The quartzite cleavers form Atapuerca (Burgos, Spain): the standardization of shape

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The term “Mental Template” has been used frequently, especially in discussions about Acheulean handaxes. Nevertheless, the standardization of shape not only affects handaxes but also cleavers. The aim is to analyze the whole sense of the cleaver tool-type through the study of the quartzite cleavers of the Middle Pleistocene sites of Gran Dolina -TD10.1 and Galería (Atapuerca, Spain). These tools are made on both cobbles and flake, using different techniques to produce the same tool-type. The main idea to explore is that shape standardization not only affects the morphology of tools but also their function. The type of actions performed with these tools produce small edge fracturing on their tips, removing any previous well developed polishes and other use-wear features. So, we propose a new approach, based on the 3D scanning of edges, combined with the use-wear analysis by SEM microscopy. The archaeological sample will be compared with experimental tools used in different activities, the wear of which has been monitored by means of 3D scanning before and after use and by sequential microscopic recording of the microwear. The preliminary results highlight the good preservation of the archaeological artefacts, and effectively allow us to identify generic actions carried out by the analysed tools. So, experimental data combined with a multi-technique approach including 3D models proved to be useful to improve our knowledge on the functional role of the Acheulean cleavers.
Proceedings of the Vth International
Congress of Experimental Archaeology
25th-27th October, 2017 - Tarragona
Època V, any 2016-2017, núm. 38-39
Època V, any 2018, núm. 40
Tarragona, 25-27 d’octubre de 2017
Tarragona, 25-27 October 2017
Isabel Cáceres (URV-IPHES), Isabel Expósito (IPHES-URV),
Marta Fontanals (URV-IPHES), M. Gema Chacón (IPHES-URV),
Josep Maria Vergès (IPHES-URV)
Butlletí Arqueològic, V, 40 (2018), ISSN 1695-5862 (p. 33-39)
P G-M1, A P2,
L A3,4, A O3,4, A B-C5
e term “Mental Template” has been used frequently, especially in discussions about Acheulean
handaxes. Nevertheless, the standardization of shape not only aects handaxes but also cleavers. e
aim is to analyze the whole sense of the cleaver tool-type through the study of the quartzite cleavers
of the Middle Pleistocene sites of Gran Dolina-TD10.1 and Galería (Atapuerca, Spain). ese
tools are made on both cobbles and ake, using dierent techniques to produce the same tool-type.
e main idea to explore is that shape standardization not only aects the morphology of tools
but also their function. e type of actions performed with these tools produce small edge frac-
turing on their tips, removing any previous well developed polishes and other use-wear features.
So, we propose a new approach, based on the 3D scanning of edges, combined with the use-wear
analysis by SEM microscopy. e archaeological sample will be compared with experimental
tools used in dierent activities, the wear of which has been monitored by means of 3D scanning
before and after use and by sequential microscopic recording of the microwear.
e preliminary results highlight the good preservation of the archaeological artefacts, and eec-
tively allow us to identify generic actions carried out by the analysed tools. So, experimental data
combined with a multi-technique approach including 3D models proved to be useful to improve
our knowledge on the functional role of the Acheulean cleavers.
1. Dept. of Prehistory & Europe, British Museum, Franks House, 56 Orsman Road, Lon-
don N1 5QJ, UK
2. TraCEr, laboratory for Traceology and Controlled Experiments. MONREPOS Archae-
ological Research Centre and Museum for Human Behavioural Evolution. Schloss Monrepos,
56567 Neuwied, Germany
3. IPHES, Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social, Zona Educacional 4,
Campus Sescelades URV (Edici W3), 43007 Tarragona, Spain
4. Àrea de Prehistòria, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Fac. de Lletres, Av. Catalunya 35, 43002
Tarragona, Spain
5. CENIEH, Paseo Sierra de Atapuerca, 3, 09002 Burgos, Spain
Butlletí Arqueològic, V, 40 (2018), ISSN 1695-5862 (p. 33-39)
El término Mental Template ha sido usado frecuentemente, referido principalmente a bifaces en con-
textos Achelenses. Sin embargo, la estandarización en la forma no sólo afecta a los bifaces sino tam-
bién a los hendedores. El objetivo de este trabajo es abordar el estudio del morfotipo hendedor desde
distintos puntos de vista, analizando los hendedores de cuarcita de Galeria y Gran Dolina-TD10.1
(Atapuerca, España). Estos están hechos tanto sobre cantos como lascas, usando diferentes técnicas para
producir el mismo instrumento.
