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The technique of pressure knapping in Central Asia: Innovation or diffusion?

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This chapter deals with the emergence and the development of the pressure knapping technique in Central Asia (republics of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan). The specific context of the processes of neolithization is particularly significant for understanding the development of pressure blade technology in Central Asia as well as the reasons linked to its adoption and application in different cultural entities. The additional information provided here enriches this discussion for the neighboring regions of Russia, the Caucasus, Iran, and Afghanistan. The technological study of the major lithic assemblages recovered from Upper Paleolithic to Chalcolithic contexts across dispersed parts of Central Asia points out significant results. Thus, the emergence of the use of the pressure knapping technique during the Early Holocene in this part of Asia was associated with the appearance of microblade technology and, to some extent, bladelet production. The pressure technique appeared in Mesolithic hunter-gatherer groups that contrast sharply with the previous Paleolithic stone reduction traditions. Two concepts have been identified: the first one, called here the Yubetsu method, is closely related to the technical tradition from the Far East (Sibero-Sino-Mongolia area), and the second one linked to a bullet-shaped core and the more classical method, is most often associated with geometrical microliths. With the appearance of agropastoral Neolithic societies like the Jeitun culture in Southern Turkmenistan (7th-6th millennia B.C.), the pressure knapping technique was used for the production of regular blades employing the bullet-shaped core method. A more interesting and specific case in Central Asia is found among three societies involved in the process of neolithization. The Kel'teminar culture (Uzbekistan, 7th-4th millennia B.C.) illustrates the beginning of the settlement process; the subsistence strategies were marked by a focus not only on hunting and gathering but also with the appearance of domestic cattle. Its technical tradition came mainly from the local Mesolithic background. The lithic industry has evidence of several production systems (microblades, bladelets, and blades) employing at least two techniques: a very well-controlled indirect percussion and the bullet-shaped core method using a pressure technique. The Atbasar culture (Kazakhstan, 5th-4th millennia B.C.) developed from the local Mesolithic, retaining microblade production using the pressure knapping technique (bullet-shaped cores). The introduction of few regular blades (detached by indirect percussion or pressure knapping technique?) and new formal tools can be observed. The Hissar culture (Tajikistan, 7th-4th millennia B.C.) shows the exploitation of both domestic and wild animals, with a higher proportion of the latter, suggesting a short-distance form of mobile pastoralism. The lithic assemblage presents the continuation of the earlier Mesolithic tradition (pressure microblade technology according to the Yubetsu method) together with the introduction of new Neolithic components such as a blade production using the indirect percussion. During the Chalcolithic/Eneolithic period, pressure knapping tends to disappear gradually from Central Asia. Following the emergence of the first Bronze Age communities, it is seen only in the shaping process of bifacial tools and projectile points. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. All rights reserved.
Some signifi cant features of the lithic assemblages from the main Neolithic cultures of Central Asia ( map drawn by the author ). 1 -15 the "culture of Kel'teminar"; 1 , 2 trapezes (Uchashchi 131, after Vinogradov 1981b ) ; 3 Kel'teminar arrowhead (Tolstov, after Vinogradov 1981a ) ; 4 parallelogram (Tolstov, after ibid.); 5 horned trapeze (Khodzhagumbas 5, after ibid.); 6 triangle (DzhanbasKala 4, after Vinogradov 1981b ) ; 7 triangle (Uchashchi 131, after ibid.); 8 Kel'teminar arrowhead (Ljavljakan 26, after Vinogradov and Mamedov 1975 ) ; 9 denticulate on blade (Khodzhagumbas 5, after Vinogradov 1981a ) ; 10 denticulate on blade (Uchashchi 131, after ibid.); 11 blade (Ljavljakan 120, after Vinogradov and Mamedov 1975 ) ; 12 , 13 cores (Uchashchi 131, after Vinogradov 1981a ) ; 14 core (Ljavljakan 120, after Vinogradov and Mamedov 1975 ) ; 15 denticulate on blade (Tolstov, after Vinogradov 1981a ) ; 16 -25 the "culture of Atbasar"; 16 , 18 point (Tel'mana I, after Zajbert 1992 ) ; 17 trapeze (Tel'mana I, after ibid.); 19 microblades (Vinogradovka II, after ibid.); 20 bifacial point (Tel'mana XII, after ibid.); 21 core (Vinogradovka X, after ibid.); 22 core (Vinogradovka XIV, after Kislenko and Pleshakov 1998 ) ; 23 core (Tel'mana, after Zajbert 1992 ) ; 24 core (Vinogradovka X, after ibid.); 25 blade (Tel'mana I, after ibid.); 26-35 the "culture of Jeitun" (site of Jeitun, after Masson 1971 ) ; 26-27 , 29 denticulate on bladelet; 28 end scraper on bladelet; 30 -31 trapezes; 32 -33 cores; 34 -35 blades. 36 -43 the "culture of Hissar"; 36 trapeze (Tutkaul 2-1, after Ranov and Korobkova 1971 ) ; 37-38 cores (Tutkaul 2-1, after ibid.); 39 core (Tutkaul 2-1, after ibid.); 40 chopper (Tutkaul 2-1,after ibid.); 41-43 backed edges on blades (Tutkaul/Saj-Sajëd, after Ranov 1982 )
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The Emergence of Pressure Blade Making
Pierre M. Desrosiers
Editor
The Emergence of Pressure
Blade Making
From Origin to Modern Experimentation
Editor
Pierre M. Desrosiers
Ste-Catherine 360–4150, H3Z 2Y5
Westmount, Québec, Canada
ISBN 978-1-4614-2002-6 e-ISBN 978-1-4614-2003-3
DOI 10.1007/978-1-4614-2003-3
Springer New York Dordrecht Heidelberg London
Library of Congress Control Number: 2012931928
© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012
All rights reserved. This work may not be translated or copied in whole or in part without the written
permission of the publisher (Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, 233 Spring Street, New York,
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The use in this publication of trade names, trademarks, service marks, and similar terms, even if they
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Printed on acid-free paper
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307
P. Desrosiers (ed.), The Emergence of Pressure Blade Making: From Origin
to Modern Experimentation, DOI 10.1007/978-1-4614-2003-3_12,
© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012
12.1 Introduction
Details concerning the adoption and use of the pressure knapping technique in
Central Asia are still relatively poorly understood by researchers in comparison
with Southwestern Asia (especially the Near East) and Europe; moreover, it remains
a marginal aspect in the technological studies focused upon this region. This chapter
aims to review and clarify this issue through a consideration of the period when the
pressure technique took place in Central Asia (Fig. 12.1 ): from the Final Paleolithic/
Mesolithic to the Chalcolithic (or Eneolithic). The specifi c context of the processes
of neolithization, a time characterized by multifaceted (cultural, social, economic,
technical, symbolic) transformations, is particularly signifi cant for understanding
the development of pressure blade technology in Central Asia, as well as the reasons
linked to its adoption and application in different cultural entities. The Neolithic
transition and the development of a new way of life did not occur simultaneously
across the entire region. The additional information provided here will enrich the
discussion underway in this fi eld for the neighboring regions of Russia, Caucasus,
Iran, and Afghanistan.
