Chert Quarrying, Lithic Technology, and a Modern Human Burial at the Palaeolithic Site of Taramsa 1, Upper Egypt

Philip Van Peer, Pierre M. Vermeersch, and Etienne Paulissen

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Monograph - paperback

This monograph presents the comprehensive report of the excavations of the Belgian Middle Egypt Prehistoric Project at the site of Taramsa 1, near Qena in Upper Egypt. Human groups have exploited chert cobbles at this locale throughout the entire Middle Stone Age. The major Activity Phases at the site are identified with the aid of a series of chronometric dates. The various excavation sectors are meticulously described, both their stratigraphy and the spatial layout of the lithic production activities. One of the most significant finds at the site was the burial of a modern human child. A chapter is devoted to the description of the stratigraphic context of this burial and its dating.

The technological analysis establishes Taramsa 1 as a key site in Northeast Africa, bearing witness to a long sequence of change culminating in an Upper Palaeolithic blade technology. Most significant is the dating of the earliest stage of the transition, at around 60,000 years ago, thus suggesting that the Lower Nile Valley was an early core area for the origin of the Upper Palaeolithic of Eurasia.

The text is supplemented with numerous sections and plans, as well as artefact illustrations and photographs.

Content

List of Figures

List of Tables.

List of Plates

Preface

1 - Introduction

1.1 - Geomorphology and geology of the Taramsa area

1.2 - Taramsa Hill morphology

1.3 - General archaeological stratigraphy of Taramsa 1: The Activity Phases

1.4 - Survey, excavation and recording techniques

1.5 - Some conventions of this report

1.5.1 - Definition of assemblages

1.5.2 - Technical notes

1.5.3 - Abbreviations

2 - Analysis of LITHIC production systems

2.1 - Raw data

2.1.1 - Technological classification

2.1.2 - Refitting

2.1.3 - Attribute analysis

2.2 - Generalisation of raw data

2.2.1 - Assemblage structure

2.2.2 - Generalisation of refitting data

2.2.3 - Attribute analysis

3 - Middle Stone Age lithic production systems in Northeast Africa

3.1 - Basic reduction systems

3.1.1 - Geometric and functional organisation

3.1.2 - Percussion and fracture mechanics

3.1.3 - Striking platform types in plane fracture debitage

3.1.4 - Plane fractures and flake forms

3.1.5 - Summary

3.2 - Planimetric debitage systems in the Lower Nile Valley Middle Stone Age

3.2.1 - The Levallois production system

3.2.2 - The discoidal production system

3.3 - Volumetric debitage systems in the Lower Nile Valley Middle Stone Age

3.3.1 - The Taramsa blade production system

3.3.2 - Terminology

4 - Excavation sectors 91/05, 91/07, 89/02, Activity Phases I/II lithic assemblages

4.1 - Sector 91/05

4.1.1 - Stratigraphy

4.1.2 - Analysis of Cc 38

4.1.3 - Discussion

4.2 - Sector 91/07

4.2.1 - Stratigraphy

4.2.2 - Analysis of Cc 17

4.3 - Sector 89/02

4.3.1 - Stratigraphy and exploitation features

4.3.2 - Stratigraphic succession of the concentrations

4.3.3 - Analysis of Cc 05

5 - Excavation sectors 91/02, 89/01, and the Activity Phase II lithic assemblages

5.1 - Sector 91/02

5.1.1 - Stratigraphy and exploitation features

5.1.2 - Analysis of Cc 07

5.1.3 - Analysis of Cc 04

5.1.4 - Conclusion

5.2 Sector 89/01

5.2.1 - Stratigraphy

5.2.2 - Analysis of Cc 10

6 - Excavation sectors 91/03, 91/01, and the Activity Phase IV lithic assemblages