La idea principal es analizar si la estandarización no sólo afecta a la forma de los instrumentos sino
también a su función. En este caso, el tipo de acción desarrollada produce pequeñas fracturaciones
en los los, eliminando los pulidos previos. Proponemos un nuevo método combinando el escaneo
3D con el análisis de las huellas de uso con el microscopio SEM. La muestra arqueológica será
comparada con los instrumentos experimentales, usados en distintas actividades y cuyas huellas de
uso han sido monitorizadas a través de escaneos de los los, antes y después del uso, y observaciones
La buena conservación de los instrumentos nos ha permitido identicar las acciones genéricas desarro-
lladas. Además, la combinación de los datos experimentales con el análisis multi-escala propuesto nos
permitirá ampliar nuestro conocimiento del papel jugado por los hendedores Achelenses.
Keywords: Acheulean, cleaver, functional analysis, 3D, microscopy, experimental archaeology.
Palabras clave: Achelense, hendedor, análisis functional, 3D, microscopía, arqueología experimen-
Stone cleavers are one of the most distinctive components of the Acheulean.
is is a group within the bifacial tools, the most characteristic components of the
late Lower and Middle Pleistocene industries. T (1957) dened the cleaver
as a ake tool with a non-retouched transverse distal edge. In spite of the intense
debate regarding the handaxe variability, there are just few works focused on the
cleavers (C et al. 2015; K and K 1976; V et al. 2017).
We propose a new methodological approach for analysing the function of the
quartzite cleavers from the Middle Pleistocene contexts of Atapuerca (Spain),
based on the combination of dierent observational levels. ese tools are on
ake but also on cobbles and sometimes with a retouched transverse distal end.
But beyond this formal variability, does there exist a standardization of shape
which aects to the use of these tools?
We focused on the GII-GIII archeopaleontological units of Galeria site (At-
apuerca), dated between 400Ka to 220Ka (mean age). In Gran Dolina, we fo-
cused only in the TD10.1 sublevel, dated in around 300ka (O et al. 2013,
Butlletí Arqueològic, V, 40 (2018), ISSN 1695-5862 (p. 33-39)
As well as the handaxes, cleavers are more frequent at the oldest levels of
Galería (G-M et al. 2015). ese were manufactured on a wide
variety of raw materials (quartzite, quartz, sandstone and Neogene chert), and
corresponds with types 0, 1, 2 and 5 (T 1957). In this case, we will focus
on the cleavers made on quartzite (table 1).
Site Levels Total LCT Total Cleavers on Quartzite on Cobble on Flake
GIIa 13 (6,14%) 4 (30,76%) 422
GIIb 17 (4,09%) 8 (47,05%) 312
GIIIa 15 (4,87%) 2 (13,33%) ---
GIIIb 8 (3,03%) ----
Gran Dolina TD10.1 33 (0,21%) 5 (15,15%) 2-2
Galería and Gran Dolina-TD10.1 show two dierent ways of shaping LCT
(G-M et al. 2015; O et al. 2013). e rst one (Unit GII) in-
volves taking advantage of the original features of the supports (mainly quartz-
ite cobbles), retaining cortical surfaces and using a high number of removals
on specic sectors of the tools. ese instruments are the most elongated and
thicker. e second technique (Unit GIII and TD10.1), involves shaping on
ake supports (mainly of Neogene chert) with fewer blows, but aecting more
surface, resulting in more irregular shapes. e high standardization of shapes
decreases to the top of the sequence.
We have developed a pilot experimental program to produce and use these
quartzite cleavers. e chosen varieties of quartzite come from Formación
Utrillas and the Arlanzón river terraces (B-C and P-G,
2015; P et al. 2017). Using those replicas, we reproduced a set of
basic activities (table 2).
