Objects of the field research - Relative dating artifacts of surface sites near Luxor


Twice in history the Nile Valley was the route of populations invading Europe and Asia from Subsahara, Africa 1. Homo erectus, the ancestor of modern man, passing the valley 1,2 million years B.P. 2. Modern humans following the same route 150 000 B.P.
One object of my field research:
I. Why
is there such a lot of artifacts dispersed in dense carpets covering the whole pavement zone near Luxor?Does this reflect the  two migration periods of mankind ? 



     Red-line routes: homo erectus - green lines: modern man


The presence of Palaeolithic man at the Nile, north and south of  the Westbanks near the Pharaonic tombs of Luxor is well known in archaeology. Some of these site in South Egypt:

1. Abydos, McPherron et al., 3 Luxor among many others C. Schlüchter/Hj Müller-Beck, 2. Isnan  P. M.Vermeersch  4. Aswan. G.Elvers



II. Why is there such a mass of  of artifacts  in the high terrace area, which is difficult to access?.
Left: The schematic cross-section of the Nile Valley shows a distinct difference in geomorphology.  . b-c-d are the living pavements of Palaeolithic occupation. Millions of artifacts cover the whole area – even on the high gravel terraces with steep slopes.

Schematic cross-section of the Westbank near Luxora) a) the 500 m High-Desert-Platform, the east edge of the large Limestone Desert with its cliffs.  b)  high gravel terraces (350 m) with steep slopes; c) low gravel terraces d) low desert pavements (Wadis) e) flood plain (fertile soil) and river





The immense carpets of artifacts on one living floor represent many periods of  human manufacturing for probably more than 1 Million years. For this reason dating the industries without stratigraphy is a hard thing. I collected by chance 38 samples, including 12 "intact" sites, the maximum distance:  7 km west of the Valley of the Queens.

To classify the samples I tried to apply  the reduction-sequence- methods (trimming) and the analysis of typical endproducts. Some examples:  Lower Palaeolithic: large often irregular cores with organizations of broad scars, large flakes struck from simple platforms,  prominent bulb by hard hammer percussion, steep edge-trimming, crude bifacial tools but also elaborated Final Acheuleen handaxes.
Middle Palaeolithic: intentional preparation of the striking platforms (multifaceted), foliate bifaces, Levalloisian and Nubian Points, flakes  and cores, cordate handaxes. Upper Palaeolithic: controlled parallel blade core methods, indirect percussion punches etc.
The chert was cropped  or weathered out of the chalk as thick balls (cobbles), nodules. Commonly chert and artifacts have a dark red–brown varnish. But the color is variable, sometimes white-yellow, the edges are sharp despite the age of stone. This proves that the living pavement was “calm”, there had been few movements of stones.
describes the flaking of the Acheuleen-Site of NAG AHMED EL KHALIFA (p. 60): "The flakes are rather large and thick. The butt is thick, plain and often cortical but seldom dihedral or faceted. The number of dorsal scars is generally low, suggesting restricted flaking activity"


Flaking-methods Middle Palaeolithic top row: Nubian 2 point method - Nubian 1 point method down row: classical Levallois method - Halfa method


Perhaps Middle Lower Palaeolithic: Left:  proto-handaxe, the distal end bifacial knapped with sharp edges, the remained cortex creates a convenient grip; yellow-white patina color. Right: unilateral chopper-tool from a selected elongated nodule. Such choppers can also be much younger.



Lower Palaeolithic
Typical Final Acheulian style handaxe; bottom side - contact zone with soil - shiny surface, up side - exposed to cosmogenic isotopes - has a dull surface, a bit wheathered, sharp edges.
Symmetrically shaped  - surface plus centerplane -such tools (?) are the first cultural works of mankind.




Middle Palaeolithic
The transition top 2 leaf points, down
1 cordate handaxe.







Middle Palaeolithic
Till today the dating of Middle Palaeolithic is controverse. Vermeersch centers early Middle Palaeolithic on 200 000 - 150 000. McBrairty Middle Palaeolithic technology: 350 000 - 250 000. My experience of field research::There exist a transition of technology-tradition of Final Acheulian to Middle Palaolithic.



III. How can the analysis of surface finds round Luxor contribute a solution to the controversal debate?



Definition Van Peer 1-Point method: At the distal end of a thick core two elongated flakes with negative bulbs close to each other are removed without secondary retouches. The frequent points are weapons in big game hunting.


The scraper left is an example of transition form Final Acheulian to (early) Middle Palaeolithic. The exterior side has the simple Levallois technology of Acheulean to create a scraper,  but the interior side has negative scars like a Proto-Nubian-core.





A special technique of  knapping pebbles in Lower Palaeolithic: "orange slice", (a spicchio). These are segments, which we have also in the Acheulean site of Kronach, North Bavaria (L.G. Zotz, G. Freund, Kallmünz 1073)   



Concentrated on a small pass crossing a low terrace we find 3 periods of stones: top left a primitive handaxe  early lower Palaeolithic; one middle-palaeolithic point; but most interesting is the down row: 3 cm large boring tool, asymmetrical trapeze, backed bladelet like late Palaeolithic Makzadma 4 (Vermeersch 252)




Late Upper Palaeolithic (depict period)
A rare probe of an Upper Palaeolithic site .
I could pick it up in the second wadi east of the famous Valley of the Kings. Within 1 qm I found long regular blades – debitage of a lost core in different stages of preparations - perhaps pressure flaking. The exterior of all blades has two prominent, parallel blade scars, the cross-section is triangular.




Abstracts.  The results so far

Within many flakes I could analyse 5  periods mostly  Acheulian und Middle Palaeolithic. Important is the difference between Lower and Middle Palaeolithic, where the archaeology has its problems of absolute dates and morphology criterions.  Analytically we can find flakes of Acheulian tradition within the material of Middle Palaeolithic or -vice versa - About final Acheulian flakes with the "dawn" of early Middle Palaeolithic  I discussed one sample.
There is a lack of Neolithic and – more important – debitage of early Modern Man during the long time 100 000 – 15 000 B.P. I did not find his reduction sequences or endproducts like long blades,  burins, regular blade cores, endscrapers.




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