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Lithic use-wear analysis of the Early Gravettian of Vale Boi (Cape St. Vicente, southern Portugal): insights into human technology and settlement in southwestern Iberia

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During the Upper Paleolithic, lithic variability is one of the most important keys to recognize hunter-gatherer behavior, technology, ecology, and social dynamics. The origin and expansion of Gravettian populations in Eurasia has been seen as one of the most critical episodes in human evolution, argued to be the first clear evidence of the so-called polymorphism among modern human populations. In the case of southern Iberian Peninsula, recent data have shown a new regional and diachronic organization for the Gravettian occupation in this region. Therefore, the interpretation of such variability is one of the most important questions, and functional analysis is a fundamental proxy to recognize human technological, settlement and ecological adaptations as major factors for this polymorphism. This study focused on lithic use-wear analysis of the Early Gravettian of Vale Boi (southern Portugal), in order to understand lithic technological organization and variability within and between occupations at the site. Results show similar patterns between assemblages, showing that different materials were worked at the site, although showing reduced time of work, low variability and percentage of pieces used. Unlike other Gravettian contexts in southern Iberia, the Early Gravettian from Vale Boi is characterized by some variability of backed points, marked by the predominance of bipointed double-backed bladelets. Functional analysis of the Early Gravettian lithic industries of Vale Boi provide a new insight to interpret human technology and settlement strategy during the onset of Upper Paleolithic industries in western Eurasia.
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ORIGINAL PAPER
Lithic use-wear analysis of the Early Gravettian of Vale Boi (Cape
St. Vicente, southern Portugal): insights into human technology
and settlement in southwestern Iberia
João Marreiros
1,2
&Juan Gibaja
1,2
&Nuno Bicho
1
Received: 5 May 2016 /Accepted: 29 August 2016 /Published online: 7 September 2016
#Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016
Abstract During the Upper Paleolithic, lithic variability is
one of the most important keys to recognize hunter-gatherer
behavior, technology, ecology, and social dynamics. The ori-
gin and expansion of Gravettian populations in Eurasia has
been seen as one of the most critical episodes in human evo-
lution, argued to be the first clear evidence of the so-called
polymorphism among modern human populations. In the case
of southern Iberian Peninsula, recent data have shown a new
regional and diachronic organization for the Gravettian occu-
pation in this region. Therefore, the interpretation of such
variability is one of the most important questions, and func-
tional analysis is a fundamental proxy to recognize human
technological, settlement and ecological adaptations as major
factors for this polymorphism. This study focused on lithic
use-wear analysis of the Early Gravettian of Vale Boi (south-
ern Portugal), in order to understand lithic technological orga-
nization and variability within and between occupations at the
site. Results show similar patterns between assemblages,
showing that different materials were worked at the site, al-
though showing reduced time of work, low variability and
percentage of pieces used. Unlike other Gravettian contexts
in southern Iberia, the Early Gravettian from Vale Boi is char-
acterized by some variability of backed points, marked by the
predominance of bipointed double-backed bladelets.
Functional analysis of the Early Gravettian lithic industries
of Vale Boi provide a new insight to interpret human technol-
ogy and settlement strategy during the onset of Upper
Paleolithic industries in western Eurasia.
Keywords Iberia peninsula .Gravettian .Lithic variability .
Backed technology
Introduction
In addition to the technological, sociocultural, symbolic and
artistic homogeneous matrix that characterizes the expansion
of the Gravettian culture in Western Europe ca.3526 ka
calBP, human settlement and technological adaptation to
new territories, natural resources and climatic changes during
MIS 3-2, are reflected in the variability of the archeological
record (e.g., Kozłowski, 2015; Svoboda, 2005,2007). Thus,
such cultural mosaic, seen as a reflex of different technolog-
ical patterns and organization, has recently been recognized in
different regional and ecological territories during the expan-
sion of Gravettian in such a short timeframe, that has been
argued as one of the most important steps for the so-called
techno-cultural polymorphism that characterizes all the Upper
Paleolithic sequence (Klaric, 2003;Pesesse,2006; Klaric,
2007;Moreau,2012).