The chronological framework for these periods varies by region (Fig. 12.2 ) and
suffers from a paucity of secure radiocarbon dates. The lack of precise dating for
many archaeological sites results mainly from poor organic preservation due to the
extensive erosion in these desert and steppe areas. This poses particular challenges
to archaeological studies through a scarcity of stratigraphic contexts and the local-
ization of most of the records on the surface.
F. Brunet (*)
CNRS-UMR 7041 ArScAn, équipe Asie centrale, Maison René-Ginouvès
de l’Archéologie et de l’Ethnologie , Nanterre , France
e-mail: frederique.brunet@mae.u-paris10.fr
Chapter 12
The Technique of Pressure Knapping
in Central Asia: Innovation or Diffusion?
Frédérique Brunet
308 F. Brunet
In Central Asia, the main data for the period considered here derives from
archaeological research undertaken during the Soviet period. Since then, the exca-
vation of several Stone Age sites in Central Asia has signifi cantly added to this fi eld.
I attempted to document, with as much detail as possible, the archaeological evi-
dence for the technical processes of stone artifact production. This new approach
consists of a technological study of the major lithic assemblages recovered from
Upper Paleolithic to Chalcolithic contexts across dispersed parts of Central Asia.
The complete analysis of these assemblages, in particular the detailed reconstruction
Fig. 12.1 The main archaeological sites and cultures of Central Asia mentioned ( map drawn by
the author ). 1 Oshkhona; 2 Beshkent, Javan, Beshkent, Mullo-Nijaz, Makoni-Mor (Mesolithic),
and Tutkaul, Saj-Sajëd (Neolithic); 3 Semizbugu, and group of Northern Pribalkhash; 4 Akimbek;
5 Shul’binka; 6 Ferghana (Obishir, Jangikadam, Zambar, Shorkul’, Dorazkul’); 7 Bugun’; 8 group
of Ubagan; 9 group of Javlenka; 10 group of Vinogradov; 11 group of Tel’man; 12 group of
Akkan; 13 group of Kyrgal’dzhino; 14 Ustjurt (group of Ajdabol); 15 Jeitun, Bami, Chopan-depe,
Togolok-depe, Chagylly-depe (Neolithic), and Dashlyzhyj-depe, Ak-depe, Anau, Kara-depe,
Namazga-depe, Ulug-depe, Geoksijur, Altyn-depe, Ilgynly-depe (Eneolithic/Chalcolithic); 16
Zeravshan (Uchashchi, Ajakagytma, Khodzhagumbas); 17 Inner Kyzyl-Kum (group of Ljavljakan,
Beshbulak); 18 Chorasmia (Tolstov, Dzhanbas-Kala, Dzhingel’dy, Kavat); 19 Uzboj. ( A ) Neolithic
and Chalcolithic Southern Turkmenistan sedentary farmers. ( B ) Neolithic “culture of Kel’teminar”.
( C ) Neolithic “culture of Atbasar”. ( D ): Neolithic “culture of Hissar”
309
12 The Technique of Pressure Knapping in Central Asia: Innovation or Diffusion?
of reduction sequences, is beyond the scope of this chapter. What I propose to
examine here are those results concerned with the pressure knapping technique.
In addition, I highlight avenues for future archaeological research, particularly the
implications that stone knapping activities and tool use may have for the wider
social, cultural, and economic dimensions. Finally, regional intersite comparisons
and overviews are used to illustrate both synchronic and diachronic technical variability
and thus provide an insight into the appearance and the use of the pressure blade
technology in this part of Eurasia.
12.2 Identifi cation of the Pressure Knapping Technique
in Central Asia
The rst problem that arose was the recognition of the pressure knapping technique
in lithic assemblages. Some researchers have suggested that, given the extreme
regularity of some blades and bladelets, this technique was probably used during the
Dates BC TURKMENISTAN UZBEKISTAN KAZAKHSTAN TAJIKISTAN
10 000 Upper Paleolithic
Mesolithic
9 000
8 000
Mesolithic
7 000
6 500
Mesolithic Mesolithic
6 000
5 500
Culture of Kel'teminar
(Early Neolithic)
Culture of Hissar
(Neolithic)
5 000
Neolithic of Jeitun
Proto-Chalcolithic or Anau Ia
4 500
Culture of Atbasar
(Neolithic)
4 000
Early Chalcolithic or Namazga I
3 500
Middle Chalcolithic or Namazga II
3 000
Late Chalcolithic or Namazga III
Culture of Kel'teminar
(Middle Neolithic)
Eneolithic
2 500
Early Bronze Age or Namazga IV Culture of Kel'teminar
(Late Neolithic / Eneolithic)
2 000
Middle Bronze Age or Namazga V Bronze Age
Bronze Age
Bronze Age
Fig. 12.2 A chronological outline of the Central Asia cultures and archaeological periods
310 F. Brunet
Mesolithic and the Neolithic in Central Asia. In order to test this hypothesis and to
further explore this question, I analyzed several lithic assemblages from Kazakhstan,
Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. All of the stone artifacts (i.e . , nodules,
cores and core fragments, preforms, technical falls, fl akes, entire and broken products,
formal and nonformal retouched pieces, and chunks) have been considered in order
to identify the technological behavior of knappers.
The main criteria used to diagnose the pressure knapping technique in this study
are the following:
The butt: thick but small, narrow, punctiform Delineation of the pressure platform on the ventral face: straight, rarely curved The impact point: perceptible but almost merges with the platform The aking angle: open, sometimes slightly obtuse Bulb attributes: pronounced with a lip, small, presence of fi ssuring, squat Platform preparation: none (plain), rarely faceted Preparation toward the fl aking surface: none, frequent slight (rarely high) abrasion Blade profi le: equal thickness, barely curved or straight with a curved distal part Blade cross section: thin Blade edges and dorsal ridges: straight, parallel Specifi c mark: plunging blade, heat treatment
In some cases, the study was constrained by taphonomic and stratigraphic factors,
such that full reduction sequences were not consistently represented in the lithic
assemblages. When dealing with biased assemblages or open air, nonstratifi ed sites
with only surface fi nds, refi tting became nonproductive, and the pressure debitage
processes could not be specifi ed in detail. In this instance, the goal became more
elusive when the cores were exhausted and their fi nal stage obscured the previous
reduction sequences. Furthermore, it was sometimes diffi cult to discriminate the
pressure technique from very well-controlled indirect percussion during the early
stages of blade removal, especially if the knapper used indirect percussion for shap-
ing the core. Lastly, some aspects of the knapping methods (nature and morphology
of tools, gesture, mode of holding or gripping the core, and posture of the knapper)
will be clarifi ed through future replication and experimentation analysis.
