollé et al. 2013;Santonja et al. 2014;Santonja et al. 2016). Among the main technological features found at these sites are systematically and pre-configured core exploitation patterns (as Levallois or Quina types), chaîne opératoire ramifications, repetitive and standardized flake tools and limited occurrences (or total absences) of macro-tools (mainly recovered as handaxetool support) (Ashton and Scott 2016;Moncel et al. 2015Moncel et al. , 2020aHérisson et al. 2016a, b;Locht et al. , 2019Turq et al. 2010). ...
Article
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This article provides a synthesis of the Middle Pleistocene hominin record of West Iberia, which comprises sites displaying abundant concentrations of large flake Acheulean (LFA) assemblages, as well as isolated examples of Early Middle Palaeolithic (EMP) technology. These sites typically have age ranges spanning marine isotopic stages (MIS) 11–6, within the second half of the Middle Pleistocene, and are primarily located in fluvial environments related to the main regional river basins. The LFA sites display extensive occurrences of handaxes and cleavers on flake blanks (detached from large cores), with a large number of knapping remains, such as flakes or small-medium cores, showing simple reduction patterns. Over the identified age range of these sites, especially during the MIS 9–6 interval, we observe constant technological stability, without strong variations over time, and independent of the functionality of individual sites. These fixed technological and behavioural patterns reinforce the African affinities of the southwestern European Acheulean, in contrast to Acheulean assemblages identified in the northernmost areas of Europe.
... In general terms in the whole of Europe there still seems to be a threshold for longer-term hominin settlement at around 500-600 ka, with a marked increase in the number of sites (now not only during temperate climatic intervals, but also during colder and drier phases) and the sizes of the assemblages. It is also from around 600-700 ka onward that we observe the first presence of Acheulean tools in Europe [14], about a million years later than their first appearance in eastern Africa [15]. The first occupants of Europe seem to have done without handaxes, the earliest European assemblages only comprising simple stone flakes, cores and core-like tools, with a lack of standardized design and usually with limited modification only. ...
... This gives special importance to the study of the geological context of inferred early sites: rocks can fracture naturally and edges can be modified by natural processes in sediments such as cryoturbation, transport and volcanic activities, and a wide variety of such processes has been documented to mimic hominin modification and to produce "artefact-like" geofacts, [16][17][18][19] (see also below, Discussion). Interestingly, the emergence of the Acheulean signal in southern [20] as well as northwestern Europe from 600-700 ka [14,21,22] onward is in the same time range as the current estimate for the beginning of the Neandertal lineage [23]. ...
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The database regarding the earliest occupation of Europe has increased significantly in quantity and quality of data points over the last two decades, mainly through the addition of new sites as a result of long-term systematic excavations and large-scale prospections of Early and early Middle Pleistocene exposures. The site distribution pattern suggests an ephemeral presence of hominins in the south of Europe from around one million years ago, with occasional short northward expansions along the western coastal areas when temperate conditions permitted. From around 600,000-700,000 years ago Acheulean artefacts appear in Europe and somewhat later hominin presence seems to pick up, with more sites and now some also present in colder climatic settings. It is again only later, around 350,000 years ago, that the first sites show up in more continental, central parts of Europe, east of the Rhine. A series of recent papers on the Early Pleistocene palaeontological site of Untermassfeld (Germany) makes claims that are of great interest for studies of earliest Europe and are at odds with the described pattern: the papers suggest that Untermassfeld has yielded stone tools and humanly modified faunal remains, evidence for a one million years old hominin presence in European continental mid-latitudes, and additional evidence that hominins were well-established in Europe already around that time period. Here we evaluate these claims and demonstrate that these studies are severely flawed in terms of data on provenance of the materials studied and in the interpretation of faunal remains and lithics as testifying to a hominin presence at the site. In actual fact any reference to the Untermassfeld site as an archaeological one is unwarranted. Furthermore, it is not the only European Early Pleistocene site where inferred evidence for hominin presence is problematic. The strength of the spatiotemporal patterns of hominin presence and absence depend on the quality of the data points we work with, and data base maintenance, including critical evaluation of new sites, is crucial to advance our knowledge of the expansions and contractions of hominin ranges during the Pleistocene.
... The clear association between fauna and very rich lithic assemblages, together with hominin remains attributed to Homo heidelbergensis and early Neanderthals makes them two of the key sites for interpreting the Acheulean and occupation of Britain (Conway et al. 1996;Hillson et al. 2010;Overy 1964;Roberts & Parfitt 1999a;Schreve 2004;Stringer et al. 1998). In the last few years, the differences between them from both an occupational and technological point of view have been highlighted (McNabb et al. 2018;Moncel et al. 2015;Smith 2013). In this case, we have focused on the morphological differences between the handaxes and the methods of analysis. ...
Article
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Nowadays, the fruitful discussion regarding the morphological variability of handaxes during the Middle Pleistocene has reached a decisive moment with the use of more accurate statistical methods, such as geometric morphometrics (GM) and multivariate analyses (MA). This paper presents a preliminary methodological approach for checking the utility of these new approaches on the analysis of the tools" shape. It goes beyond the simple description of morphology and isolates the variables which define the final morphology of a tool. We compared two Middle Pleistocene sites, Boxgrove and Swanscombe, which are morphologically very different. Then, we applied the GM analysis on 1) 2D images, with two semi-landmark distributions: 28 semi-landmarks, specially concentrated on the tip and butt, and 60 equally spaced points; and 2) on 3D models using a new software (AGMT3-D Software) including 5000 semi-landmarks. The more points used to define the tool"s outline, the more accurate will be the interpretation of the variables affecting shape. On the other hand, if the semi-landmarks are localized on specific sectors of the tool, a bias is created, by concentrating on those sectors, rather than the general tool shape. The 3D models offer a new dimension on the shape analysis, as their results mean the combination of plan-shape, profile-shape and the tool"s topography.
... For Europe, questions of cultural transmission are particularly acute, as long-term cyclical changes in climates and environments led to ebbs and flows of population either between north and south or potentially with depopulation of the entire continent (Roebroeks, 2006;Dennell at al., 2011;Moncel et al., 2015). Often characterized as the 'source and sink' model, questions still remain about the boundaries between these zones, and whether cultural transmission was maintained throughout the Middle Pleistocene within Europe, or was dependent on source areas beyond. ...
Article
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The appearance of the Acheulean and the production of new bifacial tools marked a revolution in human behavior. The use of longer and complex operative chains, with centripetal and recurrent knapping, adapted to different raw materials, created long useful edges, converging in a functional distal end. How and why these handaxes vary has been the subject of intense debates. Britain provides a clearly defined region at the edge of the hominin occupied world for discussing variation in Acheulean assemblages. The environmental changes from MIS 15 to MIS 11 are significant in understanding population change, with probable breaks in evidence during MIS 14 and MIS 12, followed by several sites during the long stable climate of MIS11c. In this latter period, different Acheulean technological expressions appear to coexist in Britain. This paper draws together different studies, combining technology and geometric morphometrics to analyze handaxes from six British sites: Brandon Fields, Boxgrove (Q1B), High Lodge, Hitchin, Swanscombe (UMG), and Elveden. Compared to the earlier Acheulean of MIS 15, the assemblages of MIS 13 show increased standardization and the use of soft hammer percussion for thinning mid-sections and butts of tools, or sharpening tips through tranchet removals. Although there is regional population discontinuity through MIS12 there is no evidence of a marked change in technology after this glacial period. Rather, there is a development towards more intense shaping with the same underlying techniques, but with flexibility in imposed handaxe form. From MIS11 there appear to be distinctive localized traditions of manufacture, which suggest that a recognition of place and territories had developed by this time. These are expressed over medium time-scales of several thousand years and have significance for how we view cultural expression and transmission.
... In contrast, many archaeological sites with high asymmetry and shape variance seem to relate more to secondary context sites and palimpsests, representing the accumulation of artefacts over thousands or even tens of thousands of Fig. 4 Three shapes depicting the variation in symmetry throughout the dataset (as calculated through the AD harmonic coefficients divided by their amplitude) Cole 2015). While site-formation processes can only be proxies for accumulation, and durations cannot be credibly estimated, one must not rule out the influence of deposition in understanding potential biface variability, a point also highlighted by Moncel et al. (2015). Crucially, if reworking from higher/ older deposits can be eliminated, a palimpsest in this context can be of advantage as it samples a range of potential variability across a given time period (for example, the duration over which a river terrace accumulates). ...