Tool Number Activity Developed
A3-12-1 Chopping bone
Olmos 2-1 Chopping and Scraping Wood
Olmos 2-2 Dismembering
Olmos 2-3 Skinning and Chopping bone
Olmos 3-1 Deeshing
Table 2. Experimental
quartzite cleavers and the
activities developed.
Table 1. Total number of LCT by sites and subunits (%with respect to the total number
of pieces of each subunit) and cleavers (% with respect to the total number of LCT of each
subunit), specifying those on quartzite and, among them, those on cobble and on ake.
Butlletí Arqueològic, V, 40 (2018), ISSN 1695-5862 (p. 33-39)
e traceological analysis of experimental tools was undertaken from a mul-
ti-scale approach. 3D scanning was used for macrowear quantication, includ-
ing the analysis of topographical surface changes due to their use (B-C-
 et al. 2017, 2018). We got 3D models of each piece before and after the
use (Breuckmann’s SmartScan), and were referenced in a common coordinate
system. After the 3D alignment, surface changes were estimated comparing
the distances between the two 3D models. e alignment was characterized by
RMS errors ranging from 0.05-0.09mm.
We combined two microscopic techniques: Digital 3D Microscope (Hirox
KH-8700), which enhances to work with a wide range of magnication and
oers 3D models and some quantication of the wear features; and Scanning
Electron Microscopy, working at Low vacuum and combining large eld (LFD)
and backscattered (BSD) detectors in a FEI Quanta 600 equipment. Microwear
interpretation is based on previous experiments (O et al. 2016; P
and O 2017).
Most of the carried out activities produced an evident edge fracturing and
scarring on the cleaver tip, especially in activities involving transversal blows.
is damage is big enough to be seen by naked eye, and feasible to be docu-
mented and quantied by means of 3D scanning on both experimental and
archaeological tools. In the experimental pieces, the surface changes are locat-
ed mainly in the edge (g. 1), consisting of negative values associated with a
loss of material. In pieces A3-12-1, Olmos-2-1 and Olmos-2-2 edges changes
show similar values, varying from 0 up to values of -1.1-1.2 mm. e piece
Olmos-2-3 reaches values of -2.5 mm, indicating that the abrasion of the edge
was deeper, and also aected to a higher area (g. 1).
e continuous micro-scarring produces the poor development of other mi-
crowear features (e.g. polish or striations). However, the high resolution of the
SEM let us record some of the microwear information.
Discussion and Conclusions
Micro and macro-wear approaches must be complementarily used to as-
sess the functions of these tools. Besides the classical microwear study methods
(OLM and SEM) and the sequential monitoring, 3D models can bring new
insights on the wear description and quantication. e quantied features on
the experimental samples will oer clues to interpret the 3D recorded mac-
ro-wear on the archaeological ones.
Butlletí Arqueològic, V, 40 (2018), ISSN 1695-5862 (p. 33-39)
ere are no major problems in identifying the distal acute edge (the
cleaver tip) as the main active part of the tool. And although the type of
movement and the intensity of use can be easily identied, the identication
of the worked materials would require a wider experimental collection. e
one referred here is too small, and the referential previously available lacks
e cleavers from Atapuerca, while technologically variable, show a quite
standardised shape, for what they imply a good opportunity to nd out until
which point this is representing also a functional homogeneity. Indeed, the few
available functional information for other sites seems to point to a quite ho-
mogeneous use pattern for this tool type. e systematic application of the ap-
proach presented here will help us to assess the idea of the existence of a mental
template also for the Acheulean cleavers.
Butlletí Arqueològic, V, 40 (2018), ISSN 1695-5862 (p.33-39)
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Butlletí Arqueològic, V, 40 (2018), ISSN 1695-5862 (p. 33-39)
Figure 1. 3D model of quartzite cleaver from Galería: ATA94 TN2B F22, with a s/e drawing,
spotting the area with use-wear traces and a photo detailing the microscaring of the distal
edge thorough SEM microscopy. e lower part of the image shows the surface changes in the
experimental cleavers through the comparison of 3D model created before and after the use
(from left to right, A3-12-1; Olmos-2-1; Olmos-2-3; Olmos-2-2).