Three categories of intended products resulting from different uses of the pressure
knapping technique have emerged from this study. As experiments have shown
(Pelegrin 1988 ; Texier 1982, 1984 ) , the most signifi cant metric element is the length
rather than the width of products, as the width categories generally overlap.
Microblades (2–7 mm wide and <5 cm long): the core is held in one hand, usually using a grooved device, and the knapper, from a seated position, applies pressure
with a short hand crutch
Bladelets (6–10 mm wide and <8 cm long): the core is either held in one hand after being enclosed in a device or fi xed, then set on a hard slab so as to use a
crutch braced against the shoulder or abdomen
Blades (12–20 mm wide and up to 18 cm long): the knapper, in a standing posi- tion, uses a pectoral crutch
311
12 The Technique of Pressure Knapping in Central Asia: Innovation or Diffusion?
The pressure knapping technique requires access to high-quality, internally
homogenous raw materials which were (and are) available and widely distributed
throughout the territory of Central Asia, i.e., various fl ints, jasper, and chalcedony.
There was an obvious relationship between raw material types and production
systems during Mesolithic and Neolithic since these materials have always been
chosen for these types of core reduction strategies. Other raw materials were used
on a more occasional basis. Archaeological sites are located rather close to the
sources of high-quality raw material. When they are not, local and bad-quality raw
material (diverse types of limestone, sandstone, volcanic pebbles) was usually used
for the production of fl akes. In the mountainous parts of Central Asia, volcanic
pebbles were sometimes transformed into fl ake tools but were more commonly
exploited for pebble tools. In this case, the exotic high-quality raw material was
procured either by direct exploitation of a remote source or through either import or
exchange. The nearest obsidian outcrops are located in the Caucasus, and, as far as
we know, they have hardly been used in Central Asia: only one or two pieces that
appear to have been imported as “fi nished products” have been found at the site of
low Uzboi (Turkmenistan) during Neolithic (Tolstov
1958 ) . Another source of
obsidian in the region of Ghazni, near Dasht-i-Nawur (Afghanistan), may have been
used at the nearby Epipaleolithic sites of G.P.2 and G.P.4 (Davis and Dupree 1977 )
where the pressure knapping technique was also identifi ed.
12.3 Introduction of Bladelet and Microblade
Assemblages: The Dawn of the Mesolithic
The Upper Paleolithic stone assemblages consist mainly of two components: a blade
technology, which had just appeared, and an older but still prominent fl ake produc-
tion strategy. Most of these blades are irregular and rather short because the direct
percussion blade technique was the only method used at this time. The fi rst clear
evidence for pressure microblade and bladelet technologies takes place at the end
of the Pleistocene and during the Early Holocene. These technologies appeared at
different times in various regions in Central Asia and differed in several crucial ways
from Upper Paleolithic period. We can summarize these differences as follows:
Use of more homogeneous, elastic, fi ne-grained raw materials. Introduction and development of microblade and bladelet production which then became prevalent.
Use of new techniques such as pressure and indirect percussion. Appearance of regular and even standardized blanks for manufacturing various tools, particularly those displaying projectile and hafting elements. During the
Upper Paleolithic, any regularity in form apparent in these tool types, when it
existed, was the result of substantial retouch. Also, there is no longer systematic
reduction in blank size or shape through retouch; energy was invested in the
blank production rather than retouch manufacturing.
312 F. Brunet
Presence of new or more refi ned tools fashioned on these new types of blanks; among them, I note particularly the presence of large geometric microliths (triangles,
trapezes, and, more rarely, crescents). The last tool type has been suggested for
use in hunting spears or as a weapon; however, this remains to be proven: they
may just have easily been served as cutting implements.
So there are important changes apparent in the methods, techniques, skills, and
conceptual knowledge, as well as the fi nality of the lithic reduction processes. It is
therefore necessary to defi ne these industries as belonging to a new entity called the
Mesolithic. This is contrasted with the Epipaleolithic, which is defi ned as the
continuation of the earlier Upper Paleolithic tradition into the Early Holocene; this
period is illustrated by the discoveries from Oshkhona, Tajikistan (Ranov
1975 ) .
At this site, the stone artifacts show some convincing similarities with the lithic
technical system of the Upper Paleolithic layer two from Shugnou (Ranov 1973,
1988 ; Ranov et al. 1976 ) in the same region. This point has been discussed in detail
elsewhere (Brunet 2002 ; Ranov 1988, 1996 ) .
12.3.1 Tajikistan, Eastern and Central Kazakhstan,
and Xinjiang
In Southern Tajikistan, the end of the 9th and the beginning of the 8th millennia B.C.
(9530 ± 130 B.P.; Ranov 1984 ) are characterized by two distinct situations. The fi rst
one is represented by the settlement of Oshkhona (Figs. 12.1 , 12.3 ). Here, the micro-
blade component of the assemblage, which was obtained by the pressure technique,
has integrated with a lithic industry combining two types of fl aking techniques using
hard-hammer percussion for the removal of ordinary fl akes and a soft-hammer
organic percussor for bladelet making. The second approach is observed through the
existence of several workshops (Beshkent, Makoni-mor, Javan, Mullo-Nijaz;
Amosova et al. 1991 ; Jusupov and Solov’ev 1973 ; Ranov 1992 ) where only regular
microblades, obtained by the pressure technique, were produced by the reduction of
the local high-quality raw material at the source (Figs. 12.1 , 12.3 ). Detailed debitage
analysis has testifi ed to a preference for a specifi c stoneworking process to reduce
cores and generate tool blanks. The microblades were removed only from the frontal
and narrow surface of single platform cores after detachment of a frontal crested
blade that was generally associated with a dorsal crest. Sometimes, the process
of microblade removals has progressed laterally onto one of the sides of the core.