Article
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Acheulean biface shape and symmetry have fuelled many discussions on past hominin behaviour in regards to the ‘meaning’ of biface technology. However, few studies have attempted to quantify and investigate their diachronic relationship using a substantial dataset of Acheulean bifaces. Using the British archaeological record as a case study, we first perform elliptic Fourier analysis on biface outlines to quantify and better understand the relationship between biface shape and individual interglacial periods. Using the extracted Fourier coefficients, we then detail the nature of symmetry throughout this period, before investigating both shape and symmetry in parallel. The importance of size (through biface length) as a factor in biface shape and symmetry is also considered. Results highlight high levels of symmetry from Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 13, followed by increasing asymmetry through the British Acheulean. Other observations include a general shift to ‘pointed’ forms during MIS 9 and 7 and the importance of size in high biface symmetry levels. This article concludes by discussing the potential importance of secondary deposition and palimpsest sites in skewering the observed relationships throughout the Palaeolithic.
... In addition, we have a small amount of flakes possibly produced from these cores having a shaped striking platforms (for preliminary results see Rosenberg-Yefet 2016 and for an update study Rosenberg-Yefet et al. in preparation). Early use of the Levallois method at the end of the Lower Paleolithic period is evident in Africa (Tryon 2006; de la Torre 2010; Wilkins et al. 2010), Europe (Moncel et al. 2011;Nowell and White 2011;Olle et al. 2011;Picin et al. 2013;Moncel et al. 2015;Hérisson et al. 2016), the Levant (Gilead and Ronen 1977;Goren 1979;Ronen et al. 1980;Goren-Inbar 1985;Chazan 2000;DeBono and Goren-Inbar 2001;Goren-Inbar 2011b;Zaidner and Weinstein-Evron 2016;Goren-Inbar et al. 2018) and the Caucasus (Adler et al. 2014). Recent publications demonstrate that the Levallois method appears earlier than previously expected in India as well (Akhilesh et al. 2018). ...
... Further findings at the turn of the century from Pakefield (Parfitt et al., 2005) and Happisburgh III (Parfitt et al., 2010) extended the evidence of human occupation northwards to southern Britain, and back in time to the late Early Pleistocene. It remains apparent, however, that a change in the occupation pattern of mid-latitude Europe occurred from 500 ka onward, when the number of archeological assemblages markedly increased and Acheulean technology spread throughout Western Europe (Haidle and Pawlik, 2010;Moncel et al., 2015Moncel et al., , 2018. ...
Article
During the mid-Middle Pleistocene MIS 14 to MIS 11, humans spread through Western Europe from the Mediterranean peninsulas to the sub-Arctic region, and they did so not only during the warm periods but also during the glacial stages. In doing so, they were exposed to harsh environmental conditions, including low or extremely low temperatures. Here we review the distribution of archeological assemblages in Western Europe from MIS 14 to MIS 11 and obtain estimates of the climatic conditions at those localities. Estimates of the mean annual temperature, mean winter and summer temperatures, and the lowest temperature of the coldest month for each locality were obtained from the Oscillayers database. Our results show that hominins endured cold exposure not only during the glacial stages but also during the interglacials, with winter temperatures below 0 C at many localities. The efficacy of the main physiological and behavioral adaptations that might have been used by the Middle Pleistocene hominins to cope with low temperatures is evaluated using a simple heat-loss model. Our results suggest that physiological and anatomical adaptations alone, such as increasing basal metabolic rate and subcu-taneous adipose tissue, were not enough to tolerate the low winter temperatures of Western Europe, even during the MIS 13 and MIS 11 interglacials. In contrast, the use of a simple fur bed cover appears to have been an extremely effective response to low temperatures. We suggest that advanced fire production and control technology were not necessary for the colonization of northern Europe during MIS 14 and MIS 12. We propose that Middle Pleistocene European populations were able to endure the low temperatures of those glacial stages combining anatomical and physiological adaptations with behavioral responses, such as the use of shelter and simple fur clothes.
... The emergence of the Acheulean in northern Europe, as well as in the Italian Peninsula, appears to have taken place earlier than in the Iberian Peninsula (Moncel et al., 2013;Pereira et al., 2015;Voinchet et al., 2015;Antoine et al., 2019), excluding the La Boella site, which contains material of questionable Acheulean nature (see discussion in Santonja et al., 2016). However, the age of the main Acheulean sequences in the northern regions, such as those of the Somme or Thames rivers (Tuffreau and Lamotte, 2010;Ashton et al., 2011;Moncel et al., 2015Moncel et al., , 2018White et al., 2018), do follow the chronological range (mainly from MIS 11 onwards) observed in SW Europe, including the Iberian Peninsula. These current regional age ranges refute the chronological trends initially proposed by Sharon (2010) for the LFA in Europe (disappearance after~500 ka), but they do not reject the technological features used to characterise the LFA. ...
Article
The Miño River basin represents one of the main fluvial catchments draining the Atlantic side of the Iberian Peninsula. The extensive sedimentary deposits of this basin have been documented since the 19th century, but limited research has been undertaken on these features historically, and the Quaternary record of the basin has remained understudied until recently. Research carried out over the last decade on the Spanish margin of the Miño River has enabled more detailed classification and mapping of the main fluvial landforms, as well as numerical (luminescence, electron spin resonance, cosmogenic) dating of some of the deposits associated with Palaeolithic archaeological sites. Here we synthesise the existing Quaternary fluvial record for the basin, and present new geospatial and chronological analyses for the lower catchment area. Our latest examination has enabled the identification of nine fluvial terrace levels and other regionally significant sedimentary features (e.g., alluvial fans) formed in response to tectonics, eustatic changes and associated global climate changes. The chronological data and calculated incision rates indicate that the various fluvial terraces were formed during the Early to Late Pleistocene. Numerous Palaeolithic sites have been found in association with the middle terrace levels (between +40 and + 13 m above present-day river level). Primarily, these archaeological sites preserve assemblages that feature large flake Acheulean (LFA) tools, though a number of Middle Palaeolithic sites have also been documented. Direct dating of these sites, together with morphostratigraphic correlations across the terrace system, suggest that the basin has been extensively occupied by human populations during the last 300 thousand years.
... The first, which starts around 1.8 Myr, corresponds to Mode 1 assemblages described as 'Developped Oldowan', with only core-and-flake technology with pebble tools (Arzarello & Peretto, 2010;Bar-Yosef & Belfer-Cohen, 2001;Carbonell et al. 2010;Lumley et al., 2009;Mgeladze et al., 2011;Moncel, 2010). The second migration corresponds to Mode 2, or 'Acheulean', with which we see the emergence of bifacial tools or other large cutting tools (Barsky & Lumley, 2010;Bar-Yosef & Belfer-Cohen, 2001;García-Medrano et al., 2014;Moncel et al., 2015Moncel et al., , 2019Moncel et al., , 2020Mosquera et al., 2016;Piperno, 1999). Indeed, these iconic tools first appear in Western Europe around 700 ka, in sites like La Noira in central France (Moncel et al. 2013) and Notarchirico in southern Italy (Moncel et al., 2019(Moncel et al., , 2020Piperno, 1999). ...
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Technical and socio-economic behaviours of Middle Pleistocene human groups in Western Europe still remain under-studied. In addition to the so-called Acheulean industries that include bifacial tools, other lithic traditions that are focused on flake production are present. This is the case of the ‘L’ stratigraphic layer of the Caune de l’Arago site in Tautavel, France. Here, we present the results of the techno-economic and techno-morpho-functional study conducted on the lithic industry, which was well-defined and well-preserved in the Caune de l’Arago sequence. Dated to approximately 540 ka and correlated with the end of the MIS 14, it contains 4428 lithic artefacts that are associated with numerous remains of reindeer (Rangifer tarandus). This occupation has been culturally attributed to the Acheulean. However, the layer L assemblage does not contain bifacial tools and presents a lithic production chaîne opératoire only oriented towards flake production. This study is carried out within a previously refined stratigraphic framework, thereby allowing a relevant return on the lithic material. Despite different raw materials, there are recurrences in the selection of volumes, the production methods, the choice of tool blanks and the desired techno-functional objectives. Additionally, the prehensile components are integrated into the production of tools. Some of the chaînes opératoires are fragmented, and we can see techno-economic dynamics with some tool movements more widely across the landscape. These results lead us to question the activities carried out during this occupation and to highlight the diversity of lithic technical expressions during Lower Palaeolithic.
... These flaking methods globally lead to small-and medium-sized flakes . Regarding the retouched tool component, most of the samples were denticulates and notches, which is common for MIS11 sites (Ashton 2016;Connet et al. 2020;Moncel et al. 2015). ...
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In this manuscript, we present the first systematic refitting results of the small-scale Middle Pleistocene (MIS11) rock shelter site of La Cansaladeta. The lithic materials that have been recovered from the archaeological levels E and J were the main study materials. These levels were investigated regarding spatial pattern analysis and analyzed with auxiliary methods such as quantitative density mapping demonstration and technological analysis of the lithic clusters. Thus, the spatial patterns of the two levels were compared and discussed, in terms of connections, clusters, and movement of the lithic elements. Undoubtedly, the well preservation of the archaeological levels offered a great opportunity for the interpretation of the spatial patterns in a high-resolution perspective. La Cansaladeta has not been paid attention adequately so far may be due to the small dimension of the excavation surface or to the scarcity of faunal record. Our results show that small-scale sites without long-distance refit/conjoin connections can provide significant spatial information. Indeed, if the sites have very well-preserved archaeological levels, the absence of long connections can be supported by the auxiliary methods.
