The Lower to Middle Palaeolithic Transition in Northwestern Europe

Evidence from Kesselt-Op de Schans

Ann Van Baelen

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A well‐preserved early Middle Palaeolithic site set against a wider northwestern European context
The shift from Lower to Middle Palaeolithic in northwestern Europe (dated to around 300,000–250,000 years ago) remains poorly understood and underexplored compared to more recent archaeological transitions. During this period, stone tool technologies underwent significant changes but the limited number of known sites and the general low spatio‐temporal resolution of the archaeological record in many cases has impeded detailed behavioural inferences.

Brickyard‐quarrying activities at Kesselt‐Op de Schans (Limburg, Belgium) led to the discovery and excavation of a well‐preserved early Middle Palaeolithic level buried beneath a 10 m thick loess-palaeosol sequence. The present volume offers a comprehensive report on the site, dated to around 280,000 years ago, set against a wider northwestern European context. An in‐depth study of the lithic assemblage, including an extensive refitting analysis, provides detailed information on the technological behaviour of prehistoric hominins in the Meuse basin during this crucial time period.

With free digital appendices

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Contributors: Jozef J. Hus (Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium), Frank Lehmkuhl (RWTH Aachen University), Erik P.M. Meijs (ArcheoGeoLab), Philipp Schulte (RWTH Aachen University), Ann Van Baelen (KU Leuven and University of Cambridge), Philip Van Peer (KU Leuven), Joerg Zens (RWTH Aachen University)


1. Introduction

2. Towards a theoretical framework for the study of the Lower to Middle Palaeolithic transition
2.1 The construction and interpretation of analytical units in archaeology
2.2 A typological approach to the investigation of the Lower to Middle Palaeolithic
2.3 The contribution of lithic technology to the study of the Lower to Middle Palaeolithic transition
2.3.1 Changing technological concepts: the emergence and role of the Levallois production system
2.3.2 Techno-economy and the spatial organisation of lithic technology during the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic on a regional scale
2.4 Concluding remarks on unit construction, unit interpretation and the study of the Lower to Middle Palaeolithic transition 30

3. The early Middle Palaeolithic site of Kesselt -Op de Schans (Province of Limburg, Belgium) and its northwestern European context
3.1 Geographical and geological setting of the Op de Schans brickyard pit
3.2 Research history of the loess area in the Lower Meuse basin
3.2.1 General information
3.2.2 Historical overview 
3.3 Excavation and survey method at Kesselt-Op de Schans
3.4 The Middle and Late Pleistocene deposits at Kesselt-Op de Schans
3.4.1 Lithostratigraphic description of the deposits
3.4.2 General interpretation and chronostratigraphic framework (by Ann Van Baelen, Erik P.M. Meijs and Philip Van Peer)
3.4.3 Luminescence dating of the Middle Pleistocene deposits
3.4.4 Some magnetic properties of a loess palaeosol sequence (by Josef J. Hus) 
3.4.5 Sedimentological investigation of the stratigraphic sequence (by Frank Lehmkuhl, Philipp Schulte, Joerg Zens) 
3.4.6 Stratigraphic position and age of the Palaeolithic levels 
3.5 The lithic assemblage from the main Palaeolithic level at Kesselt-Op de Schans
3.5.1 Raw Material Units: description and interpretation 
3.5.2 General composition of the assemblage
3.5.3 Refitting analysis 
3.5.4 Spatial and taphonomic analysis 
3.5.5 Usewear test
3.5.6 Conclusion: Reconstructing hominin behaviour at Kesselt-Op de Schans
3.6 The northwestern European data 
3.6.1 Dating evidence, climate and environment
3.6.2 Lithic technology: Reduction strategies
3.6.3 Spatial organisation of lithic technology and artefact mobility

4. General conclusion and implications for the transition from Lower to Middle Palaeolithic 

Digital appendices 
Appendix A: Information recorded for each artefact 
Appendix B: Information recorded per square metre 
Appendix C: Harris matrices ODS 1, ODS 2, ODS 3, and ODS 4 
Appendix D: Refit compositions ODS 1, ODS 2, ODS 3, and ODS 4 
Appendix E: Overview NW European sites 203

List of figures 
List of tables 
About the authors

Format: Monograph - ebook

242 pages

131 b&w illustrations, 48 tables

ISBN: 9789461662194

Publication: October 10, 2017

Languages: English

Stock item number: 118524

Ann Van Baelen obtained her PhD at KU Leuven in 2014 and currently holds a postdoc at the University of Cambridge. She is specialised in Middle Palaeolithic and Middle Stone Age archaeology.