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Open-air sites in Palaeolithic tradition in the middle of Cuba

 

 

Since 1998 the archaeological group CITMA, Santa Clara, living in the small town Sagua La Grande, 50 km north of the capital Santa Clara in the middle of Cuba, detected more than hundred Palaeolithic open-sites. The map above shows the tripartite geological division: South of the line Quemado de Guines - Sagua -Emilio Cordoba is the  Karst-area, north of the line the flat marsh-land ending in the manglone-cayo-region, small islands which had been land  during the Pleistocene marine transgression. Here was the shortest land-bridge from Florida - Bahamas - Cuba. (The geological situation in the left frame).

 

 



 

The cretaceous soil is exposed to erosion (karst). Some not-eroded hills (lomos) surmount the flat  cretaceous environment. Right a bellevue from a lomo towards the coast-line. Some guys are resting.

 

 

 


 

The bulk of the evidence for Palaeolithic Pleistocene open-site occupation lies in the Karst fields of different times, a range  some 700 km long but small following the coast-line. There are no Palaeolithic sites within the marsh but it seems that Mesolithic people came in the second migration wave 5000 B.P. from the Mississippi-delta  settling sea-bound at the mouth of the river Sagua ("Archaeology of the Mid-Holocene Southeast", ed. Kenneth E. Sassamann/David G. Anderson, Gainesville 1996)

 

 


 

The members of the crew Lorenzo, Nestor and Raul  show me one of the big open-air sites with  thousands of artifacts. The chalk-area has only a poor infertile vegetational soil, so you can see the artifacts of small or medium size spreading out until to the horizon. Big chopper-cores of silicified chalk mark the origin of many flakes which were separated in hard-hammer-percussion from the rocks. 
 

 


 

The vast area of the quarry is conducive to the  vegetation of ancient times. Impossible for ancient man to find the raw material under the cover of closed forests (or even jungle) as Columbus witnessed. In Florida in the Late Pleistocene 14,000 years BP existed   sand dune/scrub, in Early Holocene 10,000 years PB oak-savannah, oak-dominated scrub with openings dominated by herbs with affinities to modern prairie. (Kenneth E. Sassaman, David G. Anderson, ed: Archaeology of the Mid-Holocene Southeast, Gainesville 1996, p. 29).

 

 


 

We have  lithic-rich environments, where the raw materials are nearly ubiquitous.  We have quarries, where primary reduction occurred; quarry reduction sites, where initial reduction prior to transport occurred. But we cannot transfer the  models of Palaeolithic settlements and their distribution from the United States to Cuba  like the "Flint Run Lithic Determinism Model"  from Gardner or the  "Cryptocrystalline Hypothesis" from Goodyear.  (David G. Anderson Kenneth E. Sassaman: "The Paleo-Indian and Early Archaic Southeast, ed, Tuscaloosa/London 1996, S. 21 ff). All these models about social interactions, site distributions,  logistical strategies of people in the USA  have other special physiographic boundaries than Cuba.  Insular  people  had specific benefits of facilitating information exchanges about social and environmental conditions and resource availability, helping them to maintain mating networks.

Chalcedony  appears amorphous but is actually made up of microcrystals of quartz, as is flint. It seems that chalcedony differs from flint and chert either because its crystals grow in bundles of radiating fibres rather than forming grains.

 

 


 

We have  lithic-rich environments, where the raw materials are nearly ubiquitous.  We have quarries, where primary reduction occurred; quarry reduction sites, where initial reduction prior to transport occurred. But we cannot transfers the  models of Palaeolithic settlements and their distribution from the United States to Cuba  like the "Flint Run Lithic Determinism Model"  from Gardner or the  "Cryptocrystalline Hypothesis" from Goodyear.  (David G. Anderson Kenneth E. Sassaman: "The Paleo-Indian and Early Archaic Southeast, ed, Tuscaloosa/London 1996, S. 21 ff). All these models about social interactions, site distributions,  logistical strategies of people in the USA  have other special physiographic boundaries than Cuba.  Insular  people  had specific benefits of facilitating information exchanges about social and environmental conditions and resource availability, helping them to maintain mating networks.

 

 

 


La Mesa grande, the big table in the CITMA-Institute of Sagua La Grande of my 3 colleagues in Sagra La Grande - an impressive sight on an arrangement of one open-air site I met by chance. It is a blade-industry which reminds me of the Seboruco-complex, some 500 km distant. cores of Levallois type, conical cores, unipolar and bipolar cores to get blades in a simple efficient reduction strategy  like the Clovis-blades but not with their  regular conformity which may be the product of very accurate, low-angle blows with a soft hammer or pressure-flaking. In addition the assemblage contains irregular thick Clactonian-like flakes with prominent bulbs which had been separated by hard-hammer percussion from large chopper-cores of siliceous chalk. Beside white patinated Metamorphoric chalk  rocks there is also brown chalcedony like in my small samples I picked up to scan them. It is not easy to distinguish debitage-flakes from tools. It seems that people did not know the technique bevelling of the edge by pressure flaking or soft-hammer-percussion to get regular straight working edges. It seems that people adapted only the technology of hard-hammer-percussion. There is a lack of standardised forms of endproducts. May be that the better tools are carried away.

 

           

 

Visiting the same places in March 2004 one member of the German project-group, Dr. Rieder, suggested that the technique of these early men did not need bevelling the edges. In this case the quarries could  also be settlements. The running project: "Early settlements in Cuba" will solve this problem.

 

 

 


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