Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Handbook of Paleolithic Typology

Handbook of Paleolithic Typology: Lower and Middle Paleolithic of Europe

André Debénath
Harold L. Dibble
Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 256
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Handbook of Paleolithic Typology
    Book Description:

    This book presents the major tool types of European Lower and Middle Paleolithic. Building on the typelist of the late Francois Bordes, with many forms that have been recognized since, it presents working definitions of the types with illustrations and discussions of the variability inherent to lithic typologies. The authors combine classic typological views with current notions of lithic typological variation.

    This handbook represents not only an important reference source for gaining a practical understanding of how Lower and Middle Paleolithic typology is applied but of the nature of lithic variability in other kinds of assemblages as well.

    eISBN: 978-1-934536-80-3
    Subjects: Archaeology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-v)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vi-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    F. Clark Howell

    THIS VOLUME CONSTITUTES A MOST USEFUL, INFORMATIVE, AND WELCOME aid to workers and students in paleoanthropology. It presents thorough discussion and substantial illustration of the technical and typological aspects of the lithic components of the European Lower and Middle Paleolithic. It is based on the system of typology developed and refined over a period of years, through analysis of artifact collections and his own exceptional skill at replicating such artifacts, by the late Prof. Frangois Bordes. The typology, its basis and criteria for delineation of major categories and specific types, was published and illustratedin extenso(in French) by him...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. PART I

    • Chapter One INTRODUCTION
      (pp. 3-8)

      TO UNDERSTAND THE ORIGINS AND evolution of hominids, there are two principal sources of evidence that must be examined and understood. First is the biological evidence, consisting primarily of skeletal remains of the hominids themselves. The second source of evidence is behavioral, consisting of the artifacts and other remains that directly reflect human activities. These include not only tools and weapons, but also faunal remains, habitation structures, and other features of human origin. Of these, probably the most important are lithic remains, that is, stone tools and the by-products of their manufacture. They are important not necessarily because they give...

      (pp. 9-20)

      ALL THREE OF THE BASIC ROCK TYPES (igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary) were used to make artifacts during the Paleolithic, though in Europe primarily flint and other siliceous rocks are represented depending on local availability. The most important quality of such rocks is the fact that when struck they fracture conchoidally, which results in the removal of flakes. The term raw material is applied generally to all potentially flaked material as it exists in its natural state. Certain distinctions are made depending on the form of the stone. Flint and other fine-grained cherts normally occur either as more or less rounded...

      (pp. 21-38)

      IN FRENCH LITERATURE THERE ARE stronger distinctions made between flaking techniques, technologies, and reduction sequences than is generally true in American literature. At the most fundamental level are the techniques involved in the application of force to the material. At a higher conceptual level is the flaking technology, which involves a consistent pattern of core preparation and the application of specific flaking techniques. The various by-products obtained, not including the finished tool, are referred to as debitage. At the highest level is the French concept of thechaîne opératoire, which is only roughly translated into English as “reduction sequence.” The...

  6. PART II

      (pp. 41-42)

      In this part of the Handbook we will define and discuss various named types recognized in European Lower and Middle Paleolithic industries, building on the typology of Bordes.

      Since the typology is simply a list of categories, there are many potential ways to organize it. Bordes himself eventually assigned numbers to each of his types, which standardized their order for producing cumulative graphs (see Appendix I). This order was in part dictated by similarities in morphology or retouch types, but in large part it was designed to maximize the separation among Middle Paleolithic industries using this graphical technique. In this...

      (pp. 43-56)

      THIS CHAPTER PRESENTS A NUMBER OF types which are defined on the basis of certain specialized technologies of blank production rather than on specific morphologies brought about through retouching. Except for the retouched Levallois points, all of the technologically defined types presented in this chapter are unretouched. To quite a degree, then, these types are in marked contrast to the other types in Bordes’ typelist, which mostly categorize objects that were deliberately retouched and for which the shape, location, and other characteristics of the retouched edge represent the primary criteria for classification. Thus, the distinction between “tools” and “debitage” becomes...

    • Chapter Five POINTS
      (pp. 57-68)

      THIS CHAPTER COVERS THE retouched Mousterian points and the double points of Bordes’ typology, as well as some other point types that occur in varying frequencies in certain Lower and Middle Paleolithic assemblages. Levallois and pseudo-Levallois points are discussed above in Chapter 4, and Tayac points (which are essentially convergent denticulates) are discussed below in Chapter 8.