6.1 - Sector 91/03: stratigraphy and site formation

6.1.1 - Stratigraphy

6.1.2 - Cultural formation processes

6.1.3 - Spatial analysis of Cc 19

6.2 - Sector 91/03 Cc 19: lithic analysis

6.2.1 - General comments

6.2.2 - The Levallois and Taramsa blade production systems

6.2.3 - Morphological characteristics of end products

6.2.4 - Morphological characteristics of cores

6.2.5 - Typology

6.2.6 - Intra-assemblage technological variability

6.2.7 - Cultural formation processes reconsidered

6.3 - Sector 91/01

6.3.1 - Stratigraphy

6.3.2 - Lithic Analysis of Cc 20/25

6.3.3 - Conclusion

7 - Excavation sectors 91/04, 89/04, and the Activity Phase V lithic assemblages

7.1 - Sector 91/04: stratigraphy and site formation

7.1.1 - Deposits and lithic concentrations

7.1.2 - The exploitation stages

7.1.3 - Spatial organisation of lithic production

7.2 - Sector 91/04 main zone: lithic analysis

7.2.1 - The reconstructed reduction sequences

7.2.2 - The Levallois and Taramsa Levallois production systems

7.2.3 - Morphological characteristics of end products

7.2.4 - Morphological characteristics of cores

7.2.5 - Typology

7.2.6 - Chronological and functional variability in main zone lithic production

7.3 - Cultural formation processes in sector 91/04 main zone reconsidered

7.3.1 - Transportation of products

7.3.2 - Were specialist artisans at work in Cc 28?

7.4 - Sector 89/04

7.4.1 - Stratigraphy

7.4.2. - Analysis of Cc 09

7.5 - Comparison of sector 91/04 main zone with sector 91/03 Cc 19

7.5.1 - Chronology

7.5.2 - Lithic production systems

8 - Activity Phase VI: excavation sectors and lithic assemblages

8.1 - Sector 89/03

8.1.1 - Stratigraphy

8.1.2 - Analysis of Cc 12/13

8.1.3 - Conclusion

8.2 - Activity Phase VI assemblages from Sector 89/02

8.2.1 - Lithic analysis of Cc 03

8.2.2 - Spatial analysis of Cc 01

8.2.3 - Lithic analysis of Cc 01

8.3 - Conclusions

9 - other SECTORS AND ASEMBLAGES

9.1 - Sector 91/04 Cc 29

9.1.1 - Description of Refit 29/1

9.1.2 - Morphometric characteristics of end products

9.1.3 - Typology

9.2 - Sector 91/03 Cc 36

9.3 - Sector 91/02

9.3.1 - Cc 02

9.3.2 - Cc 05

9.3.3 - Cc 09

9.4 - Sector 89/02

9.4.1 - Cc 02

9.4.2 - Cc 06

9.4.3 - Cc 07

9.5 - Sector 91/07 Cc 18

9.6 - Sector 89/05 Cc 11

9.7 - Sector 91/06

9.8 - Sector 89/06

9.9 - Sector 89/07

9.10 - Sector 91/08

9.11 - Sector 91/09

9.12 - Isolated artefacts from below the sterile sand

9.13 - A habitation structure?

9.13.1 - Spatial analysis

9.13.2 - Other observations

9.13.3 - Interpretation

10 - The taramsa Burial

10.1 - Description of the burial

10.2 - The lithic assemblage associated with the burial

10.3 - The skeleton

10.4 - Dating

10.5 - Conclusion

11 - discussions and Conclusions

11.1 - The lithic assemblages at Taramsa 1: taxonomic and phylogenetic considerations

11.1.1 - Activity Phase I

11.1.2 - Activity Phase II

11.1.3 - Activity Phase II

11.1.4 - Activity Phase IV

11.1.5 - Activity Phase V

11.1.6 - Activity Phase VI

11.1.7 - Conclusion

11.2 - Raw material procurement strategies

11.2.1 - Activity Phases I, II and II

11.2.2 - Activity Phase IV

11.2.3 - Activity Phase V

11.2.4 - Activity Phase VI

11.2.5 - Chronology of the Activity Phases IV and V succession

11.3 - Interpretations on social structure and evolution

11.4 - A regional perspective

11.4.1 - The late Middle Pleistocene and MIS 5

11.4.2 - The origin of the Upper Palaeolithic

12 - Annexes

12.1 - Comparative table of classifications of assemblages from Taramsa 1

12.2 - Raw data on sequence progressions in the first exploitation surfaces of refitted sequences from sector 91/04 main zone Cc 24 and Cc 28

12.3 - Raw data on all refit sequences from sector 91/03 Cc 19

12.4 - Raw data on the attribute analysis of end products from all assemblages

12.5 - Detailed technological classification of the sub-assemblages in sector 91/04 main zone