The same operation was usually carried out at the other end of the pressure platform,
resulting in a core with a cylindroconical shape at the end of its use life. It is striking
that this kind of debitage (methods, technique) is clearly similar in the two categories
of sites described here, but the relation between them remains unclear. The most
obvious (but admittedly simplistic) possibility is that there was a partial “supply” of
cores and blanks by the workshops toward the settlements. Alternatively, another
possible explanation is that knappers themselves were mobile.
313
12 The Technique of Pressure Knapping in Central Asia: Innovation or Diffusion?
Fig. 12.3 The earliest occurrences of the use of pressure knapping technique in Central Asia employing the “Yubetsu” method (map drawn by the author). 1
Semizbugu (After Medoev
1970 ) ; 2 Akimbek (After Chindin 1989 ) ; 3 Northern Pribalkhash (After Medoev 1970 ) ; 4 Ulan-Bator (After Okladnikov and
Abramova
1994 ) ; 5 Dno-Gobi (After ibid.); 6 Mojl’tyn-Am (After Okladnikov 1981 ) ; 7 Qijiaojing (After Debaine-Francfort 1988 ) ; 89 Beshkent (After
Amosova et al. 1991 ; Brunet 2003 ) ; 10 Makoni-Mor (After Jusupov and Solov’ev 1973 ) ; 1112 Mullo-Nijaz (After Ranov 1985 )
314 F. Brunet
These lithic assemblages exhibit the evidence of rules for the core reduction
strategy, which, while not extremely complex, are well defi ned. This set pattern is
characterized by the (almost) bifacial preparation of the core, its exploitation along
the frontal surface following the removal of one or two (opposing) crests, the (gen-
erally) unidirectional and continuous (or not) detachment of microblades, and the
use of the pressure technique with a short crutch. However, in these Tajik sites, this
seems to be an additional method, although one that was clearly used and assimi-
lated to the earlier Upper Paleolithic tradition. It appears that the knappers devel-
oped their own variants through the adoption of single aspects of this technique.
A more typical application of this method is seen in another part of Central Asia,
suggesting that there was a strong knapping tradition linked to this particular use of
the pressure technique. Indeed, the study has led me to consider the possibility that
this microblade technology had also penetrated Kazakhstan, particularly in the eastern
and central territories (Figs. 12.1 , 12.3 ): at Semizbugu, Shul’binka, and the group of
Northern Pribalkhash in the east (Artjukhova et al. 2001 ; Derevjanko et al. 1993 ;
Medoev 1970, 1982 ; Petrin and Tajmagambetov 2000 ) and at Akimbek in the
central region (Chindin 1989 ) . Moreover, this method can be identifi ed not far from
this part of Kazakhstan, in Xinjiang (e.g., the naviform cores at the sites of Qijiaojing
and Chaiwopu; Debaine-Francfort 1988 ) (Fig. 12.3 ). New investigations should be
focused upon the few river valleys in these two territories and along the Ili valley in
particular, which remains the main and perhaps the only way to connect these
regions in Kazakhstan and in Western China.
This “technological style,” as well as the absence of microlithic tools, especially
those of geometric form, is signifi cant (Inizan 1991 ) and reminds me of a very well-
known microblade production technique identifi ed not far from there in Siberia
(Eastern and Russian Far East) and Mongolia. It could be generically referred to as
Yubetsu . There are many variants of this type of reduction system, but it remains
necessary to better defi ne these variants according to region in order to clarify the
core classifi cation ( wedge-shaped core , klinovidnyj nukleus , Gobi core , tortsovyj
nukleus , end cores , etc.). This last point deserves a specifi c treatment which will be
addressed in a future article. Research appears to have confi rmed that the pressure
knapping technique associated with this specifi c method originated at the cross-
roads of Northern China, Mongolia, and Eastern Siberia, where it appeared about
28000 B.P. or even 35000 B.P. (Abramova 1986 ; Inizan 1991 ; Inizan et al . 1992 ;
Goebel 2002 ) 1 and then spread both eastward (Japan, Korea, Northern America) and
westward from approximately 20000 B.P. This hypothesis can probably also be
applied to the sites of Eastern and Central Kazakhstan (through the Xinjiang
territory? ), and even reached Tajikistan on the path from the Far East (Fig.
12.3 ).
The last scenario echoes Vadim Ranov’s suggestion that Tajikistan belonged to a
“Sibiro-Mongolian”-infl uenced group (Litvinskij and Ranov 1998 ) .
1 For more details about the radiocarbon dating of Siberian Paleolithic and Mesolithic sites, see
Lisitsyn and Svezhentsev (
1997 ) ; Kuzmin and Orlova ( 1998 ) .
315
12 The Technique of Pressure Knapping in Central Asia: Innovation or Diffusion?
12.3.2 Eastern Uzbekistan (Ferghana) and Southern Kazakhstan
Evidence for use of the pressure technique in microblade production was also found in
Uzbekistan, particularly in the region of Ferghana (Islamov and Timofeev 1986 )
(Figs. 12.1 , 12.4 ). Here, the core reduction method consisted principally in the removal
of products from its wide main surface following a unidirectional method. I noted the
presence of gradually invasive fl aking on the lateral sides of the single platform core;
also this fl aking usually has covered the back of the core. In the context of the pressure
knapping technique, this method, tightly linked to the bullet-shaped cores, can be char-
acterized here as “classical” as compared to the Yubetsu method. At the end of the
Fig. 12.4 The earliest occurrences of the use of pressure knapping technique in Central Asia employ-
ing the “bullet-shaped core” method ( map drawn by the author ). 12 , 45 Jangel’ka (After Matjushin
1989 ) ; 3 Dolgyj El’nik II (After ibid.); 6 Tel’mana IXa (After Zajbert and Potemkina 1981 ) ; 7
Verkhnaja Alabuga (After ibid.); 8 Tel’mana VII (After ibid.); 910 Ajdabol 25 (After Avizova
1990 ) ; 11 Ajdabol 6 (After Bizhanov 1982 ) ; 12 Jangikadam 26 (After Islamov and Timofeev 1986 ) ;
13 Tajpak 15 (After ibid.); 14 Achchik-Kul’ 3 (After ibid.); 15 Obishir I (After Islamov
1980 ) ; 1617
Aq-Kupruk (After Dupree and Davis
1972 ) ; 1819 Darra-i-Kalon (After Mussi 1979 )
316 F. Brunet
reduction process, the core remnant was discarded when it was either too small or
offered only step-fractured working surfaces. Some of the open air sites in Ferghana
were probably ambush or kill sites and as such yielded mainly fi nished projectile points
and the last stages of the fl intworking process; the by-products of manufacturing are
absent. The selected microblades were modifi ed into tools, mainly microliths sometimes
showing a geometric form (triangles and crescents). Close to this area, new surveys in
Southern Kazakhstan have revealed the existence of a similar pattern of microblade
production in the site of Bugun’ (Aleksandr N. Podushkin, 2002, personal communica-
tion), suggesting a probably extensive development of this specifi c use of the pressure
knapping technique in this territory. Sometimes, evidence of microblade production
was found in other sites such as at the possible residential site of Obishir located in
Ferghana (Islamov
1980 ) , where bladelets (approximately 7 mm wide and 10–12 mm
long) were produced by indirect percussion and two additional items (irregular blades
and fl akes) were made by a direct, hard-hammer percussion technique.
