L’équipe du TRACEOLAB présente au UISPP, BURGOS 2014 :

  • Veerle Rots, Chercheure qualifiée F.R.S. – F.N.R.S.

  • Dries Cnuts, Doctorant E.R.C.

  • Justin Coppe, Doctorant E.R.C.

  • Sonja Tomasso, Doctorante, Coll. Bonn

  • Noora Taipale, Doctorant E.R.C.


A2d – The archaeology of early fire use – « Testing the ‘Expedient Strike-a-light Model’: an Experimental Assessment based on the First Identified Middle Palaeolithic Fire-Maker from Bettencourt (France) »
Sorensen, Andrew (Leiden University); Rots, Veerle (University of Liège)

The use of fire by Neandertals and their predecessors is currently a hot-button issue in the realms of Palaeolithic Archaeology and Palaeoanthropology. By and large, research within this vein focuses on the origins of “habitual” fire use, inferred from morphological changes within the human lineage observed in the fossil record, or from discerning the presence of possible anthropogenic fire features on increasingly older sites. Our research, on the other hand, focuses on identifying direct evidence of fire production in the Palaeolithic record by looking for tools used to make fire, namely “strike-a-lights” made from flint or other siliceous material used in conjunction with sulphur- and iron-bearing minerals (e.g. pyrite and marcasite) to make sparks. While strike-a-lights have been regularly identified from the late Upper Palaeolithic onwards, this is not the case for the Middle Palaeolithic. In this light, the “expedient strike-a-light model” has been proposed, which asserts early fire-making tools were likely used on an ad hoc basis for only a short period of time prior to being discarded. This stands in stark contrast to the more “classic” curated strike-a-lights recovered from Neolithic and Bronze Age contexts that show very heavy use traces, indicative of multiple episodes of use. It implies that the traces on Middle Palaeolithic strike-alights may be less easily detected in the archaeological record and perhaps the gestures used differed from those in later periods. We present the results of an experimental program that was performed to test this model as well as preliminary results of our evaluation of microwear traces, interpreted as resulting from use as a strike-a-light, observed on the lateral edge of an a-typical Levallois point from the Middle Palaeolithic site of Bettencourt (75/85,000 BP; TL-IRSL/ESR) in northern France. To our knowledge, this is the only tool predating the late Upper Palaeolithic that has been described in the literature as bearing firemaking traces after undergoing modern microwear analysis. The traces, as previously described, consist of moderately heavy edge damage (i.e. edge-removals and crushing), minor rounding, polish and striations consistent with short-term application against mineral material, as well as prehension “gloss” from handling the tool in the presence of mineral dust, characteristic of “dirty” tasks like fire making. A tool exhibiting this suite of traces would lend support to the “expedient strike-a-light model”. Until now, systematic testing of the veracity of the interpretation of the Bettencourt piece as a strike-alight against experimental data has not been performed. Thus, we report the results of a battery of new firemaking and non-fire-making experiments conducted in an effort to replicate the microwear traces observed on the Bettencourt piece.

A17b – Traceological researches and experimental works – « Ambiguity in Terminologies used to Document Impact Wear on Projectile Points: Towards an Improved Descriptive Framework »
Coppe, Justin (Université de Liège), Veerle Rots (Université de Liège)

A22 – Origins and evolution of Modern Humans Behaviour: a view from North Africa – « Tool use and Hafting in the Middle Palaeolithic of North Africa: Preliminary Results of an on-going use-wear Analysis on the Mousterian/Aterian Assamblages of Ifri N’Ammar (Morocco) »
Tomasso, Sonja – (Université de Liège/ Kaak-DAI); Rots, Veerle – (Université de Liège)

B53 – Contextualizing Schöningen and its implications for human evolution during the Middle Pleistocene – « Residue and Microwear Analyses of the Stone Artefacts from Shöningen »
Rots, Veerle (University of Liège); Hardy, Bruce (Kenyon College)

Stone artefacts from Schöningen 12 and 13 were examined microscopically to identify residues, wear and manufacturing traces in order to clarify their possible anthropogenic origins and their function. We present evidence showing that the stone tools were used for working wood and hide, and for cutting meat. The results from the use-wear and residue analysis proved complementary in several instances. Suggestive though uncertain evidence of hafting was observed on a few pieces. This could be particularly interesting given the identification of wooden hafts at the locality. The results of this analysis demonstrate the potential of these techniques for Lower Palaeolithic sites such as Schöningen.