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    Full-text available
    This article focuses on the origins for technological variation during the Middle Pleistocene through the analysis of the lithic assemblages from Galería and Gran Dolina-subunit TD10.1 (Atapuerca, Spain). The technological study was organized into three main levels of analysis. The first stage consisted of the technological characterization of the whole assemblage (e.g. the general composition of each sample, the exploitation and shaping methods used, and the characteristics of each item). The second stage involved the morphometric analysis of the large tools, mainly handaxes and cleavers, given the significance of these instruments in Middle Pleistocene assemblages. In this case, we combined traditional technical and metrical analyses with current morphometric methods. Lastly, taking into account the general characteristics of these sites, the third stage consisted of assessing how the different occupational strategies affected the lithic representation. These analyses allowed us to define three technological groups. The first includes unit Galería-GIIa, which corresponds to the appearance of the Acheulean in the Atapuerca caves. The second is represented by the rest of the sequence of the Galería site, mainly the upper part of the sequence (unit GIII). And the third technological corresponds to Gran Dolina-subunit TD10.1. Thus, the Galería sequence shows the technological evolution of the Acheulean over a period of 250 ka. Furthermore, subunit TD10.1 represents a new occupational strategy combining traditional Acheulean tools with more evolved technical strategies.
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    The Sierra de Atapuerca sites offer a chronological sequence that allows the evolution of technology at a local scale during the Early and Middle Pleistocene to be reconstructed. This paper presents updated information on the main lithic assemblages recovered from the various levels of the Sima del Elefante, Gran Dolina, Galería, and Sima de los Huesos sites. The ultimate goal is to look for technological features on the pieces that make up these assemblages that carry evolutionary significance. Other archaeological data will be crossreferenced with the technical features documented in these artefacts in order to better understand the peopling that took place at Atapuerca during the Pleistocene. The first peopling of Atapuerca occurred at 1.2 Ma, and is represented in level TE9 and probably at the top of level TD3-TD4 by Homo sp. and a Mode 1 technology, which is very poor in terms of diversity and energy invested in tool production. This technology is related to opportunistic subsistence strategies that focused on taking advantage of carcasses that had fallen into the cavities. A second cultural phase has been revealed in level TD6, dating to before 800 ka: a phase characterised by new subsistence and technological strategies, although still belonging to Mode 1 and carried out by Homo antecessor. In TD6, the lithic assemblage is rich and diversified. Intensive occupations with well organised subsistence strategies have been documented, including hunting activities and the earliest trace of cannibalism in prehistory. After a hiatus of approximately 300 ky without evidence of hominin presence, the occupations of Galería and TD10 correspond to a third cultural phase, ranging from between 500 ka and 300 ka. They are represented by a Mode 2 technology associated with systematic and directional carcass processing, including hunting events in TD10. H. heidelbergensis appears instead of Homo antecessor, and is extraordinarily represented at the Sima de los Huesos site in the form of an intentional accumulation of numerous individuals. Finally, TD10.1 may represent the local evolution from Mode 2 to Mode 3 assemblages. After comparing these assemblages, it is clear that several technological features have either been retained or changed over the span of the Atapuerca sequence. The following are considered to have evolutionary significance due to the technological trends described: a) raw material selection (use of local varieties of rock, with the progressive increasing selection of the most workable materials through the Middle Pleistocene); b) production sequences (coexistence of several knapping methods, with a clear increase in centripetal strategies and techniques for flake predetermination, which ultimately lead to Levallois-like methods); c) scarce and insignificant presence of choppers and chopping-tools; d) tools on flakes (recorded only from the end of the Early Pleistocene, increasing in number, complexity and standardisation throughout the Middle Pleistocene); and e) large cutting tools (which appear ca 500 ka, and progressively decrease in number, standardisation and intensity of shaping throughout Gran Dolina TD10).