12.3.3 Northern Kazakhstan
Another version of the “classical” method was identifi ed at several groups of sites
in Northern Kazakhstan: at Ubagan, Vinogradov, and Tel’man (Zajbert and
Potemkina 1981 ) (Figs. 12.1 , 12.4 ). Indeed, a particularly intense focus upon the
production of narrow, elongated, and straight products can be noted. In most cases,
these blanks have been used without having been retouched; only some of them
were modifi ed by fi ne retouch to create geometric forms such as trapeze-rectangles
and parallelograms. The two types of blanks observed, microblades and bladelets,
were produced by separate methods: the use of a short hand crutch with or without
a holding device or by means of a shoulder crutch. These bullet-shaped cores ( conical
and pencil cores in the scientifi c literature) were wholly exploited following a
continuous detachment of bladelets and microblades from around the entire perim-
eter of the core. The relationship between this tradition and the bladelet assemblages
of Southern Siberia and the Ural regions (e.g., at Jangel’ka and Dolgyj El’nik;
Matjushin 1989 ) , where the early use of the pressure knapping technique continued
during the Neolithic period (e.g., at Chebarkul; Krizhevskaja 1968 ) and even up to
the third millennium, appears signifi cant. However, the Mesolithic Southern Ural
lithic industries (Fig. 12.4 ) reveal a high level of fl intknapping skills and production
processes so complex that they imply to the presence of near knapping specialists.
The situation is quite different in Northern Kazakhstan. If a technical transfer
between this last territory and the Ural region ever happened, it must have been con-
ned to the methods linked to the production of microblades and bladelets. Indeed,
at the Ural sites, many regular blades (12–14 mm wide and 17 cm long) emphasize a
peculiar technological feature specifi c to this group: a pressure knapping technique
that appears to have involved the use of a pectoral crutch. This method has not yet
been observed in these Northern Kazakhstan sites. In fact, this last technique implies
a complex transition from the use of a shorthand device to a pectoral crutch, which
would require a long-term learning process.
317
12 The Technique of Pressure Knapping in Central Asia: Innovation or Diffusion?
12.3.4 Western Uzbekistan (Ustjurt)
The Ustjurt plateau in Uzbekistan (Avizova 1990 ; Bizhanov 1982, 1996 ) is the last
place where this early introduction to pressure knapping occurred in Central Asia.
Some of the many sites here (e.g., the Ajdabol group of sites) (Figs. 12.1 , 12.4 ) have
been identifi ed as hunting stations, others as settlements. The lithic assemblages
suggest some connections with the Mesolithic Southern Ural cultures (Matjushin
1973, 1976, 1989 ; Serikov 1998 ) . Indeed, similar elements are particularly well
represented at the Ustjurt sites by the technological tradition of knapping (bladelets
and microblades obtained by a “classical” method using the pressure technique) and
also by the manufacture of geometrical microliths, especially the trapezes easily
recognizable by their specifi c shape (elongated, right-angled, oblique truncation)
and retouch (direct and inverse truncation).
12.3.5 A Brief Synthesis
Before moving on to the Neolithic, it is worthwhile to summarize and briefl y dis-
cuss some of these results about knapping strategies and techniques employed in
Central Asia during the Early Holocene. Firstly, the emergence of the use of the
pressure knapping technique in this part of Asia was associated with the appearance
of microblade technology and, to some extent, bladelet productions. The pressure
technique appeared in hunter-gatherer groups that contrast sharply with the previous
Paleolithic stone reduction traditions; henceforth, these are referred to as Mesolithic.
Two concepts have been identifi ed: the fi rst one, called here the Yubetsu method, is
closely related to the technical tradition from the Far East (Sibero-Sino-Mongolia
area), and the second one, linked to a bullet-shaped core and the more “classical”
method, is most often associated with geometrical microliths. The absence of the
pressure knapping technique in other new cultures during this period in Central Asia
invites to question the reasons and the modalities (diffusion or invention?) of its
appearance in the sites described here.
The Yubetsu method (Fig. 12.3 ) appears to have been adopted in Tajikistan by
“Paleolithic groups,” as seen at Oshkhona. The introduction of the pressure
technique into local traditions may have stemmed from contact with experienced
intknappers from the nearby workshop sites, where the microblade reduction tech-
nology has been observed. In Eastern and Central Kazakhstan, this study confi rms
the penetration of the pressure knapping technique into this area from the Far East.
But a question remains: did this westward transmission occur through displacements
of human groups, or by adoption, or as a consequence of diffusion? The pressure
aking equipment linked to this specifi c microblade technology, which is character-
ized by the handheld technical mode with a short crutch, supports the suggestion
of mobile knappers. Alternatively, this Yubetsu method, which shows a single and
relatively simple conceptual scheme, could have been reproduced after some contact,
even indirect, with experienced knappers (Inizan
1991 ) .
318 F. Brunet
With the respect of the bullet-shaped core method (Fig. 12.4 ) from the Northern
Kazakhstan and the Ustjurt plateau (Uzbekistan), the hypothesis of a local invention
is conceivable. However, the close relationship of these sites with those of Ural
cultures, where the pressure knapping technique was very refi ned and included
several variations, suggests that this technique developed fi rst in the Ural region.
If we accept the idea of diffusion toward Northern Kazakhstan and fully acknowl-
edge the complexity of this learning process, especially for the shaping out of the
core, then three modes of transmission can be envisaged: (a) the diffusion of
preformed cores, implying a contact between the expert and apprentice knappers;
(b) the transmission of this specifi c knowledge by itinerant experienced knappers;
or (c) the technique was carried out in situ by foreign experienced knappers. Thus,
this northern region of Central Asia might be another core area of the pressure knap-
ping technique, distinct from the one known in Southern Asia (Iran–Afghanistan).
More precise radiocarbon dates are necessary to consolidate this assumption.
