ESHE 2016

ESHE, Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, 2016

There is more to life than subsistence: use-wear and residue analyses on pre-Still Bay stone tools at Sibudu
Veerle Rots, Carol Lentfer, Viola C. Schmid, Guillaume Porraz & Nicholas J. Conard – (podium presentation)


The rich and long MSA sequence of Sibudu Cave in KwaZulu-Natal has provided many new insights [1,2], including insights on the use and hafting of various projectile forms [3,4]. Since 2011, the new excavations under the direction of N. Conard continue to contribute significantly to our understandings of the technological variability in the MSA [5] and have further exposed a so-called “pre-Still Bay” industry containing bifacial points and a laminar technology pre-dating 75 ka. Previous functional analyses at Sibudu Cave have mainly focused on points and segments from the Howiesons Poort and late MSA and these were identified as weapon armatures. Here we present the first results from the “pre-Still Bay” layers focusing both on points and other tool categories. Independent residue and use-wear analyses were performed in a phased procedure involving two separate analysts, which allowed the confrontation of two separate lines of functional evidence. Thanks to the excellent preservation at Sibudu Cave, a wide range of animal, plant and mineral residues was observed in direct relation with diagnostic wear patterns. We present the results obtained for serrated bifacial points and for non-bifacial pointed tools (perforators). In addition to subsistencerelated activities linked with the use of the serrated points as resin-hafted weapon tips, manufacturing activities were identified for the perforators. The perforators prove to form a new and intriguing tool category, not described before, and devoted to perforating and grooving activities on different types of materials, including hard animal material, several of them while mounted in a hafted arrangement. Their abundance testifies to the importance of special manufacturing activities at the site. The identification of hafting for industries older than 75ka contributes to an improved understanding of the development of complex technologies and the variability in human behaviors.


[1] Jacobs, Z., A.G. Wintle, G.A.T. Duller, R.G. Roberts, L. Wadley, 2008. New ages for the post-Howiesons Poort, late and final Middle Stone Age at Sibudu, South Africa. Journal of Archaeological Science 35, 1790–1807 [2] Wadley, L. 2007. Announcing a Still Bay industry at Sibudu Cave, South Africa. Journal of Human Evolution 52, 681–689 [3] Lombard, M. 2005. Evidence of hunting and hafting during the Middle Stone Age at Sibidu Cave, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: a multianalytical approach. Journal of Human Evolution 48, 279-300 [4] Wadley, L., Hodgskiss, T., Grant, M. 2009. Implications for complex cognition from the hafting of tools with compound adhesives in the Middle Stone Age, South Africa. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106, 9590-9594 [5] Conard, N.J., G. Porraz & L. Wadley, 2012. What is in a name? Characterising the ‘Post-Howieson’s Poort’ at Sibudu. South African Archaeological Bulletin 67, 180–199.

Veerle Rots
Chercheure qualifiée F.R.S. - F.N.R.S. /Maître de Conférences ULg

What’s the difference? Results of a functional study of Aterian and Mousterian tools from the site of Ifri n’Ammar (Morocco)
Sonja Tomasso & Veerle Rots – (pecha kucha presentation)


Until today, the definition of the North African Mousterian has been based on a systematic comparison with the European Mousterian. Particularly the “Aterian” and its tanged tools have been widely discussed. Researchers considered the tanged Aterian tools as early indications of the existence of hafting techniques [1]. It is currently not entirely understood how the Aterian relates to the Mousterian in North Africa, whether tanged tools can indeed be linked with hafting, and whether non-tanged tools were also hafted, which could indicate that a variety in hafting techniques existed. The site of Ifri n’Ammar presents an ideal chance to compare Aterian and Mousterian technocomplexes. The rock shelter is located in the eastern Moroccan Rif and has a rich and well preserved stratigraphy where Middle Paleolithic tools are abundantly represented [2]. At Ifri n’Ammar, the Aterian and Mousterian assemblages are inter-stratified, which means that the relationship of these industries cannot simply be explained in terms of chronological succession [2,3]. The density of retouched artefacts differs between the Aterian and the Mousterian levels and tanged tools are present in the denser Aterian levels only. These levels also show a higher overall tool frequency. We present the results of a functional study focusing on the artefacts from the upper levels (“Occupation supérieure”) of Ifri n’Ammar, dated between 83 ± 6 ka and 130 ± 8 ka [3]. The functional study was combined with a specific experimental program designed to address questions raised during the analysis of the archaeological material, with a specific focus on hafting. Diagnostic microscopic wear patterns confirm that the tanged tools were used while hafted. Tanged tools did not prove to be related to hunting activities only, but various tool uses could be identified. They all fit, however, within the context of hunting and animal processing activities. The reuse of hafted armatures for other activities is not evident in the present sample.