Organisation of session A17c – Microscopic determination of hafting technology: use-wear and residues (Commission on Functional Studies of Prehistoric artifacts and their Socio-economic inferences on Past Societies)
Organizers: Robert Sala, Juan F. Gibaja, Veerle Rots, Xavier Terradas, Belén Márquez, Juan José Ibáñez

A17b – Traceological researches and experimental works – « Experimental Replication of Australian Grinding Stone Implements »
Hayes, Elspeth – (University of Wollongong); Cnuts, Dries – (University of Liege); Fullagar, Richard – (University of Wollongong); Pardoe, Colin – (Bioarchaeology & Anthropology),; Chris Clarkson – (University of Queensland); Stephenson, Birgitta – (In the Groove Analysis)

Until recently in Australia, lithic tool-use experiments were dominated by flaked stone with relatively few studies of ground-stone. This paper reports on a workshop, during which tool-use experiments were designed to document the wear traces associated with grinding various materials, different processing techniques and sandstones of different hardness. The specific variables were selected to build a use-wear and residue reference library applicable to archaeological grinding implements proposed for detailed functional analysis.

Experimental sandstone grinding implements were used primarily to process organic and inorganic materials, documented ethnographically. Other materials were processed to investigate characteristics of seeds that were unavailable locally. Upper and lower stones were used together to grind seeds and bone; and abrading stones were used to file bone, stone and wood, and to grate haematite. The experimental stones came from five geographic regions in Australia, each associated with the archaeological assemblages proposed for study. Usewear was sampled with polyvinyl siloxane peels, which were examined under a stereomicroscope and a metallographic microscope. Residues were extracted with two solvents (water and a tri-mixture of acetonitrile, ethanol and water), and subsequently mounted on slides and examined under transmitted light microscopy. The slide preparations were stained to highlight constituent plant and animal tissues.

The hardness/softness of the sandstone and the degree of grain cementation have a strong influence on the development and appearance of use-wear. On the hard sandstone, the processing time affected polish formation. Use-wear patterns were distinctive of the broad categories of processed material (seed, bone, stone, haematite and wood). Key use-wear features relating to activity and processed material are reflected in the degree of grain rounding and grain levelling, the presence of macroscopic surface striations and the occurrence of micro-fractures, polish and striations observed at high magnification.

Residues included collagen and cellulose fibres, starch granules, phytoliths, resins, bone fragments and pigment crystals. As for use-wear, the residues were also distinctive of the broad categories of processed material. Staining was particularly useful to distinguish plant and animal tissues.

The experiments provided insights into the wear formation on sandstones of different hardness and degree of cementation. Stained cellular structures provide a reliable basis for distinguishing the investigated plant and animal tissue subjected to mechanical damage, resulting from grinding and pounding. Studies are underway to further test the viability of residue identification on ethnographic specimens of varying ages, and experimental grinding stones greater then 30 years.

The residue and usewear experiments build on previous studies and help form the basis of a systematic and collaborative use-wear and residue reference library for ground-stone tools in Australia. Future experiments will focus on the wider range of plant taxa processed by grinding and documented ethnographically.

A17b – Traceological researches and experimental works – « Ambiguity in Terminologies used to Document Impact Wear on Projectile Points: Towards an Improved Descriptive Framework »
Coppe, Justin (Université de Liège), Veerle Rots (Université de Liège)

Recently, lithic projectile points have become a key element in discussions about the complexity of Palaeolithic human behavior. The appearance of different projection systems has certainly played an important role in technological changes that occurred during the Palaeolithic. Unfortunately, only the lithic components of these projection systems are generally recovered, and over the years, several studies have focused on finding macroscopic and microscopic evidence that would allow the identification of potential lithic projectile points in the archaeological record.

