Archive for the ‘Use-Wear’ Category

In 2015 my friend and colleague Yuri Demidenko told me that he wanted to know something about the use of a particular type of lithic tools, the Sagaidak-Muralovka-type microliths. This long name refers to small lithic elongated micro flakes with a marginally backed edge, which are typical from assemblages dated to the Last Glacial Maximum in Central and Eastern Europe. I met Yuri in the Max Planck Institute of Leipzig in 2008 or 2009, and since then we kept in contact and spoke about making some investigation together. The opportunity appeared when Yuri contacted Petr Škrdla for the study of a recently excavated assemblage found in the vicinity of Mohelno-Plevoce, in Moravia (Czech Republic). This collection has a great interest for Y. Demidenko, because it had similar features than the so-called Epi-Aurignacian from Ukraine and western Russia, whose origins and links with other coeval cultural complexes are of great interest for understanding the population dynamics of the Last Glacial Maximum in Eastern Europe. In Mohelno-Plevoce, for the first time this cultural complex (‘Epi-Aurignacian with Sagaidak-Muralovka-type microliths’) has been identified, and its position in central Europe opened diverse possibilities for contacts and relationships with eastern and western cultural complexes, for example the Aurignacian V. Also, the Mohelno-Plevoce site was of great interest because it was found in a region with a continuous gravettian occupation record that abruptly ended when the climatic conditions get worse. For me it was a good opportunity to see the technological behavior of pioneer populations entering into a new and unknown territory with the only help of few tools and their survival skills. Now the results of this joint research have been published on-line in the prestigious journal Comptes Rendus Palevol (Rios-Garaizar et al. 2019).


Location map. Base cartography obtained from the European Environment Agency. Rivers and bathymetry obtained from Natural Earth. Alpine and LGM glacial sheets obtained from Becker et al., 2015.

The site of Mohelno-Plevovce has two clearly-separated occupation areas (KSA and KSB) dated to ca. 23.000 years ago, when the the ice sheet was located only 300 km north from the site. The two units corresponding with short human occupations are separated only by a 3–4-meter distance and no refitting between them has been made, suggesting that they were occupied at different times. Each area yielded a similar but distinct lithic assembalge characterized by a variable use of local (rock crystal and quartz- less than 1 km from the site) and imported (erratic flint- 150-200km to the northeast – and radiolarite- 250km to the southeast) raw materials. Interestingly the Stránská Skála Jurassic chert, situated 30 km far away and extensively used during the Early Upper Paleolithic was not used at all, suggesting that it was not accessible or simply that these pioneer populations didn’t know about its existence. The assemblages are characterized by the small size of artefacts and by the simplicity of the production system, which is orientated towards the serial production of elongated chips (no more than 1.5 cm long) and microblades, obtained from carinated atypical endscrapers and bladelet/microblade cores. This ‘micro-debitage’ was oriented towards the production of tiny ‘pseudo-Dufour’/’Sagaidak-Muralovka’-type microliths. Other tools represented are endscrapers, burins and splintered pieces. In addition, the bipolar anvil core technology was used to produce rock crystal and some erratic flint and radiolarite chips.


Example of impact traces identified in a microlith from KSB.

In 2015 and 2016 I stayed for some weeks at the Institute of Archaeology of ASCR in Brno, and worked there with Yuri Demidenko and Petr Škrdla. We selected a sample of 124 pieces (4 pieces from KSA and 60 pieces from KSB) for the use-wear analysis. The assemblages were rather well preserved and different uses were identified. In both sites many microliths revealed fractures and damage caused by projectile impact. Also, in KSB the work of hide with abrasives is prevalent, while in KSA medium-hard organic materials are better represented, but this does not, however, necessarily represent actual differences in the activities carried out in both places. Most of the traces related with hide work in KSB appear in highly curated and recycled tools, and may represent activities that did not take place at Molheno-Plevoce, but somewhere off-site. On the other hand, the working of medium-hard organic materials KSA was probably carried out in situ.


Top: carinated atypical endscraper used for hide scraping and mineral (ochre?) cutting; Middle: Carinated atypical endscraper used for hide scraping and hard mineral (ochre?) scraping; Bottom: endscraper recycled into splintered piece (two fragments) used for hide scraping and chiseling.

The use-wear analyses of the lithic assemblages from Mohelno-Plevovce have provided interesting information about the activities carried out within the two stone structures excavated there (KSA and KSB). In both loci the most represented task is rearming with microlithic armatures. However, there are differences between the two loci: in KSA bone and antler work has been identified, while in KSB hide scraping is more represented. Some of these activities probably were not carried out in situ because they represent earlier tasks done using heavily curated and recycled tools. These differences are also visible in other features of the lithic assemblages, for example in the use of imported erratic flint (KSA) versus the use of local rock-crystal (KSB). The characteristics of these two occupations — namely activities mostly related with re-gearing; the use of local lithic raw materials when transported tools and blanks are exhausted after a long use-life; the importance of microlith — composed tools; and the repeated short term occupations at the site — fit perfectly with the expected archaeological signature of pioneer populations entering in southern Moravia during the Last Glacial Maximum.


Demidenko, Y.E., Škrdla, P., Rios-Garaizar, J., 2017. EpiAurignacian with Sagaidak-Muralovka-Type Microliths in the South of Eastern Europe and its European Perspectives. Археологія і давня історія України 24, 38–52.

Rios-Garaizar, J., Škrdla, P., Demidenko, Y.E., 2019. Use-wear analysis of the lithic assemblage from LGM Mohelno-Plevovce site (southern Moravia, Czech Republic). Comptes Rendus Palevol. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.CRPV.2018.11.002

Škrdla, P., Nejman, L., Bartík, J., Rychtaříková, T., Nikolajev, P., Eigner, J., Nývltová Fišáková, M., Novák, J., Polanská, M., 2016. Mohelno – A terminal Last Glacial Maximum industry with microlithic tools made on carenoidal blanks. Quaternary International 406, 184–194. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2015.05.055


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