Likewise, concerning several Epipaleolithic/Mesolithic sites in Afghanistan (e.g .,
Aq Kupruk, Darra-i-Kalon III-Ia, Kara-Kamar I, and G.P.2 and G.P.4) (Davis and
Dupree
1977 ; Dupree and Davis 1972 ; Mussi 1979 ) , the precise origin (either local
or in connection with Iran?) and the mode of transmission for the pressure knapping
technique using the bullet-shaped core method remain unclear.
12.4 Introduction of the Blade Technology:
The Emergence of Neolithic Societies
With the appearance of agropastoral Neolithic societies in Central Asia, particularly
in Southern Turkmenistan, new industries arose that exhibited a main intended
blank: the blade. The principal features of these societies consisted of settled village
life, an agropastoral economy (farming and animal husbandry), and a rich material
culture (lithic and bone industries, painted handmade pottery with geometric and
zoomorphic patterns, terracotta fi gurines, beads). These well-known sites, especially
those belonging to the Jeitun culture (7th–6th millennia B.C.) (Harris et al. 1993,
1996 ; Masson 1960, 1971 ) , reveal the use of the pressure knapping technique for the
production of regular blades employing the bullet-shaped core method. Within the
lithic toolkit, the hafted elements include, among others, tools with backed edges,
many truncations, and various trapezes.
A more interesting and specifi c case in Central Asia is found among societies
involved in the process of neolithization.
12.4.1 The Kel’teminar Culture (Uzbekistan)
This culture, located in Uzbekistan and especially in the Kyzyl Kum desert (Fig. 12.5 ),
illustrates the beginning of the settlement process in a landscape then characterized by
319
12 The Technique of Pressure Knapping in Central Asia: Innovation or Diffusion?
Fig. 12.5 Some signifi cant features of the lithic assemblages from the main Neolithic cultures of
Central Asia ( map drawn by the author ). 115 the “culture of Kel’teminar”; 1 , 2 trapezes (Uchashchi
131, after Vinogradov
1981b ) ; 3 Kel’teminar arrowhead (Tolstov, after Vinogradov 1981a ) ; 4 paral-
lelogram (Tolstov, after ibid.); 5 horned trapeze (Khodzhagumbas 5, after ibid.); 6 triangle (Dzhanbas-
Kala 4, after Vinogradov
1981b ) ; 7 triangle (Uchashchi 131, after ibid.); 8 Kel’teminar arrowhead
(Ljavljakan 26, after Vinogradov and Mamedov
1975 ) ; 9 denticulate on blade (Khodzhagumbas 5,
after Vinogradov
1981a ) ; 10 denticulate on blade (Uchashchi 131, after ibid.); 11 blade (Ljavljakan
120, after Vinogradov and Mamedov
1975 ) ; 12 , 13 cores (Uchashchi 131, after Vinogradov 1981a ) ;
14 core (Ljavljakan 120, after Vinogradov and Mamedov
1975 ) ; 15 denticulate on blade (Tolstov,
after Vinogradov
1981a ) ; 1625 the “culture of Atbasar”; 16 , 18 point (Tel’mana I, after Zajbert
1992 ) ; 17 trapeze (Tel’mana I, after ibid.); 19 microblades (Vinogradovka II, after ibid.); 20 bifacial
point (Tel’mana XII, after ibid.); 21 core (Vinogradovka X, after ibid.); 22 core (Vinogradovka XIV,
after Kislenko and Pleshakov
1998 ) ; 23 core (Tel’mana, after Zajbert 1992 ) ; 24 core (Vinogradovka
X, after ibid.); 25 blade (Tel’mana I, after ibid.); 26–35 the “culture of Jeitun” (site of Jeitun, after
Masson
1971 ) ; 26–27 , 29 denticulate on bladelet; 28 end scraper on bladelet; 3031 trapezes; 3233
cores; 3435 blades. 3643 the “culture of Hissar”; 36 trapeze (Tutkaul 2–1, after Ranov and
Korobkova
1971 ) ; 37–38 cores (Tutkaul 2–1, after ibid.); 39 core (Tutkaul 2–1, after ibid.); 40 chop-
per (Tutkaul 2–1,after ibid.); 41–43 backed edges on blades (Tutkaul/Saj-Sajëd, after Ranov
1982 )
Tugais forests 2 and typical steppe close to river deltas and lakes; its technical tradition
came mainly from the local Mesolithic background (Brunet
2006 ; Dzhurakulov and
Kholmatov 1991 ; Guljamov et al. 1966 ; Szymczak and Khudzhanazarov 2006a, b ; Tolstov
1958, 1959 ; Vinogradov 1960 , 1963 , 1968, 1981a ; Vinogradov and Mamedov 1975 ) .
2 Tugai are the riparian forests along the rivers in the desert regions of Central Asia. They mainly
consist of typical fl oodplain vegetation: trees (poplar, tamarisk, maple, ash, and elm), shrubs, reed,
and grass communities.
320 F. Brunet
The subsistence strategies were marked by a focus not only on hunting and gathering but
also with the appearance of domestic cattle. The period, which spanned the 7th millennium
B.C. to the early 4th millennium B.C., can be divided in three broad chronological phases
that led to the blossoming of the Kel’teminar tradition’s main features. The sites of
Uchashchi 131 and Ajakagytma (Vinogradov
1981a ) provide a good illustration of the
early stage of this culture (end of the 7th–6th millennia B.C.) in the region of Zeravshan
(Fig.
12.1 ). New excavations were carried out at the site of Ajakagytma initially by a
Polish-Uzbek archaeological expedition (Szymczak and Khudzhanazarov 2006a ) and
now by a joint French-Uzbek team (MAFANAC)
3 in which Prof. Dr. K. Szymczak
(Institute of Archaeology of Warsaw University, Poland) is an important collaborator.
During the second phase, distinctive regional variants, principally in Zeravshan and in
Choresmia, have been observed.
During the early stage of the Kel’teminar culture , the lithic industry has evidence
of several production systems (Fig. 12.5 ): microblades, bladelets, and blades. These
blanks were often broken by the microburin blow technique in order to transform
them into specifi c geometrical morphotypes such as triangles and trapezes.
Microblades and bladelets were essential elements for composite tools; blades were
the main blanks for side scrapers and denticulates. Reduction sequence analysis
indicates that there were at least two techniques employed for obtaining these
blanks. The most common is a very well-controlled indirect percussion. The majority
of the crested blades, second-generation bladelets, and striking platform rejuvena-
tion fl akes were produced using indirect percussion. The second technique is repre-
sented by the bullet-shaped core method using a pressure technique that implies a
complex reduction system. It took place mainly in the production of narrow blanks
(bladelets and microblades). However, there is also little evidence for the production
of regular blades through the use of the pressure knapping technique. Therefore, it
seems that in comparison with the Mesolithic period, this last technique was no
longer restricted in the Kel’teminar culture to the production of very small supports,
suggesting that new skills had been acquired. This change might have been introduced
by Mesolithic Ural groups that were in contact with this culture, as some other lithic
elements (e.g., geometrical microliths) indicate.