Initial studies used a more typological approach to describe the morphology of the damage observed, while subsequent studies used a terminology based on the description of fracture initiations and terminations. At present, there is quite some variation in the descriptions of the wear features and fractures observed, both in their detail as in the elements that are considered as being diagnostic of projectile use. While discussion may reign about the latter, it is clear that the descriptive framework that is currently used lacks some homogeneity and if one wants to be able to evaluate the degree to which evidence may or may not be diagnostic of projectile use, it is important that we share a common vocabulary and that we agree on the fracture and wear characteristics that ought to be described. Some attributes are only mentioned infrequently, such as the size of certain removals as well as the association between different fracture types or damage features on a single piece. Independent of their potential importance, it often makes it difficult to compare the wear features observed between different researchers as well as to make robust statements about the diagnostic value of certain traces or fractures.

We present a synthesis of the variation in terminology that was identified in projectile studies and we attempt to document what researchers have referred to with specific descriptions. Above all, we would like to open discussion in view of the creation of a shared and systematic descriptive framework for wear features or fractures that may potentially result from projectile use.

A22 – Origins and evolution of Modern Humans Behaviour: a view from North Africa – « Tool use and Hafting in the Middle Palaeolithic of North Africa: Preliminary Results of an on-going use-wear Analysis on the Mousterian/Aterian Assamblages of Ifri N’Ammar (Morocco) »
Tomasso, Sonja (Université de Liège/ Kaak-DAI), Rots, Veerle (Université de Liège)

The rock shelter of Ifri n’Ammar has a remarkable stratigraphy with alternating Mousterian and Aterian occupations within more than 6 meters of sediments dated from MIS 6 to 5a. The stratigraphy attributed to the Middle-Palaeolithic is divided in two units, separated by a calcareous crust, where upper and lower Aterian occupations can be identified.

Previous studies have characterised Aterian and Mousterian cultures on a typological and technological basis. Functional data on lithic industries from the Middle Palaeolithic in northern Africa is at present very scarce and detailed studies of the production, hafting and use of tools, particularly tanged pieces, have not yet been conducted.

Preliminary results of an on-going use-wear analysis of Middle Palaeolithic stone tools from the site of Ifri n’Ammar will be presented. Both low and high magnifications are combined for examining the macro- and microscopic wear traces on the stone tools. The interpretation of the archaeological material is based on comparisons with an experimental reference collection.

The long-term goal of the study is to understand how stone tools were used, whether hafted stone tools existed at the site and how these functional parameters compare to the typo-technological characteristics of the different assemblages and how they may have influenced assemblage variability.

A9a – The origins of Upper Palaeolithic in Eurasia – Poster – « The Beginning of the Upper Palaeolithic in North-West Europe »
Flas, Damien (Université de Liège)

The Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition is still a highly debated topic as it concerns several important questions: the timing and cause of the disappearance of the Neandertal population/dispersal of anatomically modern humans, the cause of the appearance or widespread adoption of certain technical and symbolic behaviours, the role of “transitional industries” during this period and their association with the different biological populations.

In recent years, reappraisal of old collections, new discoveries and up-to-date radiocarbon dates enabled a more precise interpretation of the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in North-West Europe. These new data are notably related to human remains that permit to tackle the issue of the last Neandertals (Goyet and Spy Cave) and earliest Homo sapiens sapiens (Kent’s Cavern) in the region. These recent works also permit to have a new look on the different industries present during the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition (various late Middle Palaeolithic industries, Lincombian-Ranisian-Jerzmanowician, Aurignacian) and their chronology.

This talk will thus provide an up-to-date synthesis for the beginning of the Upper Palaeolithic in North-West Europe, even if this region remains still poorly known compared to other European areas.

A19 – Bifacial tools in the Middle Palaeolithic of western Eurasia: typo-technological variability and spatio-temporal trends – « Variables bifaciales »
Otte, Marcel (Université de Liège)

La pratique des enlèvements bifaciaux se retrouve a tous les moments et en tous lieux de l’histoire humaine. Cependant, d’infinies variables permettent d’y distinguer des facteurs regionaux Keil Messer Gruppe), chronologiques (Acheuléen) et traditionnels (Chine). De telle sorte que globaliser l’ensemble de ces variantes, pour cette seule raison technique, ne suffit pas à y comprendre la signification.