In the Iberian Peninsula, although the Gravettian homoge-
neity is generally characterized by backed technology, during
the last decades, lithic technological and tool design variabil-
ity have been organized in three main regional settings: (1) the
Cantabrian region, (2) the western Portuguese Atlantic coast
and (3) the southern Mediterranean Spanish corridor (Bicho
et al., 2014; Bradtmöller et al., 2015;delaPeñaandToscano,
2013; Marreiros et al., 2015;delaPeña,2009). Different
technological adaptations in these territories are likely related
to different ecological configurations (e.g., landscape,
*João Marreiros
jmmarreiros@ualg.pt
1
ICArEHB. Faculdade das Ciências Humanas e Sociais, Universidade
do Algarve, Campus Gambelas, 8005-139 Faro, Portugal
2
IMF-CSIC. Institución Milá i Fontanals, Groups Agrest, C/
Egipcíaques, 15, E-08001 Barcelona, Spain
Archaeol Anthropol Sci (2018) 10:631645
DOI 10.1007/s12520-016-0382-4
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
... Odell 1977;Van Gijn 1990). Gradually, this method has been applied to more categories of material, such as ground stone, bone, and antler tools, as well as shell and coral implements, pottery sherds, and bodily adornments (Van Gijn and Hofman 2008; Gao and Chen 2008;Dubreuil and Savage 2014;Marreiros et al. 2018;Breukel 2019;Guzzo Falci et al. 2020). Microwear analysis requires the use of optical microscopes such as a stereoscope for observations at low magnifications (under 100x) or an incident light metallographic microscope with high magnification (100x-630x). ...
Thesis
China was one of the world’s primary centres of independent agricultural development. This dissertation offers further insights into the foodways of the earliest farmers in the upper catchment of the Huai River in Central China. Chapter 2 combines two different analytical methods, use wear and starch grain analysis, to investigate the uses of different types of grinding tools. At the site of Jiahu in the research region, use-wear traces associated with processing cereal and wood-like material were identified. This result provides substantial evidence of cereal processing in the early Neolithic period. It also reveals the diversity of functions in the grinding tool assemblage. Interestingly, the use-wear distribution indicates that grinding slabs without feet and cylindrical rollers were mainly associated with the cereal processing, while grinding slabs with feet were primarily related to wood-like material processing. Quantitative analysis of the starch data also indicates that grinding slabs without feet possess more starch grains than the grinding slabs with feet. Therefore, it has been argued that specific types of grinding tools were used for processing specific kinds of material. Chapter 3 explores further which grinding techniques were employed for cereal processing by the Jiahu inhabitants. The experiments carried out for Chapter 3 reveals that the micro-polish developed from dry- and wet-grinding of cereals is different in terms of the resulting texture and morphology. This result offers an approach to infer past food-processing techniques by analysing the used areas of the ancient grinding implements. Although wet- and dry-grinding are both common processing practices nowadays in China, the analyses indicate that the Jiahu population preferred to grind dry cereals. Comparing to wet-grinding, Chapter 4 discovers that dry-grinding causes more significant morphological changes to starch grains and consequently affect starch grain recognition and identification, especially in the case of starch grains from rice. This finding suggests that the scarcity of starch grains from rice on grinding tools from many of the early rice farming societies such as Jiahu could probably have resulted from plant processing using the dry-grinding technique. Thus, rice was probably processed with Neolithic grinding tools to a more considerable extent than previously considered. Chapter 5 investigates dietary plant food processing at the site of Tanghu, another Neolithic community in the research region. The results reveal that flour-based foods were produced from various plants at Tanghu, but mainly from cereals. Similar to the site of Jiahu, a dry-grinding technique was preferred for cereal processing at Tanghu. Apart from food processing, the Tanghu grinding tool assemblage was associated with processing bone. These findings provide more data on the Neolithic culinary practices and different uses of grinding tools, allowing a consideration of ancient foodways more broadly in the research region. Chapter 6 consolidates the results from the study of archaeological grinding tools and previous research on food and food-related activities to discuss the178 foodways of the Jiahu population. In Chapter 7, a comparison of foodways at the site of Jiahu and sites attributed to the Peiligang Culture suggests similarities and differences among these communities, reflecting the intangible cultural boundaries and interactions between these two Neolithic cultures. Overall, this dissertation highlights that the Neolithic grinding tools played different roles in early farming societies, especially in food processing practices. By combining the research on grinding tools and the information related to food and food-related activities, it also demonstrates an efficient way to reconstruct elements of lifeways of early farmers through studying their foodways.