During the second stage (5th–4th millennia B.C.), the lithic technological pattern
remained quite the same except for one aspect. This temporal stage saw the signifi -
cant development of blade production (Fig. 12.5 ), which requires the involvement
of elaborated skills and, to some extent, bladelet production as well. Both of these
blank types were selected for various tools (geometrical microliths, notches,
denticulates, burins on truncations, scrapers, and end scrapers). Among these, the
Kel’teminar arrowhead and the horned trapeze , which have wide distribution in
many parts of Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Russia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan,
3 This archaeological expedition, codirected by Dr. M. Khudzhanazarov (Institute of Archaeology of
the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Samarkand) and the author, is fi nancially
supported by the French Foreign Offi ce; we owe our deep thanks to these two institutions. We express
also our greatest gratitude to Prof. Dr. K. Szymczak for his fi nancial and scientifi c support.
321
12 The Technique of Pressure Knapping in Central Asia: Innovation or Diffusion?
Northern Afghanistan), could have been seen as having not just functional but also
symbolic value, as a way to defi ne social identity. It is interesting to note that from
this period onward, the place of the pressure knapping technique becomes more
prominent in the blade production. On that subject, one hypothesis I am exploring
is the suggestion of the new relationship that developed between the Kel’teminar
culture (especially the regional variant located in Chorasmia) and the agropastoral
community of Southern Turkmenistan (Fig.
12.1 ), which is indicated in other
spheres of the material culture, particularly the decoration of the handmade pottery
(Vinogradov 1957 ; Itina 1959 ; Brunet 2007 ). The Kel’teminar culture appears as a
key culture located at the crossroads of the north and the south of Central Asia, in
connection with several groups from steppe and oasis areas.
12.4.2 The Atbasar Culture (Kazakhstan)
In the steppe-forest zone of Northern Kazakhstan, the Neolithic Atbasar culture
(5th–4th millennia B.C.) is represented through an abundance of functionally vari-
able sites (Figs. 12.1 , 12.5 ), including both settlements and workshops (Kislenko
and Pleshakov 1998 ; Pleshakov 1993 ; Zajbert 1992 ) . It developed from the local
Mesolithic, retaining microblade production using the pressure knapping technique
( bullet-shaped cores) and the production of very regular narrow blanks that remained
almost unmodifi ed by retouch. However, the introduction of few regular blades
(detached by indirect percussion or pressure knapping technique?) and new formal
tools can be observed – points, trapezes, triangular arrowheads with a basal notch,
bifacial pieces, and leaf-shaped bifacial points (Fig. 12.5 ). It seems possible that
these tools were operated in quite different functional, even socioeconomic, contexts.
Innovations appear simultaneously in other spheres, in particular the appearance of
handmade pottery with incised or combed decoration, and the domestic horse at the
very end of this period (Zajbert 1993 ; Meshcherjakov and Morgunova 1996 ; Kalieva
1998 ; Levine 1999 ; Anthony and Brown 2000 ) . These new implements, which
enrich the Mesolithic cultural background, are quite similar to those found in the
neighboring regions of Eastern Kazakhstan, Altai (Kirjushin and Kljukin 1985 ;
Molodin 1977 ) and Eastern Siberia (Khlobystyn 1996 ) , where most related sites
have been dated to the 5th–4th millennia B.C. Due to the lack of precise radiocarbon
dates, it is currently not possible to identify the exact origin of these new features
and, consequently, to explain the reasons and the source of their appearance in
Northern Kazakhstan (invention? acculturation? diffusion? borrowing?).
12.4.3 The Hissar Culture (Tajikistan)
In the foothills of Tajikistan, the Hissar culture (7th–4th millennia B.C.) (Litvinskij
and Ranov 1998 ; Ranov 1982, 1984, 1985 ; Ranov and Korobkova 1971 ) reveals a
322 F. Brunet
similar situation to Atbasar culture (Figs. 12.1 , 12.5 ). Has the food producing
economy been developed from the local Mesolithic just as the material culture did?
The faunal remains from the sites show the exploitation of both domestic (sheep/
goat) and wild animals, with a higher proportion of the latter, suggesting a short-
distance form of mobile pastoralism. The lithic assemblage, especially at the site of
Tutkaul, shows the continuation of the earlier Mesolithic tradition (pressure micro-
blade technology according to the Yubetsu method) together with the introduction
of new Neolithic components such as a blade production using the indirect percus-
sion, fl ake production by direct percussion (hard hammer), and the presence of
trapezes and of polished axes (Fig.
12.5 ). These new elements seem to be linked
with intrasite evidence of domestic activities inside as revealed by the use-wear
studies. These include tasks related mainly to leather, skin, and woodworking
(Ranov and Korobkova 1971 ) . However, the presence of some very regular blades
raises the question of the use of the pressure knapping technique and, consequently,
of the origin of this new technological skill.
12.4.4 Toward the Bronze Age
During the Chalcolithic/Eneolithic period, pressure knapping tends to disappear
gradually from Central Asia. Following the emergence of the fi rst Bronze Age
communities, it is seen only in the shaping process of bifacial tools and projectile
points. From then on, stone knapping leads mainly to the production of fl akes using
hard-hammer percussion. It would be too simplistic and certainly premature to attribute
this considerable transition, characterized by the abandonment of the pressure knap-
ping technique and blade technology, to the arrival of new population. If we cannot
deny the existence of new cultural features tightly linked to Bronze Age communities
and thus perhaps of new groups, in particular in the steppe zone of Central Asia, it
seems to us that a more complex situation, changing according to regions, took place
during the Eneolithic period. Additional characterizations are necessary in order to
better appreciate this transitional period, which suggests the beginning of not only
economic (marked especially by the introduction of new tools and the development
of domestication processes) but also symbolic and cultural transformations.
12.5 Conclusion
It must be recognized that further research needs to be conducted in order to confi rm
some of the interpretations presented here and to better understand the factors
surrounding the development of the pressure knapping technique in Central Asia.
Nevertheless, this investigation has yielded three signifi cant results.
Firstly, the pressure knapping technique appeared in several areas of Central
Asia at the very beginning of the Holocene. It was used by mobile foragers to
produce microblades and bladelets that generally served as for projectile elements
323
12 The Technique of Pressure Knapping in Central Asia: Innovation or Diffusion?
(weapon components?) or hafted tools. Except in the case of sites of Tajikistan and
Kazakhstan (eastern and southern), some of these tools show a geometric form.
