Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Pre-Mousterian industrial complex in Europe between 400 and 300 ka: Interpreting its origin and spatiotemporal variability

Vladimir Doronichev
Quaternary International
Volume 409, Part B,
21 July 2016, Pages 222–240
Special Issue: The Hoslteinian period in Europe (MIS 11-9)

The author discuss data indicating that the non-handaxe (non-Acheulean) tradition of small tools and core-choppers was present in parts of West Eurasia during the early Middle Pleistocene – the period marked by a wide spread of Acheulean in West Asia and West Europe – and survived until 400–300 ka and perhaps later in some areas, beyond the area of the maximum Acheulean distribution, in the Danube basin and the Balkans, and to a limited extent north of the Danube basin in Central Europe, and in the south of Russian plain and Northern Caucasus in Eastern Europe. The author defines these Middle Pleistocene assemblages, which are totally lacking true Acheulean handaxes and debitage resulted from large flake or Levallois knapping technologies, as the “Pre-Mousterian industrial complex”. The assemblages of Pre-Mousterian complex are variable due to their functional differentiation and other reasons, but generally comprise the next three components: (1) simple (mostly primary and orthogonal, and also rare unipolar and centripetal) cores with short reduction sequences, consisting of flaking of 1–3 flakes from one platform, followed by the core rotation or discard; (2) flake-tools, which are made mostly (but not exclusively) on small-sized flakes with beveled platforms and include varieties of simple side-scrapers, denticulates, notches, thick end-scrapers, awls, and convergent pieces, as well as small numbers of tools with flat ventral retouch or bifacial retouched edges; and (3) large-sized tools are always present and include mostly unifacial choppers, and more rare chopping-tools and proto-bifaces (or pointed choppers) with partial bifacial processing. The author discuss that the hominids that produced lithic industries of Pre-Mousterian complex acquired a high behavioural plasticity to settle in most uncomfortable (within Western Eurasia) forested and forest-steppe environments with cold winters in Central and Eastern Europe. The hominids developed tool inventories well suited for bone- and woodworking, made real wooden throwing spears and composite tools with wooden hafts that are found in Schöningen. In contrast to the Acheulean complex in West Europe and West Asia, assemblages of Pre-Mousterian complex do not show a transition (temporally being placed now during MIS 8–MIS 7, between c. 300–200 ka in both the regions) toward the Middle Palaeolithic or Mousterian technology. In contrast to the Acheulean to Middle Palaeolithic transition, which is associated with final neanderthalization of H. heidelbergensis and the origin of H. neanderthalensis, the assemblages of Pre-Mousterian complex disappear with the spread of Early Middle Paleolithic Neanderthals.

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