... Although soft hammers, which were usually made from antler, bone, or wood (Sharon & Goren-Inbar, 1999), are not always preserved at archaeological sites, their presence can be indirectly inferred from flakes and the handaxes themselves, which exhibit morphological attributes that are distinct from those produced by hard hammer percussion (Sharon & Goring-Morris, 2004). There are many late Acheulian sites at which there is lithic evidence for soft hammer use, including Boxgrove, England, La Noira, France, Gesher Benot Ya'aqov, Israel, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, and others (Leakey, 1951;Moncel et al., 2015;Sharon & Goren-Inbar, 1999). Bone and antler billets, which can be identified by pitting and embedded microflakes (Bello et al., 2013), also have been described at Lower Paleolithic sites, such as La Micoque, Dordogne, France, and Boxgrove (Langlois, 2004;Roberts & Parfitt, 2015). ...
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A crucial design feature of language useful for determining when grammatical language evolved in the human lineage is our ability to combine meaningless units to form a new unit with meaning (combinatoriality) and to further combine these meaningful units into a larger unit with a novel meaning (compositionality). There is overlap between neural bases that underlie hierarchical cognitive functions required for compositionality in both linguistic and nonlinguistic contexts (e.g., tool use). Therefore, evidence of compositional tool use in the archaeological record should signify, at the very least, the cognitive capacity for grammatical language by that point in time. We devise a novel system to evaluate the level of hierarchical nesting of tool components in single tool use activities. In the application of this system, we demonstrate that nonhuman primates, and by extension, the last common ancestor shared by Pan and Homo, are capable of basic combinatoriality; however, their technology does not approach the compositionality observable in modern human tool use. The prehistoric archaeological record supports a continuous evolution of combinatorial tool use into compositional tool use, with evidence for human-like levels of by 0.93 million years ago (Ma), or possibly as early as 1.7 Ma. While compositional language could have lagged behind compositional tool use, if language and technology coevolved according to the Technological Origin for Language hypothesis, which proposes a feedback system between the two, then evidence for hierarchical tool use structures implies a similar level of complexity in linguistic structures.
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Britain has a rich and well-documented earlier Palaeolithic record, which provides a unique resource to investigate population dynamics and the cultural and geographical links with north-west Europe during the Middle Pleistocene. This paper examines a newly enhanced dataset for the distribution of finds locations and their geological context. Using artefact types as proxies for different populations it contrasts the Lower Palaeolithic and Early Middle Palaeolithic records. New methods are devised to mitigate for the clear bias towards handaxes in collection history. Taking account of this bias, the results suggest differences in distribution between Lower Palaeolithic and Early Middle Palaeolithic populations, with the latter more heavily concentrated in the lower reaches of large southern and eastern rivers. Drawing on recent studies on the palaeogeography of the Channel and southern North Sea Basin, the paper suggests that this restricted distribution reflects short-lived occupation by small groups of early Neanderthals in late MIS 8, who eventually became locally extinct because of isolation caused by rising sea levels in the first warm sub-stage of MIS 7.
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The Acheulean is defined by its iconic tool type, the handaxe, and a suite of other large cutting tools (LCTs). These tools retain information on technical and procedural practices concerned with the manufacture of these butchery tools and carcass processing knives. The Acheulean straddles the period in which more ancient hominin species (H. erectus and H. heidelbergensis) give way to archaic H. sapiens (sensu lato) amongst whom the ancestor of modern humans may be found. The roots of modern behaviour may be present in these handaxe making hominin species, and the handaxes themselves, through proxy data such as bilateral symmetry, may chart hominin cognitive evolution as researchers such as T. Wynn and F. Coolidge (2016), amongst others, have argued. But the search for the earliest consistent application of symmetry, and its persistence thereafter has been hampered by the lack of large datasets, spanning the temporal extent of the Acheulean, and analysed through a single consistent methodology. Our paper has two aims. The first, and in the absence of a large comparative data set of earlier Acheulean handaxes, is to assess the degree to which symmetry is consistently applied to the making of handaxes in the later Acheulean (≤ 0.5 Mya), a time when bilateral planform symmetry should already be an integral component in handaxe making. The dataset we select is the British Acheulean from MIS 13 – MIS 3/4. To the best of our knowledge this is the first time handaxe symmetry has been assessed on a large body of British Acheulean handaxes. Our second aim is to present a relatively simple and low tech methodology for the analysis of handaxes and their symmetry that is widely available and does not require expensive equipment or specialist software/technical knowledge. It works from orthogonal handaxe photographs which many researchers will already have. From such data it may be possible to begin to construct the larger datasets necessary to answer symmetry related questions regarding cognitive evolution. This offers us the opportunity to raise a number of key methodological questions which we believe ought to be debated by researchers before the generation of appropriate datasets begins.
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The database regarding the earliest occupation of Europe has increased significantly in quantity and quality of data points over the last two decades, mainly through the addition of new sites as a result of long-term systematic excavations and large-scale prospections of Early and early Middle Pleistocene exposures. The site distribution pattern suggests an ephemeral presence of hominins in the south of Europe from around 1 million years ago onward, with occasional short northward expansions along the western coastal areas when temperate conditions permitted. From around 600,000–700,000 years ago, Acheulean artefacts appear in Europe and somewhat later hominin presence seems to pick up, with more sites and now some also present in colder climatic settings. It is again only later, around 350,000 years ago, that the first sites show up in more continental, central parts of Europe, east of the Rhine. A series of recent papers on the Early Pleistocene palaeontological site of Untermassfeld (Thuringia, Germany) makes claims that are of great interest for studies of earliest Europe and are at odds with the described pattern: the papers suggest that Untermassfeld has yielded stone tools and humanly modified faunal remains, evidence for a 1 million years old hominin presence in European continental mid-latitudes, and additional evidence that hominins were well-established in Europe already around that time period. Here, we evaluate these claims and demonstrate that these studies are severely flawed in terms of data on provenance of the materials studied and in the interpretation of faunal remains and lithics as testifying to a hominin presence at the site. In actual fact, any reference to the Untermassfeld site as an archaeological one is unwarranted. Furthermore, it is not the only European Early Pleistocene site where inferred evidence for hominin presence is problematic. The strength of the spatiotemporal patterns of hominin presence and absence depends on the quality of the data points we work with, and database maintenance, including critical evaluation of new sites, is crucial to advance our knowledge of the expansions and contractions of hominin ranges during the Pleistocene.
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This paper focuses on the early evidence of assemblages with bifacial tools, in particular their technology within the context of chronology and geography, focusing on the sites of La Noira, Arago levels P and Q and Cagny-la-Garenne I–II in France, Brandon Fields, Maidscross Hill, High Lodge and Boxgrove in the UK, and Notarchirico in Italy. Assemblages with bifacial tools, including Large Cutting Tools (LCTs), demonstrate a high diversity of technological and morphological features as early as 700 ka and are contemporary with non-handaxe assemblages. They also show specific features that contrast between northern and southern Europe, such as the use of large flakes for bifacial manufacture, or the presence of cleavers on flakes. Lack of data regarding a local origin and more elaborate bifaces in these sites indicate an early arrival of new traditions in western and southern Europe on a pre-existing hominin presence. The assemblages are compared to those without LCTs such as Happisburgh Site 3 and Pakefield in UK, Isernia La Pineta in Italy, Atapuerca Gran Dolina TD6 and Vallparadis in Spain, Pradayrol and Soleihac in France. Hypotheses on factors behind the variation, such as function, type of site, raw material constraint, and traditions of manufacture, are discussed. The period 800–500 ka is a key episode for examining behavioral changes which occurred in Europe. The discovery of hominin fossils such as the Mauer mandible in Germany led to the definition of Homo heidelbergensis. The emergence of new behaviors such as the ability to produce large flakes and/or large bifacial tools (handaxes, cleavers and others) leads to discussion about new skills, new social organizations, and the arrival or in situ evolution of hominins.
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Corbey et al.1 have written an interesting and thoughtful paper designed to provoke debate surrounding one of the most important and persistent Stone Age artefacts, the Acheulean handaxe. They challenge the long held notion that the Acheulean handaxe was a product of a cultural landscape influenced through social learning. Instead they suggest the Acheulean handaxe was, in part, under genetic control. Whilst the Corbey et al. paper was an ambitious one with many points of debate included within it, we will focus here on those areas that best match our expertise, namely the nature of Acheulean handaxes and the archaeological record.