Indeed, in these regions of Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, the stone knapping system
echoes the Final Paleolithic tradition of the Far East (Southern Siberia, Russian Far
East, Mongolia, and Northern China), which is characterized by the use of the
hand crutch. The documented penetration of the pressure technique linked to this
method into eastern and southern Central Asia suggests that this innovation was
adopted either through cultural contact with the Far East or by means of migration
of the bearers of this technique across Siberia, Mongolia, or Xinjiang.
The second method, which is linked with the pressure knapping technique in
Central Asia, involves a more “classical” style of knapping technology leading to
the development of bullet-shaped cores with their corresponding narrow bladelets
and microblades. Depending upon the culture, these products were detached using
either a short crutch or a shoulder crutch. This observation raises one important
issue: was the appearance of this method a result of a transmission of knowledge
and technologies, or a local invention? Actually, the existence of several core areas,
notably in the northern (the Kazakh–Ural area) and southern (the Irano–Afghan
area) parts of Central Asia, has to be considered as a distinct possibility. Moreover,
the data for the northern region suggests the particular infl uence or the Ural
Mesolithic lithic tradition on other groups in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
Secondly, and with reference to the early sedentary farmers of Southern
Turkmenistan (for instance, the Jeitun culture ), the pressure knapping technique
changes radically with the appearance of these fi rst Neolithic societies: it is now
exclusively used for the production of regular blades.
Lastly, microblade production using the pressure technique is still found in cul-
tures in the process of neolithization in Uzbekistan ( Kel’teminar ), Tajikistan ( Hissar ),
and Kazakhstan ( Atbasar ), a fact that highlights the persistence of the local Mesolithic
tradition in these cultures. However, it seems that blade production became wide-
spread in parallel with the appearance of Neolithic features although these new
blanks remain rare in comparison with the other types (e.g., the Hissar culture ). The
picture given by the Kel’teminar culture is quite different, with the existence of blade
production, probably based upon detachment using the pressure technique, dating
back to the early phase (6th millennium B.C.). This production mode becomes sig-
nifi cant in the following phase, a factor that may refl ect the development of a rela-
tionship between the two major cultural areas: Kel’teminar in Uzbekistan and the
Eneolithic agropastoral societies in the Southern Turkmenistan. Likewise, I can infer
that the early connection with the Mesolithic Southern Ural cultures, where a blade
production using the pressure technique is observed, acquainted the Kel’teminar
groups with this method which they later adopted. Indeed, it could be argued that
these different cultures were in mutual contact through exchange systems.
Therefore, the situation of Central Asia’s territory is partly similar to that known
in other Eurasian areas since the shift toward the blade technology occurs at the time
of the emergence of the Neolithic with major changes in diet as well as in living
conditions. However, in Central Asia, the situation remains complex, and we must
be careful about taking this scenario too far, given the preliminary nature of the
technological investigations on this territory. Moreover, the chronological
324 F. Brunet
(i.e., reliable radiocarbon dates), economical (i.e., information on subsistence
behavior), and paleoenvironmental database for this period is not suffi ciently repre-
sentative and abundant to offer a secure comparative framework for the study of the
use of pressure knapping technique inside various cultural contexts and its evolution
through time. This paucity of data complicates interpretations of the archaeological
materials. Lastly, many issues remain to be addressed: not least of all are those
concerning the reasons for the use or invention of the pressure knapping technique
in Central Asia. Indeed, several possible explanations can be proposed – reducing
the rates of errors in the manufacturing process (Elston and Brantingham
2002 ) , the
development of production effi ciency, conservation of high-quality raw material,
standardization of production or of the toolkits, or the result of considerable interac-
tion that affected cultural areas during the process of neolithization.
Acknowledgments The results discussed in this article would not have been possible without
the support of many colleagues from various research institutes: the Institute of Archaeology of the
Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan (Samarkand), the Al-Farabi Kazakh National University
(Almaty), the Margulan Institute of Archaeology of the Academy of Sciences of Kazakhstan
(Almaty), the Central State Museum of Kazakhstan (Almaty), the Turco-Kazakh Ahmed Yesevi
University (Turkestan), the History Museum (Shymkent), the Institute of Archaeology, History
and Ethnology of the Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan (Dushanbe), the Institute for the History
of Material Culture of the Russian Academy of Sciences (St. Petersburg), and the Institute of
Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Moscow). I would like to express here my deep
gratitude to all of them for providing me with full access to their scientifi c material. My grateful
thanks are due to the reviewers for helping to improve noticeably the English language quality of
the manuscript.
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... The SDG12 lithic assemblage, comprising more than 9000 pieces, is typical of the Late Pleistocene microlithic industries found in China ( Gao et al., 2009;Pei et al., 2012;Yi et al., 2013Yi et al., , 2016 and in adjacent regions from Central Asia to Alaska (Goebel, 2002;Brunet, 2012;G omez Coutouly, 2012;Tabarev, 2012;Takakura, 2012;Kato, 2014). It is dominated by microblade cores and highly standardized microblades, which were likely obtained by pressure flaking (Pelegrin, 2012), but also includes end-scrapers, notches, points, borers, and burins ( Gao et al., 2013;Yi et al., 2013). ...
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Until recently ¹ it was admitted that the pressure debitage technique had been invented at the end of the Upper Paleolithic, and its presence in different geographical zones was difficult to explain. Now that we are able to recognize it thanks to advances in experimentation, its invention seems to have been made some 20,000 years ago in the vast area where the Mongoloid people, who were to occupy the Far East, the Beringian zone and America, first appeared. We are going to describe the methodological approach which allowed us to imply pressure debitage as a cultural marker in the history of prehistoric penetration into North America and to show the specificity of this technique in the Paleolithic of North Asia. Our proposal is a development of an unpublished paper presented at the Novosibirsk Symposium in 1990 ² . The opportunity we had then to examine lithic industries from Siberia convinced us of the early use of the pressure technique.
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In August of 1976 the authors made an initial archaeological survey of the Dasht-i-Nawur, a highland volcanic-tectonic basin in Central Afghanistan. Two Epi-Paleolithic surface sites and one later hill fortification of uncertain date were discovered and investigated. An outstanding feature of the Epi-Paleolithic sites was that the source of virtually the entire tool industry was a locally available obsidian, a material that has not been found before in archaeological context in Afghanistan or nearby regions. The Dasht-i-Nawur, therefore, must be added to the short list of obsidian sources in Southwest Asia.