12.6 - Raw data used in the Principal Component analysis for refitted sequences

from sector 91/04 main zone Cc 24 and 28

12.7 - Anthropological observations from Vermeersch et al. 1998

12.8 - Taramsa CT scan: preliminary report (2002-2003)

12.9 - List of concentrations

12.10 -Technical detail of luminescence measurements

13 - References

14 - INDEX

15 - PLATES

Format: Monograph - paperback

Size: 297 × 210 × 17 mm

312 pages

ISBN: 9789058677860

Publication: April 09, 2010

Series: Egyptian Prehistory Monographs 5

Languages: English

Stock item number: 58574

Etienne Paulissen is Professor Emeritus at the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences of the Institute of Geo-Sciences of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.
Philip Van Peer is professor of Archaeology at the Prehistoric Archaeology Unit of the Institute of Geo-Sciences of KU Leuven. Philip Van Peer is als gewoon hoogleraar bij de Onderzoeksgroep Archeologie KU Leuven verantwoordelijke van het Centrum voor Landschapsarcheologie. Hij won de Pioniersprijs Humane Wetenschappen 2019 met onderzoek naar de Neanderthaler in onze gebieden.

Pierre Vermeersch is Professor of Prehistory at KU Leuven.


Pour conclure, je dirai que la publication de Taramsa 1 est une mine d'informations, savamment exploitée par les auteurs dont le premier mérite est d'alimenter les recherches et de susciter la discussion. Le choix du cadre rigoureusement monographique, s'il fait naître pour ma part quelques regrets, offre néanmoins la possibilité d'évoluer selon ses propres réfl exions tout en suivant et respectant le discours des auteurs. Ce discours apparaît au moment de la synthèse et l'on touche alors du doigt toute l'importance de cette région d'Égypte pour l'étude des changements, des peuplements, des adaptations et interactions. En conseillant cet ouvrage, je suggère en parallèle une ouverture vers la bibliographie des auteurs qui permettra aussi de resituer Taramsa 1 dans le cadre de l'évolution et de la construction d'une pensée. L'à
 

'Chert Quarrying, Lithic Technology, and a Modern Human Burial at the Palaeolithic Site of Taramsa 1, Upper Egypt' ist nicht nur die Darstellung von Ergebnissen zum Mittelund Junpaläolithikum Nordostafrikas, sondern insbesondere durch seine detaillierte Beschreibung der angewendeten Methodik sowie die am Ende erarbeiteten Interpretationen und Hypothesen ein ausgezeichnetes Beispiel für moderne Paläolithforschung und sollte in keiner archäologischen Bibliothek fehlen.
Knut Bretzke, Mitteilungen der Gesellschaft für Urgeschichte — 20 (2011)


 

The book reports impressive work. It is a wonderful site and the authors have persisted with the study over more than two decades. There are 99 plates of good quality, in-cluding color plates of some of the refitted sequences. This is in addition to numerous figures and tables. I congratulate the authors and appreciate the efforts it must have needed to get this "final" report done as Taramsa I has emerged as a key site in the story of modem human origins.
SHEILA MISHRA, Deccan College, Pune, INDIA, PaleoAnthropology 2012: 229-230


 

This volume is a very important contribution to the later Pleistocene archaeology of Northeastern Africa. The expertise of Van Peer et al. regarding Levallois and related production systems, applied to the extraordinary record of extractive activities at Taramsa 1, results in important new insights into human activities and lithic technological change throughout the MSA and beyond. The reconstructed reduction sequences, upon which the volume is built, are lavishly documented through verbal descriptions, schematic and graphical representations, summary tables on quantitative and qualitative attributes, high-quality artefact drawings, and colour photos of many of the reassembled sequences. In general, the volume is up to the usual high standards for archaeological publication of the Leuven University Press.
Mary M. A. McDonald, Afr Archaeol Rev (2010) 27:251-253


 

This book will be serious reading for lithic analysts-especially those wanting to get a take (Van Peer's) on the nature of the Levallois technique(s) somewhat different from those of Franyois Bordes or Eric BoMa. But it also is an understated milestone in bridging the gap between the MSA ofAfrica and the origins ofUpper Paleolithic (as lithotechnologically defined in the Near East and Europe).
Lawrence Guy Straus, University ofNew Mexico, Journal of Anthropological Research, vol. 67, 2011


 

Reference - Research Book News - February 2011