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This paper reviews some of the main advances in our understanding of human evolution over the last 1 million years, presenting a holistic overview of a field defined by interdisciplinary approaches to studying the origins of our species. We begin by briefly summarizing the climatic context across the Old World for the last 1 million years before directly addressing the fossil and archaeological records. The main themes in this work explore (i) recent discoveries in the fossil record over the last 15 years, such as Homo naledi and Homo floresiensis; (ii) the implications of palaeogenetics for understanding the evolutionary history of, and relationships between, Neanderthals, Denisovans and Homo sapiens; (iii) the interplay between physiology and metabolic demand, landscape use, and behavioural adaptations in the evolution of morphological and behavioural innovation; and (iv) recent advances in archaeological understanding for the behavioural record, in particular that of the Neanderthals. This paper seeks to provide a broad‐scale, holistic perspective of our current understanding of human evolution for the last 1 Ma, providing a reference point for researchers that can be built upon as new discoveries continue to develop the landscapes of human evolution.
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Résumé Le gisement paléolithique de Gentelles (Somme) se situe sur un plateau calcaire contrairement à la plupart des gisements du Paléolithique inférieur et moyen du bassin de la Somme dont le contexte environnemental est fluviatile (dépôts alluviaux et de versant). Le matériel archéologique provient du remplissage d’une doline. Il a été mis au jour lors d’une fouille s’étendant sur plusieurs milliers de m². L’attribution de la séquence archéologique au Pléistocène moyen récent et au Pléistocène supérieur (MIS 10 à 5) est confortée par des datations par ESR/U-Th sur dent et un âge IRSL sur sédiment. Toutes les séries lithiques comprennent une production bifaciale et une production d’éclats obtenue à partir de nucléus présentant une ou plusieurs surfaces de débitage. Il n’y a pas d’évidence de la présence de débitage Levallois, méthode de débitage pourtant fréquente dans beaucoup d’industries lithiques du Paléolithique moyen de la France septentrionale. Les premières phases des chaînes opératoires ne sont pas présentes dans la plupart des séries lithiques. Quelques restes osseux ont été découverts dans les dépôts lœssiques. Dans la plupart des cas, la fonction du site correspond à des occupations de courte durée par des groupes de chasseurs se déplaçant sur le plateau. Par contre, la série CLG (MIS 8) qui présente des pièces caractéristiques de beaucoup de phases de la chaîne opératoire témoigne d’occupations de plus longue durée.
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the dispersal of hominin groups with an Acheulian technology and associated bifacial tools into northern latitudes is central to the debate over the timing of the oldest human occupation of europe. new evidence resulting from the rediscovery and the dating of the historic site of Moulin Quignon demonstrates that the first Acheulian occupation north of 50°N occurred around 670-650 ka ago. The new archaeological assemblage was discovered in a sequence of fluvial sands and gravels overlying the chalk bedrock at a relative height of 40 m above the present-day maximal incision of the Somme River and dated by ESR on quartz to early MIS 16. More than 260 flint artefacts were recovered, including large flakes, cores and five bifaces. This discovery pushes back the age of the oldest Acheulian occupation of northwestern Europe by more than 100 ka and bridges the gap between the archaeological records of northern france and england. it also challenges hominin dispersal models in europe showing that hominins using bifacial technology, such as Homo heidelbergensis, were probably able to overcome cold climate conditions as early as 670-650 ka ago and reasserts the importance of the Somme valley, where Prehistory was born at the end of the 19 th century.
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Percussively flaked stone artefacts constitute a major source of evidence relating to hominin behavioural strategies and are, essentially, a product or byproduct of a past individual’s decision to create a tool with respect to some broader goal. Moreover, it has long been noted that both differences and recurrent regularities exist within and between Palaeolithic stone artefact forms. Accordingly, archaeologists have frequently drawn links between form and functionality, with functional objectives and performance often being regarded consequential to a stone tool’s morphological properties. Despite these factors, extensive reviews of the related concepts of form and function with respect to the Lower Palaeolithic remain surprisingly sparse. We attempt to redress this issue. First we stress the historical place of form–function concepts, and their role in establishing basic ideas that echo to this day. We then highlight methodological and conceptual progress in determining artefactual function in more recent years. Thereafter, we evaluate four specific issues that are of direct consequence for evaluating the ongoing relevance of form–function concepts, especially with respect to their relevance for understanding human evolution more generally. Our discussion highlights specifically how recent developments have been able to build on a long historical legacy, and demonstrate that direct, indirect, experimental, and evolutionary perspectives intersect in crucial ways, with each providing specific but essential insights for ongoing questions. We conclude by emphasising that our understanding of these issues and their interaction, has been, and will be, essential to accurately interpret the Lower Palaeolithic archaeological record, tool-form related behaviours of Lower Palaeolithic hominins, and their consequences for (and relationship to) wider questions of human evolution.
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For the past decade, debates on the earliest evidence of bifacial shaping in Western Europe have focused on several key issues, such as its origin (i.e., local or introduced), or on what should define the Acheulean culture. Whatever hypotheses are proposed for its origin, the onset and technological strategies for making Large Cutting Tools (LCTs), including biface production, are key issues and are often associated with other behavioural changes, such as increased core technology complexity. Current archaeological patterns do not support the existence of transitional industries. Rather, the scant evidence suggests that biface production associated with the management of bifacial volume was widespread around 700 ka. Among the earliest sites, the site of Notarchirico in Southern Italy stands out as one of the most significant examples. ⁴⁰Ar/³⁹Ar ages and ESR dates recently provided a revised chronology for the whole sedimentary sequence and constrained the archaeological levels between ca. 610 and 670 ka. Five archaeosurfaces (A, A1, B, D and F) yielded LCTs, including bifaces, during Marcello Piperno’s excavations from 1980 to 1995. In light of this new chronological framework, which is much shorter than previously thought, we propose in this contribution a revision of the bifaces by applying the “chaine opératoire” method for the first time (analysis of reduction processes). Our goals are to assess biface production in this early Western European locality and to characterize the strategies applied at the site throughout the sequence. A corpus of 32 tools was selected from the A-A1, B, D and F archaeosurfaces. The technological analysis shows that hominins had the capacity to manage bifacial volumes, when raw material quality was adequate. Clear differences do not emerge between the different levels in terms of shaping modes or final forms. However, we demonstrate that the oldest level (level F), with the richest corpus, lacks flint and displays a higher diversity of bifaces. This ability to manage bifacial and bilateral equilibrium, as well as the diversity of the morphological results, is observed in a few penecontemporaneous sites (700–600 ka), both in the north-western and southern parts of Western Europe. These patterns suggest that hominins mastered well-controlled and diversified biface production, combining intense shaping and minimal shaping, and shared a common technological background regardless of the geographical area, and applied this technology regardless of the available raw materials. The degree of skill complexity of hominins in Western Europe between 700 and 600 ka, the current lack of evidence suggesting “gradual industries” between core-and-flake series and Acheulean techno-complexes, raise numerous questions on the origin of new behaviours in Western Europe, their mode of diffusion, and their association with Homo heidelbergensis or other Middle Pleistocene populations.
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Identification of cultural groups is rare in the early Palaeolithic due to site formation processes including taphonomy and the effect of raw material and site function. This paper reviews a critical period in Europe at about 400 ka (MIS 11) when we may be able to identify such groups. This period, sees more sustained occupation and evidence of new technologies, including bone and wooden tools, hunting and fire-use. Importantly, brain size had begun to approach modern capacity. The fine-tuned record from Britain enables correlation of sites and new models of human behaviour to be developed. Millennial-scale changes in material culture can now be recognised, which can be interpreted as brief incursions by different cultural groups into Britain from mainland Europe. We suggest that population movement was primarily driven by changes in climate and environment. We further propose that variation in material culture is a reflection of local resources and landscape and that during stable environment localised expressions of culture emerge. This can be applied to Europe, where it is suggested that a complex mosaic of small-scale cultural groupings can be identified, some with and some without handaxes, but underpinned by a common set of technologies and behaviours.
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The morphological variability of large cutting tools (LCT) during the Middle Pleistocene has been traditionally associated with two main variables: raw material constraints and reduction intensity. Boxgrove — c.500 ka — is one of the most informative sites at which to analyze shaping strategies and handaxe morphological variability in the European Middle Pleistocene, because of the large number of finished handaxes, and the presence of complete operational chains. We focused on the entire handaxe and rough-out sample from Boxgrove-Q1/B with the aim of assessing the role of raw material characteristics — size, form, and homogeneity of nodules — in the shaping process, and to ascertain if they represent real constraints in the production of handaxes. Additionally, given the large number of handaxes and the intensity of the thinning work at Boxgrove, we also aimed to determine if reduction intensity affected the final shape to the degree that some authors have previously postulated. The methodology combines traditional technological descriptions, metrical analysis, and experimental reproduction of shaping processes together with geometric morphometry and PCA. The conclusions we draw are that the Q1/B handaxe knapping strategies were flexible and adapted to the characteristics of the blanks. These characteristics affected the reduction strategy but there is no clear relationship between initial nodule or blank morphology and final handaxe shape. Throughout the experiments, we explored the capacity to solve problems arising from reduction accidents, which led to re-configuring the knapping strategy to achieve the predetermined “mental template.” Furthermore, no substantial morphological differences related to reduction intensity were noticed with the Q1/B handaxes. Systematic re-sharpening as the cause of shape variation seems highly unlikely, perhaps related to the short use-life of the Boxgrove-Q1/B handaxes. Preferred forms constitute part of a broader pattern emerging for specific handaxe types at different times during the British Acheulean. The patterns have tentatively been interpreted as the result of changing environments and the movement of hominin populations.
