Technical and Morphological Signs of Limestone Processingat the Lower Palaeolithic Site Medzhybizh A

Keywords: limestone, Lower Palaeolithic, Medzhybizh A, technical and morphological method, refitting, experimental simulation


The task of identifying and analyzing the signs of intentional processing non-siliceous raw materials became relevant in European Palaeolithic studies only in recent years with the discovery of numerous sites, where such materials were widely used. This led to the need for experimental work focused on the study of the physical principles of knapping of non-siliceous raw materials and on the identification of its flaking capabilities. This article deals with the above range of issues in connection with numerous findings of artefacts prepared on non-siliceous raw materials in the lower layers of Medzhybizh A. The number of limestone findings on the area of 1,0 m2 in these layers constitutes, on average, 150—200 pieces. An abnormally large number of lime stone items were recorded in the 3D square at the level of the 2nd horizon of the V layer. Here, on an area of about 0.25 m2, 477 pieces were found, among which 56 complete and segmented pebbles (different in shape and size of individual fragments of limestone with eroded surface), 106 flakes and segments of such pebbles, as well as 304 amorphous fragments. Part of the objects in each of these groups can be attributed to the artefacts with varying degrees of confidence: 23, 81 and 5, respectively. The large number of artefacts and probable artefacts on local lime stones identified in layers V and VI of Medzhybizh A makes the task of searching for the objective definition of artefact-diagnostic criteria and, in general, studying the general regularities of knapping of the given kind of rock very urgent. The presence of refits allows studying technical and morphological features of archaeological items made of limestone. In this article the refitting with the greatest number of elements (nine) is analyzed in detail.

At the same time a series of experiments was conducted on the processing of local limestones using various techniques, namely: anvil technique, bipolar on anvil technique, freehand. The raw materials base for experiments is consisted of objects without any signs of transformation found in the deposits containing artefacts of the V and VI layers, as well as pieces from the nearest exposed pebble conglomerate in the valley of the Vovk River at a distance of no more than 15 km from the site.

Experiments on knapping local limestone have confirmed the splitting properties of the material. The ability of the local limestone to produce flakes with sharp edges will increase as the hardness and density of the material increases. Typically, flakes have sharp edges that are suitable for wood and bone processing.

Experiments have shown that signs of intentional processing of lithic raw materials in freehand, bipolar on anvil and anvil techniques that are easily recognizable on siliceous rocks can also be used to identify anthropogenic modifications of limestone. However, since limestone has a relatively low level of isotropy, an anisotropic fracture, an uneven surface of negatives, insofar as these signs are less expressed.

Observations during the experiments as well as analysis of flakes of the experimental series revealed a number of common mandatory signs typical for this rock type. A comparison of the technical and morphological analysis of experimental products and archaeological artefacts suggests the artefact nature of the limestone pebble refitting from the V layer of Medzhybizh A. It is most likely that the freehand technique was used to process the pebble, but some elements could be obtained by anvil technique. The probability of applying bipolar on anvil technology is minimal.

In general, the applied approach of combined use of experimental, technical-typological and technological-dynamic methods demonstrated significant informative possibilities in the study of materials of the Lower Palaeolithic.


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