Sonja Tomasso
PhD Student, Coll. Bonn


[1] Clark, J. D., 1970. The prehistory of Africa. Thames and Hudson, London [2] Nami, M., Moser, J., 2010. La Grotte D’Ifri N’Ammar. Le Paléolithique Moyen. In: Forschungen Zur Archäologie Außereuropäischer Kulturen, vol. 9. Reichert Verlag, Wiesbaden [3] Richter, D., Moser, J., Nami, M., Eiwanger, J., Mikdad, A., 2010. New chronometric data from Ifri n’Ammar (Morocco) and the chronostratigraphy of the Middle Palaeolithic in the Western Maghreb. J. Hum. Evol. 59, 672-679

Fiber technology, rope-making, textiles and the Lochstäbe from the Aurignacian of the Swabian Jura
Nicholas J. Conard & Veerle Rots – (podium presentation)


At the end of the day, we know relatively little about fiber technology and textiles in the Paleolithic. Upper Paleolithic depictions, use wear and residues on tools, evidence of stringing ornaments, occasional impressions in clay, and claims of preserved fibers provide hints about these matters [1,2]. Given that most scholars are not looking for evidence of fiber technology, we can hardly be surprised that so little data on the topic exist. Here we suggest that researchers have known about artifacts for working fibers, string and rope for decades, but have been unable to recognize their importance. While we cannot yet prove it, we hypothesize that a number of perforated ivory artifacts (Lochstab, plural Lochstäbe) with carefully made spiral engravings inside their holes dating to the Aurignacian, are tools for working fibers and making string and rope. Previous researchers have argued that these objects that are well known from Vogelherd and Geißenklösterle represent decorated objects or mobile artworks [3,4]. In 2015 excavations in the Aurignacian deposits at Hohle Fels in the Ach Valley of the Swabian Jura led to the discovery of a beautifully preserved ivory Lochstab with four holes, each containing carefully carved, parallel, spiral engravings [5]. Due to its exceptional preservation, the new Lochstab from Hohle Fels opened our eyes to the likelihood, that this object is likely not a work of art, but rather a precisely made high-tech tool. Our paper presents the Lochstäbe from the Swabian Jura and similar finds from other contexts in Europe and considers the merits and problems with the artistic versus functional interpretation of these remarkable objects. The high aesthetic quality of these finds is readily apparent, but the most prominent aspect of the finds is the series of perfectly cut, deep, parallel groves inside the holes themselves. These parts of the textitLochstäbe are significantly obscured from view, leading us to think that the carefully placed series of deep spiral cuts were made to achieve a functional goal rather than as a form of artistic expression. In light of the new discovery from Hohle Fels, we replicated these artifacts in different medium to test whether or not they could be used to produce string or rope. We build our functional interpretation on extensive experimental work involving reproduced Lochstäbe. Based on these tests, we conclude that the Lochstäbe are likely carefully made tools for working plant fibers rather than being works of art.


[1] Soffer, O., J. M. Adovasio, and D. C. Hyland. 2000. The “Venus”Figurines, Textiles, Basketry, Gender, and Status in the Upper Paleolithic. Current Anthropology 41: 511 – 537 [2] Owen, L. 2005. Distorting the Past: Gender and the Division of Labor in the European Upper Paleolithic. Kerns Verlag: Tübingen [3] Riek, G., 1934. Die Eiszeitjägerstation am Vogelherd im Lonetal I: Die Kulturen. Akademische Buchhandlung Franz F. Heine, Tübingen [4] Hahn, J., 1988. Die Geißenklösterle-Höhle im Achtal bei Blaubeuren I. Fundhorizontbildung und Besiedlung im Mittelpaläolithikum und im Aurignacien. Theiss Verlag, Stuttgart.[5]Conard and Malina 2016. Außergewöhnliche neue Funde aus den aurignacienzeitlichen Schichten vom Hohle Fels bei Schelklingen. Archäologische Ausgrabungen in Baden-Württemberg 2015: 60-66

Museo Arqueológico Regional de la Comunidad de Madrid, Alcalá de Henares

A new method for identifying experimental and Palaeolithic hafting adhesives using GC×GC-HRTOFMS

Dries Cnuts, PhD Student, ERC

Dries Cnuts, Katelynn A. Perrault, Lena Dubois, Pierre-Hugues Stefanuto, Jean-François Focant & Veerle Rots – Poster

Domestic tools, hafting, and the evolution of technology: The Upper Palaeolithic from Hohle Fels as a case study

Noora Taipale, PhD Student, ERC

Noora Taipale, Nicholas J. Conard & Veerle Rots