Article
Marine Isotope Stages (MIS) 13–11 saw a major transformation in the hominin occupation of Europe, with an expansion in the scale and geographical distribution of sites and artifact assemblages. That expansion is explored here in the context of paleoenvironmental variability, focusing on geographical and chronological trends in climatic and habitat conditions at and between key Lower Paleolithic sites in Western Europe. Climatic conditions at British sites are compared across MIS 13–11, and used to test predicted values from the Oscillayers data set. Conditions at hominin and nonhominin sites are compared to explore possible limitations in hominin tolerances during MIS 13–11. Trends in conditions are explored with reference to long-term global patterns, short-term substage events, and seasonal variations. The apparent increase in the scale of hominin activity in north-western Europe during MIS 13 is surprising in light of the relatively harsh conditions of late MIS 13, and is likely to reflect significant physiological and/or behavioral adaptations, a mild south-north temperature gradient in western Europe during MIS 13, and the relatively mild, sustained conditions spanning MIS 15–13. The expanded occupation of north-western Europe during MIS 11 probably reflects the extended mild conditions of MIS 11c, since marked seasonal temperature differences and substantial behavioral changes between hominin sites in MIS 13 and 11 are not clearly evident. Site-specific conditions in south-western Europe during MIS 11 suggest milder winters, warmer summers, and reduced seasonal variability compared to north-western Europe. Some or all of these conditions may have supported larger, core populations, as may the relatively mild conditions associated with south-western European sites during MIS 12. Finally, comparisons between north-western and north-central European sites indicate relatively small differences in seasonal temperatures, suggesting that climate may only be a partial factor behind the smaller-scale occupations of north-central Europe during MIS 13–11.
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New fieldwork and the revision of lithic collections during the past decade have renewed our interpretation of the timing and characteristics of the earliest Acheulean techno-complexes in western Europe. The lower level of the la Noira site is a crucial snapshot for evaluating the technological abilities and strategies of Middle Pleistocene hominins at 700 ka in Europe at the beginning of elaborate biface production and associated behavioural changes. The site of la Noira is located in the central part of France, where climatic conditions may have had a stronger impact on occupations than in southern Europe. New excavations between 2011 and 2018, over a surface of 100 m2, yielded a large corpus of artefacts including cores, flakes, bifaces and a large heavy-duty component. We analysed the lithic corpus composed of almost 1000 artefacts from a taphonomic perspective, identified the chaînes opératoires and all the reduction processes involved at the site, and examined the spatial distribution of the archaeological remains. The results offer a broad overview of the types of lithic management and related cognition and skills of Middle Pleistocene hominins living on a riverbank under cool conditions, at the beginning of a glacial stage. A comparison with penecontemporaneous sites indicates that a technological shift possibly occurred in western Europe between 700 and 600 ka. The technological strategies used indicate (1) common abilities in core technologies including some sporadic independence from stone shape, (2) a diversity of technical solutions and morphological results for biface shaping with evidence of a bifacial or bilateral equilibrium and a preconceived form on some tools, and (3) a large and diversified heavy-duty component. Biases related to activities, raw material types and various traditions are discussed. The chronology of the emergence of new behaviours, such as an early biface shaping ability, seems to have been identical in the northwest and south of Europe.
Article
Archaeological remains have highlighted the fact that the interglacial Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 11 was a threshold from the perspective of hominin evolution in Europe. After the MIS 12 glaciation, considered one of the major climate-driven crises experienced by hominins, the archaeological records show an increasing number of occupations, evidence of new subsistence behaviors, and significant technical innovations. Here, we used statistical and geographic techniques to analyze the amphibian- and reptile-based paleoclimate and habitat reconstructions generated from a large data set of the Iberian Peninsula to (1) investigate if temperature, precipitation, and/or forest cover may have impacted the hominin occupation of the territory during the Early and Middle Pleistocene, (2) propose an ‘Iberian’ ecological model before and after the MIS 12/11 transition, and (3) evaluate, based on this model, the potential hominin occupation at a European scale. The results indicate the existence of climatic constraints on human settlement related to rainfall and environmental humidity. The Early Pleistocene and the first half of the Middle Pleistocene are dominated by the occupation of relatively humid wooded areas, whereas during the second part of the Middle Pleistocene, a broadening of the earlier ecological niche is clearly observed toward the occupation of more open arid areas. Based on the estimated occupational niche for hominins, a maximum potential distribution for early hominins is proposed in Europe before and after 426 ka. Results also indicate that parts of the Iberian Peninsula may not have been suitable for early hominin occupation. Our ecological model is consistent with the pattern of hominin occupation observed in northern and central Europe, where the earliest evidence reflects only pioneering populations merely extending their ranges in response to the expansion of their preferred habitats, as compared with a more sustained occupation by 400 ka.
Article
The establishment of the Acheulean in Europe occurred after MIS 17, but it was after the harsh glaciation of MIS 12 and during the long interglacial of MIS 11 that human occupation of Western Europe became more sustained, with an increased number of sites. Menez-Dregan I (Brittany, France) is one of the key sites in Western Europe that dates from this threshold, with an alternating sequence of 16 occupation levels and four marine deposits, from MIS 12 to 8. The large lithic assemblages of more than 154,000 artifacts from knapping (cores, flakes) and shaping (macrotools and shaping flakes) show the varying use of raw materials and activities at the site through the sequence. This work focuses on the study of the handaxes and cleavers using technological and metrical methods with multivariate analysis, in combination with geometric morphometrics, and places these analyses within the context of other technological changes at the site. Collectively, results show the persistent use through the sequence of the same lithic raw materials and technologies, including fire use and the import of glossy sandstone from 20 km away, but with variation in activities at the site. These findings suggest that Menez-Dregan I shows the development of a specific material culture that reflects the local resources and environment. Results further indicate that the site shows the sustained hominin occupation of the area, despite varying climate and environment, with strong traditions of social learning that were maintained through flexibility of site use, deep understanding of the local territory, and the innovation of new technologies, such as the use of fire. Evidence from the site is placed within the wider context of Europe, and contrasted with areas to the north, such as Britain, where hominin occupation was more sporadic and driven by cyclical climate change.
Article
The Bytham River was one of the major pre-Anglian (MIS 12) rivers of eastern England. Flowing from the Midlands to the East Anglian coast, it has been recognised at numerous sites by its distinctive lithological suite, containing significant quantities of quartzite, quartz and Carboniferous chert that originate from central England. In the Breckland of Suffolk and Norfolk, deposits of the Bytham River can be identified at 26 sites by this distinctive clast lithological composition. These sediments, referred to as the Ingham Formation, consist of a series of sand and gravel aggradations, which due to their differences in elevation can be interpreted as at least four early Middle Pleistocene terrace remnants of the former river, and a final phase of deposition along the river valley prior to its destruction. This paper reports on recent fieldwork at six of these sites, which through stratigraphic and lithological analyses, together with new Electron Spin Resonance age estimates, contribute to a revised geological framework for the Bytham River as represented in the Breckland. These sites can be attributed to the four lowest fluvial aggradations, with the lowest and youngest of these aggradations shown to be early Anglian in age. The river was subsequently overrun by Anglian ice during Marine Isotope Stage 12. This revised geological and chronological interpretation provides an important framework for understanding the Lower Palaeolithic artefacts that have been found within these gravel aggradations, and contributes to the understanding of the human occupation of north-west Europe during the early Middle Pleistocene.
Article
North‐West Europe yields few traces of early human occupation, in particular for the Acheulean. In this context, the Somme Valley in northern France offers a route to Britain during various Pleistocene low sea levels, and has provided numerous evidence of Lower Palaeolithic human occupation through fieldwork initiated during the 19th century. These localities are associated with the original definition in the 1930s by the French prehistorian Abbé Henri Breuil of the ‘Abbevillien’ (Abbevillian facies), based on lithic pieces including crudely made bifaces recovered in particular in some famous key localities of Abbeville, Carpentier, Léon and Moulin Quignon quarries. The history of the term and its definition subsequently gave rise to debates concerning the chronocultural framework of Palaeolithic assemblages among the scientific community of prehistorians over time, from Jacques Boucher de Perthes, Gabriel de Mortillet, Geoffroy d'Ault du Mesnil, Victor Commont, Henri Breuil and François Bordes. New investigations at these three localities, all associated with the High Terrace of the Somme system, pushed back the age of the expansion of the Acheulean both in northern France and in Western Europe to c. 670–650 000 years. They imply that early hominins were able to settle in North‐West Europe during both climatic temperate and cold phases. Our work, including new excavations and associated field observations of the three Abbeville localities involved at the onset of the controversy, allows a re‐examination of the Abbevillian and contributes to the discussion of the history of Prehistoric Science and the Earliest ‘Acheuleans’ in North‐West Europe.
