Journal Of Archaeological Science - Experimental Archaeology

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Journal of Archaeological Science 37 (2010) 368–388Contents lists available at ScienceDirectJournal of Archaeological Sciencejournal homepage: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/jasDesign and performance of microlith implemented projectiles duringthe Middle and the Late Epipaleolithic of the Levant: experimentaland archaeological evidenceAlla Yaroshevich a, b, *, Daniel Kaufman c, Dmitri Nuzhnyy d, Ofer Bar-Yosef e, Mina Weinstein-Evron caUniversity of Haifa, Department of Archaeology, IsraelIsrael Antiquities Authority, IsraelZinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, IsraeldInstitute of Archaeology, National Academy of Science, Kiev, UkraineeHarvard University, Department of Anthropology, Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology, USAbca r t i c l e i n f oa b s t r a c tArticle history:Received 19 August 2009Received in revised form24 September 2009Accepted 26 September 2009The study comprises an experimentally based investigation of interaction between temporal change inthe morphology of microlithic tools and transformations in projectile technology during the LatePleistocene in the Levant. Archery experiments with differently designed arrows fitted with various typesof microliths representing subsequent Epipaleolithic cultures of the Levant allowed analyzing performance abilities of the arrows, identifying projectile damage types characteristic of particular haftingmodes, detecting factors influencing the frequency of projectile damage and estimating the frequency ofprojectile damage expected to be found in archaeological samples. The data obtained through theexperiments applied in the analysis of the archaeological microliths from Geometric Kebaran andNatufian sites in Israel indicate different approaches to the design of projectiles fitted with microlithscharacteristic for these cultures. The shift in design, associated with such important economic and socialtransformations as transition to sedentary settlements and a broad-spectrum economy, may reflecta demand for light, flexible and efficient projectile weapons requiring low time and labor investment forpreparation and retooling. The use of such efficient weapons in conditions of growing population densityand restricted areas available for Natufian hunter–gatherers can be considered as one of the factors thatcould have affected the subsequent transition to food production that took place in the early Holocene.Ó 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.Keywords:MicrolithsArchery experimentsImpact fracturesProjectile weaponsLevantEpipaleolithic1. IntroductionVariability in artifacts attributed to projectile weapons has longbeen employed for dividing the prehistoric record into separatecultural and temporal units. This widely accepted practice indicatesa connection between transformations in projectile technology andshifts in social and subsistence adaptations of prehistoric hunter–gatherers. Studies investigating major changes in prehistoricprojectile technology show their close association with increasedpopulation density and decline in available resources resultingfrom environmental changes (Shea, 2006; Yu, 2006). In the Levant,the end of the Pleistocene was a period of sharp environmentalfluctuations and rapid cultural, social and subsistence changes that* Corresponding author. University of Haifa, Department of Archaeology, Haifa,Israel.E-mail address: [email protected] (A. Yaroshevich).0305-4403/ – see front matter Ó 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/j.jas.2009.09.050led subsequently to the emergence of agricultural communities inthe early Holocene. Improvement in hunting skills and a resultingdecrease in game have been suggested as one of the triggers thatcould possibly have started the process of transition from foragingto food production in the region (Diamond, 2002). The presentstudy aims to test this hypothesis through an investigation of thefunctioning of projectile weapons used during the closing stages ofthe Pleistocene in the Levant.The Late Pleistocene flint assemblages in the Levant do not yieldany type of symmetrical points leaving microlithic tools as the onlycandidates to function as projectiles. Microliths dominate duringthe period and researchers use the temporal and spatial variabilityof these tools to divide the Late Pleistocene Epipaleolithic intoseparate cultures (Bar-Yosef, 1970, 1995; Goring-Morris, 1995;Henry, 1989). The Early Epipaleolithic Kebaran (ca. 20–16.5 kacal BP) is characterized by a variety of non-geometric microliths:arch-backed bladelets, Kebara points, microgravette points (Fig. 1a:1,2,3). The Geometric Kebaran, the main middle Epipaleolithic