      As is true of the various kinds of knives, points have long been recognized in Paleolithic contexts and the term “point” has been in the literature since the eighteenth century. However, they have also been poorly defined, with nothing approaching a clear definition...

    • Chapter Six SCRAPERS
      (pp. 69-92)

      SCRAPERS, ORRACLOIRS, ARE AMONG THE oldest recognizable tool forms, extending back into the Oldowan industries of more than two million years ago. By the time of the Acheulian of Europe, which begins at least 750,000 years ago, scrapers are classifiable into many different types and, in a sense, reach their apogee, both in terms of diversity and frequency, in the Charentian Mousterian (Quina and Ferrassie groups) of France and similar industries elsewhere in Europe, the Near East, and Africa. In fact, scrapers of various types are the most frequently occurring tool in the European Middle Paleolithic and, along with...

      (pp. 93-102)

      CERTAIN TOOL FORMS THAT ARE CHARacteristic of later Upper Paleolithic industries actually begin to appear within the Acheulian and Mousterian and so are included in Bordes’ typology. These types are the endscrapers, burins, pergoirs, backed knives, raclettes, and truncations.

      Except for the raclettes and truncations, all of these forms are divided into typical and atypical types, which is probably the biggest source of confusion in learning Bordes’ typology. The confusion is not surprising since these distinctions are based on very subjective evaluations: if the piece is “well-made” and closely resembles its Upper Paleolithic counterpart, then it is “typical”; if not,...

      (pp. 103-110)

      NOTCHES AND DENTICULATES REPREsent, along with scrapers, the most commonly occurring types in the Middle Paleolithic and are the principal types represented in Denticulate Mousterian assemblages. However, they are a very amorphous group with few common characteristics. They can occur on virtually any kind of blank, can take any shape, and the retouch can be on the interior as well as the exterior. In spite of this variability, Bordes’ typology makes relatively few typological distinctions among them, which is somewhat surprising given, for example, the number of scraper types. Even more troubling, however, is that notches and denticulates are fairly...

    • Chapter Nine MISCELLANEOUS
      (pp. 111-124)

      IN THIS CHAPTER WE WILL COVER some remaining flake tool types that, while recognizable, are usually rare in Lower and Middle Paleolithic assemblages and which have no real common characteristics. As is true for some other types already covered, some of the types presented here may not be deliberately retouched and so would not represent intentional tools. We will also present two other recognized forms that are not part of Bordes’ original typology

      Mousterian tranchets (Type 41; Figures 9.1–9.4). The termtranchetwas first applied to Lower Paleolithic objects by Commont (1908), and since then has been used by...

    • Chapter Ten PEBBLE TOOLS
      (pp. 125-128)

      AS THEIR NAME SUGGESTS, PEBBLE tools are often made on more or less fist-sized cobbles or other chunky raw materials, most often with limited retouching along one edge which leaves a large portion of the original cortex. They are typical of the earliest Oldowan-type industries of East Africa, but they also exist in the later European Paleolithic industries (and even up to very recent times in all parts of the world), although much less frequently and with less variability than in the earlier African assemblages.

      Although pebble tools in general were first recognized and described by Capitan (1902) and defined...

    • Chapter Eleven BIFACES AND CLEAVERS
      (pp. 129-172)

      BIFACES WERE THE FIRST PALEOLITHIC artifacts to be recognized as such and were illustrated as early as the end of the eighteenth century by John Frere. Later, in the middle part of the nineteenth century, they were instrumental to the demonstration of the antiquity of man by Boucher de Perthes (1847, 1864). De Perthes also constructed the earliest explicit typology of these forms, distinguishing the older “diluvian” axes (i.e., the Paleolithic variety that were chipped), from the more recent “celtic” axes (i.e., Neolithic ground-stone axes). The diluvian axes consisted of 11 types (see Figure 11.1). Later, de Mortillet (1883) distinguished...

    (pp. 173-178)
  8. Appendix II. LIST OF FIGURES
    (pp. 179-190)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 191-199)
  10. Index of Tool Types
    (pp. 200-203)