Article
La industria lítica del yacimiento de Galería (complejo de Atapuerca, Burgos), datado en la segunda mitad del Pleistoceno Medio, ha sido interpretada como uno de los más notables conjuntos del tecnocomplejo achelense que se conocen en la península ibérica y en el sur de Europa. Se ha estimado que su prolongada secuencia estratigráfica permitiría observar la evolución del Achelense en la segunda mitad del Pleistoceno Medio. Esta propuesta ha sido objeto por nuestra parte de una revisión reciente, en la que se destaca el carácter discontinuo de la estratigrafía de Galería y se valora negativamente la posibilidad de establecer cualquier tipo de secuencia arqueológica basada en el limitado registro que contiene. A partir del análisis nivel por nivel de la representatividad de la industria lítica publicada, se discutía además en ese trabajo la atribución exclusiva al tecnocomplejo achelense de los conjuntos arqueológicos de Galería. Con objeto de valorar en profundidad la atribución achelense y de contrastar la consistencia de las tendencias evolutivas que han sido propuestas para este tecnocomplejo a través de la estratigrafía de Galería, presentamos aquí un estudio detallado de todos los artefactos interpretados en publicaciones precedentes como LCT (bifaces, hendedores y otros macro-útiles). Este trabajo, complementario de nuestra revisión anterior, se ha efectuado sobre las colecciones obtenidas en las campañas realizadas en Galería en 1982-1996, actualmente depositadas en el CENIEH y en el Museo de la Evolución Humana (Burgos). Las conclusiones alcanzadas corroboran la débil y discontinua presencia de elementos achelenses característicos en este yacimiento, descartando la posibilidad de llegar a reconocer cualquier tipo de secuencia evolutiva en estos materiales. Nuestra principal conclusión es que las interpretaciones que proponen ver en la industria de Galería una secuencia representativa del Achelense europeo con una evolución progresiva, carecen de fundamento.
Article
The period between 600 and 400 ka is a critical phase for human evolution in Europe. The south and northwest saw a dramatic increase in sites, the spread of handaxe technology alongside bone and wooden tool manufacture, efficient hunting techniques, and the use of fire. Lithic assemblages show considerable variation, including the presence/absence of handaxes and tool morphology. To explain this variation, we propose the Cultural Mosaic Model, which suggests that there is a range of expressions of the Acheulean, with local resources being instrumental in creating distinct material cultures with or without handaxes. We argue that if typologically and technologically distinct assemblage types are regionally distributed, chronologically separated, and persistent over time, then they are unlikely to be caused purely by raw material constraints or functional variation but rather reflect populations with different material cultures. We initially assess the model using British data. Britain was a northwestern peninsula of Europe, and oscillations in climate led to episodic occupation. The terraces of the pre-MIS 12 Bytham River provide a framework for dating occupation to MIS 13 and 15, while during MIS 11, archaeological sites with rich environmental records can be dated to substage level. We suggest there are six chronologically and typologically distinct assemblage types that reflect a series of population incursions into Britain. We review the broader European lithic record, which is consistent with the Cultural Mosaic Model. In developing the model, we suggest that during stable climate, localized cultures developed, while climatic change led to shifts in population, with increased knowledge exchange and gene flow. We suggest that group expression through material culture was an important stage in social development by promoting group cohesion, larger group size, better cooperation, improved knowledge transfer, and enabling populations to survive in larger foraging territories in northern Europe.
Article
Some areas in Western Europe indicate hiatuses in human occupations, which cannot be systematically attributed to taphonomic factors and poor site preservation. The site of la Noira in the center of France records two occupation phases with a significant time gap. The older one is dated to around 700 ka (stratum a) with an Acheulean assemblage, among the earliest in Western Europe, and the upper phase of the sequence (stratum c) is dated to ca. 450 ka. Humans left the area at around 670 ka, at the beginning of the marine isotope stage (MIS) 16 glacial stage, when cold conditions became too severe. No sites between 650 and 450 ka have yet been discovered in the center region despite systematic surveys over the past three decades. The archaeological evidence indicates that populations returned to the area, at the end of MIS 12 or the beginning of the long interglacial MIS 11. Here, we use technological behaviors common to the two levels of la Noira—strata a and c to evaluate their differences. Compared to other key European sequences, this site can be used to address the evolution of the behavioral strategies in Europe between MIS 17 and 11. We formulate two hypotheses concerning the human settlement of this area: (1) local behavioral evolution over time of populations occasionally occupying the region when the climate was favorable or (2) dispersal and arrival of new populations from other areas. The results focus on (1) changes in land-use patterns with the extension of the territory used by hominins in the upper level, (2) the introduction of new core technologies, including some evidence of early Levallois debitage, and (3) more intensive shaping of bifaces and bifacial tools. Results attest that the la Noira archaeological assemblages record similar regional behavioral evolution as observed at a larger scale in Europe.
Article
The Early and early Middle Pleistocene archaeological record in Britain from c. 900 to 500 ka marks a critical shift in human occupation of northwest Europe, from occasional pioneer populations with simple core and flake technology to more widespread occupation associated with the appearance of Acheulean technology. Key to understanding this record are the fluvial deposits of the extinct Bytham River in central East Anglia, where a series of Lower Palaeolithic sites lie on a 15 km stretch of the former river. In this paper we present the results of new fieldwork and a reanalysis of historical artefact collections of handaxes and scrapers to: 1) establish the chronostratigraphic context of the Bytham archaeological record; 2) examine variability in lithic artefact typology and technology through time; and 3) explore the implications for understanding variation in lithic technology in the European record. Six phases of occupation of Britain are identified from at least marine isotope stage (MIS) 21 to MIS 13, with the last three phases characterised by distinctive lithic technology. We argue that this relates to the discontinuous occupation of Britain, where each phase represents the arrival of new groups derived from different European populations with distinctive material culture.
Article
Handaxes, the hallmark of the Acheulian cultural complex, were occasionally recycled at the end of the Lower Paleolithic period as cores for the production of predetermined blanks. It appears that Late Acheulian flint knappers were well acquainted with both handaxe manufacture and the application of prepared core technologies. Following previous suggestions, we propose here that Late Acheulian knappers took advantage of handaxes convexities as a “shortcut” in the reduction sequence, enabling the detachment of predetermined blanks with minimal preparatory steps. The two phases of use of late Acheulian handaxes, first as handaxes and later as cores, were documented at several late Acheulian sites in the Old World and seem to be integral to late Acheulian lithic technologies and core reduction systems. The multi-layered late Acheulian site of Revadim and the newly discovered late Acheulian site of Jaljulia (both in Israel) yielded rich lithic assemblages typical of the late Acheulian Levant. The assemblages include handaxes but are mostly dominated by flake-production technologies and flake tools. Both sites provide late Acheulian evidence for what is termed here “proto-Levallois” core technology that later, in fully fledged form, characterized the Middle Paleolithic Levallois method. Here we consider handaxes transformed into cores for the production of predetermined blanks from these two sites and discuss this phenomenon in the framework of human cultural evolution. We further propose that these two key cultural markers, the Lower Paleolithic handaxes and the Middle Paleolithic Levallois method, which are linked by means of this special late Acheulian reduction strategy, can be seen as an early archaeological example of cumulative culture.
Article
Early Levallois core technology is usually dated in Europe to the end of Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 9 and particularly from the beginning of MIS 8 to MIS 6. This technology is considered as one of the markers of the transition from lower to Middle Paleolithic or from Mode 2 to Mode 3. Recent discoveries show that some lithic innovations actually appeared earlier in western Europe, from MIS 12 to MIS 9, contemporaneous with changes in subsistence strategies and the first appearance of early Neanderthal anatomical features. Among these discoveries, there is the iconic Levallois core technology. A selection of well-dated assemblages in the United Kingdom, France, and Italy dated from MIS 12 to 9, which include both cores and flakes with Levallois features, has been described and compared with the aim of characterizing this technology. The conclusion supports the interpretation that several technical features may be attributed to a Levallois technology similar to those observed in younger Middle Paleolithic sites, distinct from the main associated core technologies in each level. Some features in the sample of sites suggest a gradual transformation of existing core technologies. The small evidence of Levallois could indicate occasional local innovations from different technological backgrounds and would explain the diversity of Levallois methods that is observed from MIS 12. The technological roots of Levallois technology in the Middle Pleistocene would suggest a multiregional origin and diffusion in Europe and early evidence of regionalization of local traditions through Europe from MIS 12 to 9. The relationships of Levallois technology with new needs and behaviors are discussed, such as flake preference, functional reasons related to hunting and hafting, an increase in the use of mental templates in European populations, and changes in the structure of hominin groups adapting to climatic and environmental changes.
