Jan Bartek – AncientPages.com – Analysis of stone tools attributed to the Ahmarian, the first Upper Paleolithic culture in the Near East (dating from about 40,000 to 45,000 years ago), shows that small, elongated, symmetrical objects (blades) were mass-produced at the site. Such standardized production is consistent with what archaeologists have already suggested to be associated with the introduction of the bow and arrow.
The most typical Ahmarian tool is the el-Wad point, a blade or blade made of flint that has an additional, intentional treatment, called retouch. They are one of the widespread variants of shaped spearheads or arrows of the early Upper Paleolithic. The new findings suggest that the el-Wad points at Al-Ansab likely arose from attempts to reshape larger, asymmetric blade artifacts to meet the quality standards of unmodified blades, which are small, elongated, and symmetrical.
El-Wad points. a–f: El-Wad points with dorsal retouch combinations (c corresponds to the Ksar Akil point type). g: Inversely retouched el-Wad point. h: distal el-Wad fragment with burn scar (highlighted in red). Credit: photo by M. Schemmel; Journal of Paleolithic Archeology (2023). DOI: 10.1007/s41982-022-00131-x
This is the main result of the analysis carried out by Dr. Jacopo Gennai, Marcel Schemmel and Professor Dr. Jürgen Richter (Department of Prehistoric Archaeology, University of Cologne). The authors hypothesize that the southern Ahmarian had already fully completed the technological and cultural shift to the preferred use of small blades, used as spearheads or even arrowheads. The article “Points to Ahmarian. Lithic Technology and the El-Wad Points of Al-Ansab 1” has now been published in Journal of Palaeolithic Archaeology.
The Al-Ansab 1 site, located approximately 10 kilometers south of the well-known ruined city of Petra in Jordan, has been excavated since 2009 by a team from the University of Cologne led by Jürgen Richter. The site is important because it is one of the best-preserved evidences of an Ahmarian techno-complex recorded in the open air.
Between 2018 and 2021, a representative part of the excavated material was reanalyzed by Jacopo Gennai, the lead author, to understand how the production methods of similar blades were in the range of the early Upper Paleolithic. In addition, Marcel Schemmel, a student of Richter’s team, created a new analysis of the el-Wad point, limiting its definition to more precise typometric criteria.
The early Upper Paleolithic is identified as a cultural marker of the final and successful push of our species into Eurasia. The small, slender and highly standardized blades are thought to be what remains of the arrows or throwing spears used in the open steppe environment of the time to catch ungulates. The blades then show the beginning of long-distance hunting, a marked departure from previous hunting practices.
New findings show that, rather than mere residual products, small blades were central to the success of Homo sapiens during the Upper Paleolithic. This flexible technology, which is standardized and disposable, probably facilitated the successful spread of our species across Europe, as it allowed groups to cover long distances in unfamiliar areas without having to rely on sources of large, high-quality raw materials.
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“During the Upper Palaeolithic, we noted the spread of blades, but their role has not yet been well established in the Ahmarian. We hope that these new results will change our understanding of the earliest Upper Palaeolithic industry in the Levant and push for new research to find the origin of this behavior that remained in Homo sapiens until the end of the Paleolithic,” said Dr. Gennai.
The study was published in Journal of Palaeolithic Archaeology
Written Jan Bartek – AncientPages.com Staff writer