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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).
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The WEAP Method: a New Age in the Analysis
of the Acheulean Handaxes
Paula García-Medrano
1
&Nick Ashton
1
&Marie-Hélène Moncel
2
&Andreu Ollé
3,4
#Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020
Abstract
This paper presents a unified methodology to describe critical features in lithic
assemblages, in order to better interpret the Middle Pleistocene hominin occupa-
tion 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 technolog-
ical 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).
Keywords Middle Pleistocene .Acheulean .Handaxes .Typ olo gy .Chaîne opératoire .
Geometric Morphometrics
Journal of Paleolithic Archaeology
https://doi.org/10.1007/s41982-020-00054-5
*Paula García-Medrano
pgarciamedrano@gmail.com
Extended author information available on the last page of the article
Author's personal copy
... Large cutting tools were inspected through descriptive and metric variables similar to those recently reported in the WEAP method, including blank type (large flake or cobble), number of faces, cortex percentage and location, plan view and profile shape, total number of flake scars, number of primary shaping, and the number of thinning and retouch scars [117]. Handaxes from Area 1 were compared to examples from Rietputs 15 (n = 57;~1.3 ...
... 10 Tables in S1 Data. The lithic assemblage demonstrates both small debitage (production of flakes that were retouched and/or used as blanks) and LCT production chains, which typifies the Acheulian industry (Table 2) [116,117,150]. While cores and small to mediumsized flakes (20-111 mm) demonstrate small debitage production occurred on site, roughouts and éclats de taille de biface flakes document the production of LCTs at Amanzi Springs. ...
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... To address the question of the variation in bifaces through the sequence and thus of the technological continuity and/or innovations at the site, handaxes and cleavers were analyzed according to the Western European Acheulean Project (WEAP) method (García-Medrano et al., 2020a). This is a unified method of analysis which considers each LCT from two points of view: 1) as a single unit, including aspects such as the raw material type, blank type, facial working, cortex presence, edge delineation, profile symmetry, and number of scars; and 2) the sum of three different parts (tip, mid, butt), each analyzed independently, defining the type of hammer used, number of removal series, the depth of scars on the edge, invasiveness of each removal series, and type of shaping (Table 3). ...
... Technological features used in this study to analyze handaxes followingGarcía-Medrano et al. (2020a). ...
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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.
... Like outline waviness, sinuosity has been rarely quantified in lithic analyses of bifaces. Most often, sinuosity is assessed via qualitative descriptions (Leakey 1951;Gaillard et al. 1985;Shelley 1990;Darmark 2010;Jennings 2013;Shipton 2013;Key 2016;García-Medrano et al. 2020;Sano et al. 2020). However, Herzlinger et al. (2021) quantified sinuosity (section irregularity) according to the goodness of fit between the side-view outline coordinates (48 semi-landmarks) and a linear regression fitted to these coordinates. ...
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... As entry-level scanners are becoming more affordable, this method is increasingly becoming a cost-effective alternative to existing documentation and analysis methods. Already, we have distributed Arti-fact3-D to many archaeological centers worldwide who have begun incorporating it into their workflows (e.g., [73,[166][167][168][169][170]), and we hope that it will become a common tool for others. The natural next step is to design a web-based archaeological database that integrates the features of Artifact3-D for the documentation and analysis of the web-datasets. ...
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... Technological features on each tool (A considering each tool as one unit, and B each tool divided into three parts), measurements, indices and angles (according toGarcía-Medrano et al. 2020) (Fig. 2) ...
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... Stone artifacts were divided into two main technological groups characterized by different sequences of reduction: Large Cutting Tools (LCTs) and core reduction products. The LCTs are defined (see García-Medrano et al. 2020) as more or less standardized forms of unifacial and bifacial tools (choppers, cleavers, handaxes, etc.). The techno-morphological analysis was adjusted to consider the attributes specific to particular artifact groups (cores, tools, and debitage), as well as features common to each artifact (e.g. ...
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... This method combines the measures of Bordes (1961) and Roe (1968), additional metrics such as edge angles, and technical features such as Shipton and Clarkson's (2015a) scar density index (SDI). Here, the measures are taken using the aforementioned Geomagic Design-X software as opposed to the software utilized by García-Medrano et al. (2020). Using WEAP methodology, handaxes are viewed both as a complete implement and as the sum of three interconnected parts, the distal, medial, and proximal areas. ...
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