... The lack of chert and flint raw material in the area of Lubná inspired the hunter-gatherers to obtain bladelet blanks to make hunting weaponry from burin spalls, which in turn resulted in a high frequency of burins in the lithic inventory. A very similar armature technology was recovered in Portugal at the Early Gravettian site of Vale Boi, where burins without any traces of use served as cores for bladelet production (Marreiros et al., 2018) and in France, where Middle Gravettian sites distinguished as Rayssian, dated to 31.2-27.4 ky cal BP, have produced burins used to produce blanks for backed artefacts and Gravette/microgravette points (Klaric, 2007). ...
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This paper presents the results of excavations conducted at the Late Gravettian site of Lubná VI in 2012 and 2018. This site is an exceptional example of a short-term Late Gravettian campsite, occupied between 27.5 and 27.1 ka cal BP. Due to the specific location of this site, in an area situated far from lithic raw material sources, the archaeological remains offer a rare possibility to understand the subsistence strategy of highly mobile hunter-gatherers in the Late Pleistocene. The knapped lithic assemblage is composed of erratic Cretaceous flint imported over long distances, and the tool inventory is typical of Late Gravettian assemblages from Central Europe, with a dominance of burins and backed implements. However, the lack of chert and flint raw material in the vicinity of the site inspired the occupants to use bladelet blanks to make hunting weaponry from burin spalls. This specific behaviour is unique among Gravettian inventories known from the western Carpathians. Reindeer dominate the faunal assemblage over other species. The season of occupation at Lubná VI was probably early autumn, and may be associated with the maximum use of environmental resources by the hunter-gatherers. The small campsite was located at a convenient spot for processing reindeer carcasses, where some hearth stone constructions were arranged. Because there was no woody vegetation in the closest vicinity of the site, reindeer bones and fat were used as fuel in hearths. Given the lack of nearby flint raw materials, the accessibility of large numbers of reindeer near Lubná, probably present on a seasonal basis, explains the occurrence of Late Gravettian occupation in this micro-region.
... Clusters of sites in Estremadura, the Côa Valley, Alentejo, and a stratified sequence at Vale Boi, in Algarve, point to a marked increase in human presence on the landscape during the Gravettian time period Straus et al., 2000;Zilhão, 1997). The chronological and technological organization of the Gravettian has been the focus of numerous studies over the last 25 years (Almeida, 2000;Almeida et al., 2009;Aubry et al., 2001Aubry et al., , 2007Aubry et al., , 2016Bicho, 2000;Bicho et al., 2013Bicho et al., , 2015Bicho et al., , 2017aGaspar et al., 2016;Marreiros et al., , 2015Marreiros et al., , 2018Pereira et al., 2012a,b;Straus et al., 1988;Zilhão, 1997Zilhão, , 2000Zilhão and Almeida, 2002). Subsistence is largely known through the analysis of faunal assemblages from a handful of sites including, Vale Boi, Picareiro, Anecrial, Lagar Velho, and Buraca Escura (Aubry et al., 2001;Brugal, 2006;Davis, 2002;Haws, 2012;Manne, 2014;Manne and Bicho, 2009;Moreno-Garcia and Pimenta, 2002). ...
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