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Flint Type Analysis of Bifaces From Acheulo-Yabrudian Qesem Cave (Israel) Suggests an Older Acheulian Origin

A Correction to this article was published on 17 December 2019

This article has been updated

Abstract

This paper presents the results of a flint type analysis performed for the small assemblage of bifaces found at the Acheulo-Yabrudian site Qesem Cave (QC), Israel (420–200 kya), which includes 12 handaxes, three bifacial roughouts, one trihedral, and one bifacial spall. The analysed artefacts were measured and classified into flint types based on visual traits. Also, extensive fieldwork aimed at locating potential sources was carried out. The bifaces were then assigned to potential flint sources, using both macroscopic and petrographic data, and were compared with a large general sample (n = 21,102) from various typo-technological categories and from various QC assemblages, studied by the same analytic process. Our results show that while the site is located within rich flint-bearing limestone outcrops of the Bi’na Formation (Upper Cretaceous Turonian), which dominate the general sample, non-Turonian flint types dominate the biface assemblage. The presence of roughouts and complete handaxes, alongside the complete absence of bifacial knapping by-products, as well as the absence of a clear spatial distribution pattern of the bifaces throughout the site’s sequence, stresses the fragmentation of the bifacial chaîne opératoire and suggests that the bifaces were not produced at the site but, rather, were brought to the cave in their current state. The extremely low quantity of bifaces at QC, compared with the overall rich lithic assemblages, suggests that handaxes did not play a major functional role in the QC hominins’ everyday lives. It is therefore possible that the QC bifaces originated from older contexts, most likely Acheulian sites existing in the vicinity of the cave, as part of the habit of the QC hominins of collecting older, previously knapped artefacts.

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Acknowledgements

The Qesem Cave excavation project is supported by the Israel Science Foundation, the CARE Archaeological Foundation, the Leakey Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Dan David Foundation, and the German Research Foundation. We thank Sasha Flit and Pavel Shrago for the photographs in this article and Rodica Pinhas for the line drawing. We thank the two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments, which significantly helped improving this manuscript.

Funding

This study was funded by the grant UT 41/4-1 “Cultural and biological transformations in the Late Middle Pleistocene (420–200 kya ago) at Qesem Cave, Israel: In search for a post-Homo erectus lineage in the Levantine corridor” (A. Gopher, R. Barkai, Th. Uthmeier) of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).

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Correspondence to Aviad Agam.

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Appendix

Appendix

Table 6 List of the QC flint types, their description, and their example pieces

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Agam, A., Wilson, L., Gopher, A. et al. Flint Type Analysis of Bifaces From Acheulo-Yabrudian Qesem Cave (Israel) Suggests an Older Acheulian Origin. J Paleo Arch 3, 719–754 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41982-019-00038-0

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Keywords

  • Acheulo-Yabrudian
  • Lower Palaeolithic
  • Bifaces
  • Levant
  • Flint types
  • Acheulian