A20 – Neanderthals on their own terms: new perspectives for the study of Middle Paleolithic behavior – « La Préhistoire du Portrait »
Otte, Marcel (Université de Liège)

A21d – Chronostratigraphic data about the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic cultural change in Western Europe – « Gradual Population Movements from Asia to Eastern Europe »
Otte, Marcel (Université de Liège)

This presentation focuses on the different forms of acculturation following the east-west axis of Eurasia. Movement of the new modern human population led to very different reactions depending on region and local Mousterian cultures. This is thus a long-term demographic process, in particular involving the modes of thinking that were encountered. The abrupt anatomic changes are due to the isolation of Europe where populations reproduced by endogamy, in contrast to the vast Asian continent where genetic changes were much more common and thus accentuated the gradual tendencies proper to all humanity throughout its entire history. Examples will be presented during the session.

A28 – Prehistoric Archaeology of China: Technology, Cognition, Culture and Environment – « Panxian Dadong, Lithic Implements of a Middle Pleistocene Site in Southwest China »
Otte, Marcel (Université de Liège); Weiwen Huang (Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropolgy, Chinese Academy of Sciences); Yue Hu (Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropolgy, Chinese Academy of Sciences); Ya-Mei Hou (Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropolgy, Chinese Academy of Sciences)

Around three hundreds thousands years, the Panxian Cave has been filled and fully occupied until 100.000 years. The main humans implements were consisting of prepared cores and flakes on the Levalloisian kind of preparation. This is one of the oldest known in both in both Africa and Asia.The core preparation has been fully shaped by convergent flaking techniques with a high degree of shaping both on platforms and usage of convergent techniques.The fully shaping of both surface and butts prepares a high degree of refinement that should fully look like the middle Paleolithic technique both in Europe and Africa.Different methods of shaping show a high refinement technology that only comes elsewhere much later. Several other sites show this high refinement technologies already obtained in China much earlier than in different parts of the world.

B6 – Beyond the stones: Inter-disciplinary approaches to interpreting Paleolithic Transitions – « Spiritual Leaps in Human Evolution »
Otte, Marcel (Université de Liège)

Au-delà des méthodes chronologiques et des données matérielles, les témoins d’activités religieuses présentent des rythmes de succession spectaculaires. Quelques exemples sont présentés : lors du passage des restes osseux animaliers à leur représentation figurée, puis aux activités actuelles où ils sont revitalisés. Les exemples cités vont de l’ours au renne, en passant par le cerf, pour aboutir à la figure humaine. Tout d’abord les crânes furent surmodelés, ensuite la statue fut inventée, jusqu’à l’image du Dieu ou du Christ eux-mêmes.

B33 – Environmental and cultural development during the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic in the Syrian Desert – « Cross-Zagros Relations during Upper Palaeolithic »
Otte, Marcel (Université de Liège)

All the datas coming from Rust excavation in Near East present close relationship with our own excvation in the Zagros montain, in Iran. There seems to be an east-west axis fro the difffucion of early Aurignacian, which has been poorly know untilnow. This re-inforces the close land origine in this part of the world, leading to European Aurignacian.

B57 – Reconsidering the significance of the Acheulian in Human Evolution – « Acheulean as a Culture, Bifaces as Tools »
Rigaud, Solange (Université de Liège)

B56 – Time for the tide: New perspectives on hunter-fisher-gatherer exploitation of intertidal resources in Atlantic Europe and Mediterranean regions – « A Shift in Economy and Mobility between Epipalaeolithic and Mesolithic in North Atlantic Iberia: Bead Manufacture as a Case Study »
Rigaud, Solange (Université de Liège); d’Errico, Francesco (Université de Bordeaux); Vanhaeren, Marian (Université de Bordeaux); Peñalber, Xavier (Sociedad de Ciencias Aranzadi); Cuenca-Solana, David (Université de Rennes1); Gutiérrez-Zugasti, Igor (Instituto Internacional de Investigaciones Prehistóricas de Cantabria, Universidad de Cantabria); González-Morales, Manuel (Instituto Internacional de Investigaciones Prehistóricas de Cantabria, Universidad de Cantabria)

The frequency of mollusks, shellfish, fish, seabirds, and marine mammal remains from archaeological sites along the Atlantic coast of Northern Spain attests to the relatively intense exploitation of marine resources during the Upper Palaeolithic, Epipalaeolithic, and Mesolithic. The main function of coastal resources seems to have been food supply for societies, although they were also used for both technical and symbolic purposes. Numerous studies show that an increased role of marine resources in human diet is associated with low residential mobility and limited home ranges (Kelly 1995; Binford 2001). Our investigation aims to investigate if such changes in diet and mobility correlate with changes in the exploitation of marine resources for symbolic purposes, in particular marine shell bead manufacture.