A. Yaroshevich et al. / Journal of Archaeological Science 37 (2010) 368–388culture (ca. 16.5–14.5 ka cal BP) is characterized by the dominanceof trapeze/rectangles – elongated double truncated bladelets withstraight backs (Fig. 1a: 4). The last Epipaleolithic culture, theNatufian (ca. 14.5–11.5 ka cal BP), is characterized by lunates –geometric microliths with curved back (Fig. 1a: 5,6). Relatively largelunates with bifacial (Helwan) retouch dominate during the EarlyNatufian whereas during the Late Natufian small lunates modifiedby abrupt retouch are more common. The Final Natufian is definedby the almost exclusive production of very small lunates withabrupt retouch (Valla, 1984; Bar-Yosef and Valla, 1979).The emergence of the Natufian culture was marked by theestablishment of permanent settlements and broadening of thediet including consumption of small game (the hunters’ secondand third-choice prey), as well as greater reliance on vegetal foodsources requiring considerable preparation (Stiner et al., 2000;Belfer-Cohen and Bar-Yosef, 2000; Munro, 2004). Researchersexplain this shift in subsistence and social organization as anadaptive response to a steady population increase during thepreceding Geometric Kebaran when high population density andreduction in available territories made budding-off of daughtergroups, practiced previously, no longer possible (Goring-Morris andBelfer-Cohen, 1998). The Late and Final Natufian witnessed additional changes in settlement and subsistence which involvedreduced occupation density and a return to more mobile strategieswhile still exerting intense pressure on animal resources (Munro,2004).World-wide archaeological and ethnographical evidence showa range of designs of projectiles with microlithic inserts (Clark,1969, 1977; Clark et al., 1974; Gvosdover, 1952; Leroi-Gourhan,1983; Odell, 1978; Brooks and Wakankar, 1976; Garlake, 1987). Inthe Levant no complete or almost complete projectiles indicatingdesign or mode of microlith hafting have been found. The evidencefor the use of microliths as elements in projectile weapons in theregion is limited to the occurrence of a Helwan lunate lodged ina vertebra of a human skeleton from the Early Natufian deposits ofKebara cave in Mount Carmel, Israel (Bocquentin and Bar-Yosef,2004). In addition, macro- and micro-fractures diagnostic ofprojectile impact have been identified in low frequencies onmicroliths from Geometric Kebaran and Natufian sites (AndersonGerfaud, 1983; Valla, 1987; Shimelmitz et al., 2004; Yaroshevich,2006; Richter, 2007; Marder et al., 2007; Valla et al., 2007). On thebasis of these studies, a variety of possible designs that could havebeen applied for projectiles composed of microliths during theperiod have been suggested.The design of a projectile weapon may affect its performancecharacteristics. Therefore, reconstructing their design constitutesa necessary stage in studies intended to investigate the performance of these tools. Such reconstructions have been attempted ina few studies based on archery experiments involving microlithshafted as projectile inserts in different modes and investigation ofprojectile damage patterns on experimental and archaeologicalmicroliths (Nuzhnyy, 1990, 1993, 1998, 1999; Crombe et al., 2001).These studies indicated a connection between temporal change inmicrolithic variability and transformations in the design ofprojectile weapons during the Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic inEurope.The present study combines archery experiments using replicasof the main microlith types of the Levantine Epipaleolithic anda comparative analysis of archaeological trapeze/rectangles andlunates – types of microliths most characteristic for the GeometricKebaran and the Natufian, respectively. It is important to emphasize that our analytical approach and findings do not rule out theevidence that there were additional uses of microliths during theEpipaleolithic (see Richter, 2007 and references therein). Ourexperimental arrowheads were assembled with the aim of369representing a wide range of arrow designs involving differenthafting modes of the microlithic inserts, i.e. as leading tips and asside elements positioned in various angles relative to the arrowshaft. The experiments had several goals: first, to reveal damagepatterns indicating mode of microlith hafting; second, to compareperformance characteristics of the arrows with different designsand composed of different types of microliths; third, to providea means for evaluating the frequency of projectile damage expectedto be found in assemblages recovered from archaeological sites, i.e.a taphonomic analysis of