Article
Notarchirico is the earliest Acheulean Italian site. On account of the wide variety of artefacts (cores, flakes, pebble tools and bifaces for some levels) and raw materials, it is also a key site for analysing behavioural variability in the Acheulean record before 600 ka, and for investigating the significance of occupation levels with and without bifaces. In this paper, we focus on the upper part of the sequence, which was excavated by M. Piperno in the 1980s and recently securely dated between 610 and 670 ka by 40Ar/39Ar. The deposits of Notarchirico consist of a superimposition of sandy and silty sediments, with more or less intense occupation levels interspersed with sterile layers. Here we present the technological analysis of the lithic assemblages of three paleosurfaces, F, E/E1 and B. The lithic corpus from levels F and B yielded some bifaces, whereas no bifaces were found in levels E/E1, where artefacts are mainly on small flint nodules and small limestone pebbles. Technological strategies are described in the three levels, in particular previously unpublished core technologies, and compared to the rest of the site sequence and to comparable Southern European sites. We present the different hominin strategies, their modes of adaptation to diverse types and geometries of raw materials and the concomitant cultural shifts and discussed by this way the role of activities and traditions.
Article
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Notarchirico (Southern Italy) has yielded the earliest evidence of Acheulean settlement in Italy and four older occupation levels have recently been unearthed, including one with bifaces, extending the roots of the Acheulean in Italy even further back in time. New 40Ar/39Ar on tephras and ESR dates on bleached quartz securely and accurately place these occupations between 695 and 670 ka (MIS 17), penecontemporaneous with the Moulin-Quignon and la Noira sites (France). These new data demonstrate a very rapid expansion of shared traditions over Western Europe during a period of highly variable climatic conditions, including interglacial and glacial episodes, between 670 and 650 (i.e., MIS17/MIS16 transition). The diversity of tools and activities observed in these three sites shows that Western Europe was populated by adaptable hominins during this time. These conclusions question the existence of refuge areas during intense glacial stages and raise questions concerning understudied migration pathways, such as the Sicilian route.
Article
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Decades of fieldwork in the Frosinone-Ceprano basin (Latin Valley, Latium, central Italy) have shed light on numerous open-air Lower Palaeolithic localities, delivering a human fossil calvarium, thousands of scattered faunal remains and a large collection of lithic industries, including core-and-flake type lithic series (mode 1) and Acheulean assemblages (mode 2). The continuously growing number of available geochronological data (obtained by 40Ar/39Ar on volcanic minerals, ESR/U-series on large mammal teeth and ESR on bleached fluvial quartz) allow today the construction of a reliable and precise chronological framework for the Lower Palaeolithic sites of this area of the Latin Valley. The archaeological horizons with bifaces all appear to belong to a relatively short Middle Pleistocene time range, between about 410 and 350 ka, coeval to the end of the interglacial MIS 11 and to the beginning of the following glacial MIS 10. The Acheulean tools are often associated with cores and flakes. Bifaces are mainly made on limestone, secondary flint and quartz. The archaeological corpus also yielded tools on fragments of large herbivore bones. Comparisons between technological strategies and palaeo-anthropological data at the global scale are now meaningful and enable us to decipher hominin behaviour at a more regional scale. Such careful work is becoming essential in the frame of the recent discoveries showing that the MIS 11–10 period was a pivotal period characterized by the appearance of several new archaeological features later associated with the Neanderthal lineage in Western Europe. We present here the first in-depth technological study of the Acheulean lithic corpus from the major archaeological sites from the Frosinone-Ceprano basin including the Campogrande localities (CG9 and CG10, intermediate and upper levels), Colle Avarone, Selvotta, Isoletta (level 4), Lademagne (upper and lower levels) and Masseria Castellone. For this work, we focus on biface shaping strategies and demonstrate technological features suggesting the existence of networks connecting the different human occupation sites. Technological data are compared with other penecontemporaneous Italian sites to discuss the hypotheses and characteristics of such early evidence of regionalization in Europe in this specific area of Central Italy. It seems to indicate that glacial conditions characterized by millennial rapid climatic oscillations could have been favourable to the development of specific vegetation propitious to human settlement in South-western Europe. European vegetation, as it drives the biomass availability for large herbivores, seems hence to have played a crucial role in the mobility and settlement of human groups.
Article
One of the defining characteristics of Acheulean handaxes is the presence of a substantial length of sharp cutting edge, often covering the majority or entirety of their plan-form outline. Recently, factors affecting the efficiency and effectiveness of handaxes for cutting have come under increased scrutiny. Most studies investigate how shape, size, symmetry and other metrics influence cutting performance characteristics. This includes investigations of edge morphology. To date, it is unknown how cutting performance may vary within an individual handaxe dependent on which aspect of its edge is used. Here, we experimentally investigate how loading capabilities (applied forces) vary along the edges of handaxes, from tip to base. Significant differences were identified dependent on the edge-point loaded, with greater forces recorded at the tip of tools relative to more proximally located edges. Notably, at ~20% of a handaxe's length away from the tip, loading levels were reduced by around 24%. Acheulean hominins concerned with maximising cutting stress potential during tool use should, therefore, have preferentially used the tip portion of handaxes when possible. During broader, sweeping cutting motions that use substantial lengths of cutting edge, our data suggest different portions of the edge create variable cutting-stress levels. Such differences likely derive from increases and decreases in torque creation, and the interaction between cutting forces and ergonomic relationships at the hand-tool interface. We discuss how these relationships may have influenced handaxe design during the Acheulean period, including tip focused modifications such as tranchet flake removals, thinning, and increased resharpening.
Article
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This paper presents a unified methodology to describe critical features in lithic assemblages, in order to better interpret the Middle Pleistocene hominin occupation of western Europe, in the context of the Western European Acheulean Project (WEAP). This project aims to characterise the Acheulean technology of the western side of Europe by the analysis of 10 key assemblages in this area, to generate an in depth regional comparison in particular of the large cutting tools (LCTs). Nevertheless, to go beyond the local perspective and gain a regional point of view requires a deep understanding of the underlying technology to identify the differences or similarities in processes and traditions of manufacture. The different criteria to analyse and to categorise the results make it difficult to compare data from different research traditions (British, French and Spanish). Nevertheless, after decades of intense work on technological analysis and although many technological approaches have been developed, there are still differences in methods between the different countries. It was necessary to develop a unified, yet flexible, protocol to characterise the LCTs that could be adapted to the technological characteristics of each area or site. It also had to be a system that could describe tool technology and morphology, combined with a proper statistical treatment, to summarise all of the data and to compare the results. In addition, due to the recent development of innovative technologies, it is timely to move research forward to make more detailed comparisons between sites. In this paper, we test the WEAP method with three very different European sites, Galería and Gran Dolina-subunit TD10.1 (both in Atapuerca, Spain) and Boxgrove (Sussex, UK).
Article
In this paper, we present the results of a technological analysis of an unpublished Acheulian assemblage from Western-Central France from a preventive excavation at Londigny (Charente). The lithic pieces were found in an archaeological layer preserved at the bottom of the infilling of two karstic depressions on the Jurassic plateau. A large series of handaxes found during gravel quarrying in the Charente river valley and sparse assemblages from karstic cavities south of the large meander formed by the Charente river are amongst the main discoveries dating to the Lower Palaeolithic in Charente. In the Poitou region, Londigny is the first open air Lower Palaeolithic industry TL dated to MIS 11 recovered in a stratigraphic context. Only a handful of sites date to this period in North-West Europe. Our study of this assemblage however allows us to describe in detail the lithic production that is characteristic of the Acheulian technocomplex. Despite of the unusual use of small Jurassic flint nodules, both bifacial shaping and flake production highlight a technical package shared by most of the Acheulian industries at that time from North-West Europe to South-West France. The Londigny site, located in a position between north and south, extends the geographical range of the Acheulian in France.