We performed a diachronic analysis of shell accumulations from an Epipalaeolithic (Praileaitz I) and two Mesolithic (El Mazo, El Toral III) sites located in the Vasco-Cantabrian and Asturian regions.

Following a method based on taphonomic, morphometric, and microscopic analyses of modern and archaeological shell reference collections, we identified shell bead taxonomic diversity and reconstructed the way in which shells were accumulated, transformed into beads and used.

Results show that the shell accumulation at the Epipaleolithic site of Praileaitz I represents discarded raw material considered unsuitable for the manufacture of personal ornaments. The lack of other archaeological remains associated with the shells supports a brief occupation of the cave and the existence of highly specialized task-specific sites connected to bead manufacture during the Epipalaeolithic. Exportation of raw material suitable to be transformed into beads outside the cave also shows the segmentation of the bead manufacturing in both time and space.

In contrast, analysis of shell beads at the two Mesolithic sites (El Mazo, El Toral III) indicates that all the stages of bead manufacture are represented in the accumulation: unmodified raw material, beads broken by manufacturing process and finished beads. This indicates that shells were collected, sorted and transformed into beads at these sites. Use-wear on some of the shell beads shows that part of them were re-introduced in the sites and accidentally lost by the inhabitants of the cave.

The variety of remains associated with the beads, including shells for consumption, lithic and faunal remains and hearths/ash lenses, indicates a relatively long term occupation of the sites where various activities related to technical, economic and symbolic purposes were conducted. We conclude that the observed differences may reflect a switch from a logistic mobility to a more residential mobility with the onset of the Holocene, which involved a change in the way and location in which shell beads were sorted, modified and assembled. Future research will have to determine if the absence of short-time taskspecific sites in archaeological contexts with intense exploitation of marine resources is significant or depends on the low archaeological visibility of short-lived occupations.

B26 – The lithic issues of the Gravettian – « Technical Variability into the Gravettian with tanged Tools: New Results from Belgium »
Touzé, Olivier (University of Paris 1/UMR 7041 ArScAn – Ethnologie préhistorique; Doctorant, Aspirant FNRS / University of Liege); Flas, Damien (FNRS / University of Liege); Pesesse, Damien (University of Rennes 2/UMR 6566 CReAAH)

Located at the interface between the Paris and the Rhine basins and the more northern territories of Europe, Belgium yield several gravettian occupations, all of which are located in the southern half of the country. The work of M. Otte in the second part of the seventies permitted to inventory eight deposits attributable to the Gravettian, and more than twice sites delivering clues that also evoke this period (Otte, 1979). But the quality of the documentation doesn’t always respond to its quantity. Indeed, the analysis of the data is frequently complicated by the antiquity of the excavations conducted in most gravettian sites. The stratified records in karst context are particularly affected by this situation, thus restraining studies on the gravettian chronology in Belgium. This overview is however partly counterbalanced by two open air deposits excavated during the second half of the XXth century, and which benefited of good condition of preservation as well as more modern excavation methods: Maisieres-Canal (de Heinzelin, 1973; Haesaerts & de Heinzelin, 1979) and Station de l’Hermitage (Straus et al., 2000).

These two deposits have often been the object of comparisons highlighting their similarities, both in term of spatial establishment and in term of lithic industry. In fact, their lithic industries stand out by the presence of tanged tools, a typological marker usually associated with the early Gravettian of Western Europe, and also encountered in other Belgian sites, particularly in the Betche-aux-Roches cave in Spy recently studied by two of us (Pesesse & Flas, 2013). If Maisieres-Canal and Station de l’Hermitage might have been described as “sisters-sites” (Straus & Otte, 2000), the recent reappraisal of their lithic industries, henceforth lead us to nuance this proposal.

Our communication will therefore be the opportunity to shed a crossed look on two of the main gravettian sites of Belgium in the light of renewed data on their lithic assemblages, data that we will furthermore compare to the last results obtained on the Gravettian of Spy. New elements of reflection will in particular be proposed on the variability of technical behaviours within the Belgian Gravettian with tanged tools, as well as on the causes that may be responsible for this variability.

L’équipe du Traceolab… entre deux communications