microlithic projectile implements.Following the initial experimental stage of the research, we recorded patterns of impact damage on Geometric Kebaran and Natufiansamples with the aim of reconstructing design of projectiles fittedwith microliths characteristic for each of these cultures anddetecting possible changes in projectile weapon technologythrough time.Experimental studies with Levantine microliths have not beenperformed before. Moreover, the present study, for the first time,combines performance analysis of differently designed arrows withthe investigation of damage patterns involving different microlithtypes hafted in a variety of modes. The experimentally basedinvestigation of interaction between temporal change in microlithmorphology and design and functioning of microlith implementedprojectiles during the Late Pleistocene will provide more insightsinto the nature of cultural changes during the period preceding themost important social and economic shift in human history – thetransition to agriculture in the Levant.2. Materials and methods2.1. BackgroundExperimental studies with different flint projectile elementshave provided descriptions of a variety of fracture types resultingfrom projectile impact (Fischer et al., 1984; Barton and Bergman,1982; Bergman and Newcomer, 1983; Moss and Newcomer, 1982;Odell and Cowan, 1986; Nuzhnyy, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1998 1999;Cattelain and Perpère, 1994; Caspar and De Bie, 1996; Crombe et al.,2001; Shea, 1988; Lombard and Pargeter, 2008). The terminology ofdamage most commonly used in describing fractures resultingfrom projectile impact was developed through the experimentalstudy of Fischer et al. (1984) based on the morphology of fractureinitiation and termination as seen in profile (Ho–Ho classification,Hayden, 1979). Fischer et al. (1984) determined that two types offractures can be recognized as diagnostic of projectile impact, i.e.fracture types that could not have been produced as a result ofother activities or as a result of production accident or trampling.The first type, the step-terminating bending fracture has a smoothinitiation which lacks a negative of bulb of percussion, continuesparallel to the point’s surface and terminates abruptly in a rightangle break. The smooth initiation (bending) indicates forcesdistributed over a large area as opposed to forces applied ata particular point when cone initiating fracture occurs (fracturewith a concave profile as a result of the presence of a negative ofa bulb of percussion). The second type, spin-off, is a secondary coneinitiating fracture which originates on the surface of a bendingfracture. Spin-off fractures occur when already broken pieces of theflint projectile element are pressed together as a result of kineticenergy stored in the shaft during impact. Spin-off is considered asdiagnostic of projectile impact relative to the size of the flint insert.For microlithic inserts a spin-off of 1 mm length is considered asdiagnostic of projectile impact, as shown by experimental results(Fischer et al., 1984).Experimental studies also determined microscopic damageindicating projectile impact. These are linear polishes and striations

370A. Yaroshevich et al. / Journal of Archaeological Science 37 (2010) 368–388Fig. 1. a: The main types of microliths characteristic for the Epipaleolithic cultures in the Levant. 1: Arch-backed bladelet; 2: Kebara point; 3: Microgravette point; 4: Trapeze/rectangle; 5: Lunate with Helwan retouch; 6: Lunate with abrupt retouch. b. Experimental arrows. 1: straight point; 2: oblique point; 3: double oblique point; 4: transversal point;5: oblique point with barb; 6: self-pointed arrow with twisted barbs; 7: self-pointed arrow with lateral blades, 8: arrow with straight point and four oblique barbs.(Fischer et al., 1984; Moss and Newcomer, 1982; Crombe et al.,2001). The striations appear when microscopic pieces of flint,removed during impact, scratch the point’s surface. The direction ofthe micro-fractures corresponds to the direction of arrowmovement.Experiments have further shown that macro-fractures diagnostic of projectile impact vary in terms of location of initiation andorientation. The most common projectile damage described in theexperiments are bending and spin-off fractures that initiate eitheron a dorsal or ventral surface and continue parallel to the longitudinal axis of the point removing part of its surface or part of itslateral edge. This type of damage was observed on various types ofstraight points (Barton and Bergman, 1982; Bergman andNewcomer, 1983; Fischer et al., 1984; Nuzhnyy, 1990, 1993, 1998,1999; Odell and Cowan, 1986; Geneste and Plisson, 1990; Casparand De Bie, 1996; Crombe et al., 2001),