Book
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The origin of clothing is a topic that arouses much argument and attracts many different answers (and opinions). In anthropology, a consensus has emerged in recent decades that not only do we have no answer, the question of why humans first invented clothes may not be answerable. This book shows that such pessimism is unfounded. The book comprises two parts; the first part explores the origins of clothing. Evidence from ethnography, thermal physiology and climatology is covered, beginning with our biological nakedness. The key proposition is that although we have no archaeological remains of clothes from the Pleistocene, we do have indirect evidence in the form of technologies linked to the manufacture of garments from animal skins – stone scrapers and blades, and bone awls and needles. When evidence from archaeology, climatology, biology and ethnography is taken into account, it would seem that our ancestors first invented clothes to keep warm. The second section looks at the impact of climate change after the last Ice Age; specifically, the problems posed by warmer and more humid conditions. The Holocene epoch witnessed a revolution in clothing technology: in many parts of the world, people changed from wearing the skins of animals to making garments from woven fabrics. The reason for changing clothes was a physiological need to manage two problems with moisture: first, increased body perspiration in the warmer weather and, second, reduced evaporation of sweat due to higher humidity levels. Porous fabrics solved these moisture issues, creating a new demand for textile fibres. The book presents evidence for production of fibres (as well as food) in early farming contexts, and shows how textiles can help resolve fundamental enigmas about the origin of agriculture. The book concludes by considering a couple of psychological aspects. One aspect is the early weaning of infants, due mainly to modesty. Reduced breastfeeding led to increased fertility and birth rates, and the demographic effect was a population explosion. At a deeper level, a new preference had emerged for being enclosed from nature, an effect of wearing clothes which may underlie both agriculture (as ecological enclosure) and sedentism as enclosure from the physical environment.
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The Cueva del Angel archaeological site is an open-air sedimentary sequence, remnant of a collapsed cave and part of a karst complex. The faunal assemblage dominated by Equus ferus, large bovids and cervids has been subjected to intense anthropic actions reflecting selective predation. The fauna may be correlated with European faunistic associations of the end of the Middle Pleistocene to the beginning of the Upper Pleistocene. The Cueva del Angel lithic assemblage (dominated by non-modified flakes and abundant retouched tools with the presence of 46 handaxes) appears to fit well within the regional diversity of a well developed non-Levallois final Acheulean industry. A preliminary 230 Th/ 234 U age estimate, the review of the lithic assemblage and faunal evidence would favour a chronological positioning of the site in a period stretching from the end of the Middle Pleistocene to the beginning of the Upper Pleistocene (MIS 11eMIS 5). The Acheulean lithic assemblage found at the Cueva del Angel fits very well with the hypothesis of a continuation of Acheulean cultural traditions in the site, distinct from the contemporaneous uniquely Mousterian complexes witnessed in other parts of the Iberian Peninsula, and Western Europe.
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The Vernon tufa is a complex formation, accumulated during at least two phases. The oldest part of the unit contains a rich malacofauna assemblage which is identical to the assemblages found in tufa at St-Pierre-les-Elbeuf and La Celle-sous-Moret (Seine valley), at Arrest (Somme valley) and at a few sites in England and Germany. According to recent aminoacids and U/Th datings, this fauna is related to the ante-penultimate interglacial (isotopic stage 9) or is older. -from English summary
Article
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Isernia La Pineta is one of the most important European Middle Pleistocene site. This paper focuses on the results of the experimental program compared with the data gathered during the study of the archaeological materials consisting in raw material analyses, lithic technology and functional analyses. Therefore the scenario which is proposed in this paper is extremely interesting and suggests a new and very different interpretation of the lithic assemblage of Isernia La Pineta which is viewed not only from a morphological standpoint, but is placed in a more articulate ecological context, probably closer to the living style of the human beings who first colonized Europe during the early Middle Pleistocene. The reconstruction of the lithic technological chain, from the choice of raw material and its procurement to production and use of the artifacts, seems to be suitable to open a new behavioural approach for a more ecological interpretation of the lithic assemblages meaning which belong to such an early phase of human evolution.
Article
The evolution of Homo erectus cannot be fully assessed from a palaeo-anthropological point of view without considering the trends of his technological evolution. Furthermore, at this stage of human evolution, technical competence can only be inferred from an evaluation of individual performances collected through analysis of lithic assemblages. We will try to demonstrate the level of competence of Homo erectus during the Middle Pleistocene in East Africa with examples mainly taken from the Kenyan site of Isenya. Evaluation of the level of technical competence, and its evolution through time, is possible through the reconstruction of various chaînes opératoires involved in the manufacture of large tools, such as handaxes, cleavers and of multifacial of spheroidal tools (polyhedrons, spheroids, bolas), debitage of cores, and making of small retouched tool made of flakes. Reconstruction of the chaînes opératoires depends on experimental replications and refittings. The various artefacts produced by Homo erectus were developed from conceptual schemes which are extremely different from each other, as well as operational schemes of manufacture. At a further level of analysis, it is possible, for instance, to evaluate the variations of interdependence between the operational scheme and the conceptual scheme (according to the degree of abstraction introduced into the latter) and the complexity of the whole chaîne opératoire.
Thesis
The antiquity of handaxes was first noted over 200 years ago (Frere, 1800) and since then archaeologists have attempted to categorise and explain them. We are now much closer to elucidating the answers to why and how they were made, what they were used for and what they signify about past hominin behaviour. In a British context, several authors have contributed significant leaps forward in the comprehension of these processes, most notably, Roe (1968), Wymer (1968) and more recently McPherron (1995), White (1998a) and Ashton (2003). The work pioneered by Roe (1968) emphasised the variability present within handaxe-dominated assemblages from the British Palaeolithic and attempted to place this variation within an objective typological framework. Subsequent authors have utilised Roe’s methodology to attempt to ascertain the basis for this metrical variability both within and between handaxe-dominated assemblages, positing causal factors such as raw material (Ashton and McNabb, 1994; White, 1998a), resharpening (McPherron, 1995) and cultural design (Wenban-Smith, 2004). This study examines the basis and methodology of these hypotheses through the technological analysis of twenty two British Palaeolithic localities. The focus of this examination is Roe’s decision to divide assemblages into Point, Ovate and Cleaver Traditions, groupings which have become the standard through which to understand and classify handaxe variability within Britain. The results of this analysis indicate that resharpening is a key factor in determining handaxe shape and that metrical classification alone can never deliver us the types of tool-specific information necessary to make sense of observed patterning in the archaeological record. This suggests that it is perhaps time to move towards a new analytical framework for handaxes, one in which the fluidity of form during handaxe use-life (Shott, 1989) is taken into account. Moving beyond Roe’s (1968) paradigm will allow us to engage with the processes and rhythms of the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic chaîne opératoire in a way simply unavailable through metrical classification.
Chapter
Introduction A major research debate over the past 25 years has been the environmental context of the early human occupation of northern Europe. The groundwork was laid and agendas set by Clive Gamble’s seminal work ‘The Palaeolithic Settlement of Europe’ (1986) which provided a framework for describing the environmental background and understanding the challenges that various climates and habitats presented in six different zones organised east to west and north to south. The work was underwritten by two major premises; first, for the majority of time during the late Middle and Late Pleistocene, environments were characterised by cool, often steppic conditions, rather than the temperate forested peaks of interglacials or the cold troughs of cold, glacial maxima. Second, the distribution, availability and accessibility of usable biomass were higher in such intermediate environments than the two extremes of Pleistocene climate. Therefore humans during these periods were more likely to be better adapted to these intermediate conditions. This led to invigorating debates about human habitats (Gamble 1992a; Roebroeks et al. 1992; Mithen 1993a; Ashton 2002; Ashton and Lewis 2002; Parfitt et al. 2005, 2010; Ashton, Lewis et al. 2008; Ashton and Lewis 2012; Cohen et al. 2012; MacDonald et al.2012) and was the keystone of projects such as EFCHED (The Environmental Factors in the Chronology of Human Evolution and Dispersal; www.nerc.ac.uk/research/programmes/efched/) and AHOB (the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain Project; Stringer 2005; Ashton et al. 2006, 2011). When Gamble first set the agenda (1986) one of the major difficulties of understanding the environmental context was the resolution ofthe environmental record and how directly that related to human occupation. The debates therefore led to improved methods of data collection and filtering of evidence that now provide a clearer indication of the range ofhuman habitats.
Article
A comparative study of Middle Pleistocene assemblages in France shows that the hypothesis of cultural variability is unsupported. Characteristics thought to measure differences in cultural norms appear to mainly reflect differences in the availability and physical properties of raw materials. -from English summary
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IntroductionPhysical Setting: The Nachukui Formation, West Turkana, KenyaMethod of Analysis: Volcanic Petrography and Chaîne OpératoireAn Enduringly Local Site ProvisioningVariable Rock Composition of Local SourcesRaw Material Selection and Exploitation Patterns: Diachronic Changes throughout the Plio-PleistoceneMore about Selection in the PleistoceneEarly AcheuleanAcheuleanConclusion AcknowledgmentsEndnotesReferences
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The paleobiogeographical analysis of the malacofaunas of the tufas of Arrest, Vernon, St-Pierre-les-Elbeulf (France), Hitchin and of Icklingham (England) has allowed to characterize an interglacial biome of a temperate deciduous forest developed under a warm oceanic climate in Normandy, Picardy and W Suffolk. The causal analysis sets the problem of the real stratigraphical position of the tufa of St-Pierre-les-Elbeuf. -English summary