Chipped lithics – University of Copenhagen

Chipped lithics

The chipped stone material from Shkarat Msaied has not yet been subjected to a detailed analysis. Except for part of the material excavated in 1999 and 2001, the chipped stone material has been sorted according to a primary classification. The sorted material account for close to 70% of the total.
Most of the raw materials are quite similar to the materials used at the site of Beidha (Mortensen 1970: 14-15). They include fine-grained to medium coarse grey and beige-brownish flint types as well as various coarser materials including a few examples of fine grained quartz used in flaking. A single piece of obsidian has been found: A small fragment of a blade which derives from the room fill of Unit F.

Primary production
Cores account for 1.9% of the total. Only cores from the 2002-2004 seasons have been registered according to type. Here it can be seen that flake cores are quite numerous, accounting for almost 50%. The core-on-flake type is included in the flake core category, here, as these only rarely produce blanks of blade size. The blade cores comprise 41.5%. Of these most are bidirectional/ opposed platform cores and only few are unipolar cores. The opposed platform cores show a variation of shapes (Fig. ). Only few of these can be termed naviform or semi-naviform. It is, therefore, not likely that the standardized naviform core technology was introduced at Shkarat Msaied. The bidirectional technique is also seen from the rather high amount of crest blades, sometimes with the distal end of the crest removed from the opposite end, as well as blades with bidirectional removal scars showing both feathered and pointed distal ends. The small size of many cores and the different types of core trimming elements found in the material show that not only core preparation, but also at least some core rejuvenation was taking place at the site, but unfortunately no workshop for blank production has so far been identified in the material.

For the 2000-2001 seasons flakes are far more represented among the debitage than blades as can be seen from a blade to flake ratio of 1:3.4. The limited study of the 1999 material does not allow a separation into blades and flakes. A small amount of the debitage could not be assigned more specifically to the blade or flake category due to fragmentation. When turning to the material from the seasons 2002-2004 a different picture is seen. Here the ratio of blades to flakes is very close to 1:1, but with 16% of indeterminable fragments of flakes/ blades.

The amount of material which could be identified as tools also varies from one season to the next. Figures from 5.3 to 10.1% are seen, with 6.5% of the total.

Retouched material
Although flakes are more frequent among the debitage than blades, blades are preferred as tool blanks. The chipped stone tools show a predominance of blade related tools, such as arrowheads, knives, etc., with arrowheads being the most dominant tool group, accounting for alomost 25% of the tools (Table 2). The table does not include material from the 1999 season, since the data from the in-field sorting does not allow a separation into tool types.

According to a detailed analysis of the arrowheads from the 1999-2002 seasons (Glar 2003) combined with information from the last two seasons the arrowheads consist of mostly Jericho points with almost 70% of the total registered as such (Fig. ). Intermediate Jericho/ Byblos transitional forms, defined as types which fit the Jericho definition along one lateral side and the Byblos definition on the other, are the second largest group with almost 12%. Byblos points follow closely with almost 10%. Amuq and Byblos/ Amuq transitional forms are present as well but only in few numbers (less than 2%).

Of particular interest are the few Helwan points. So far six have been identified, 1.1% of the arrowhead assemblage, of which one point is a surface find and one comes from a tertiary context above the top of the walls of Unit B. The rest are found in proper architectural contexts: A few centimeters above the plaster floor of Unit F, embedded in the fill layer on which Unit C is constructed, which is below the floor of Enclosure b, but not necessarily predating the construction of Unit C, and in a fill layer in the eastern part of Unit P close to the level of the pavement excavated in the western part of that unit.

Late Neolithic arrowhead types are also represented. They primarily derive from the topsoil and upper fill of the houses, indicating that the site has been used in Late Neolithic times. So far no architectural remains can be dated with certainty to this phase. Further studies will show if circular structures excavated above the entrance to Unit B, above the southern end of Unit R and to the west of Unit J should be dated to the Late Neolithic.

Scrapers are also quite common, especially side scrapers made on flakes. Sickle blades with gloss are represented, but are not very common, while retouched blades and blades with fine denticulation, both types which may have been used as knives, are found in large numbers.

Especially one tool type has been found in interesting contexts: the borers (see below). The tool group, which account for around 10% of the tools, includes a variation of borers and drills. The type which is most often represented is drills with short drill bits made on small flakes, bladelets and burin spalls. The rest are made on blades.

Two different deposits, a pit in area I, near the entrance to Unit A, and a small dump north of Unit A, both produced large numbers of borers when excavated. Each of these deposits is interpreted as deriving from a bead workshop. The tools are mostly of the drill type with the short drill bit mentioned above. The workshop material has been presented in detail elsewhere (Jensen 2004a; 2002b; 2008).

The other tool types seem to be evenly distributed across the site. This is also the case with the cores and primary elements; therefore no specific flint working areas have so far been identified. Any further details on the distribution of the chipped stone material will have to await a closer study.

Glar, V. 2003 An Analysis of the Relations between Arrowhead Groups and larger Wild Animal Species at Shaqarat Masi´ad and other PPNB sites of the Southern Levant . Unpublished MA thesis.

Jensen, C.H. 2004a Workshops and Activity Areas in the PPNB Period: The Excavations at Shaqarat Masi´ad. Paper read at the Fourth International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East, Berlin April 2004.

Jensen, C.H. 2004b. Productions areas at MPPNB Shkarat Msaied, Southern Jordan. Neo-Lithics 2/04: 22-26.

Jensen, C.H. 2008. Workshops and activity areas in the PPNB period: The excavations at Shkarat Msaied. In: Kühne, H. et al. (eds.) Proceedings of the Fourth International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East (2004). Vol. 2. 2008 Berlin: Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 331-344.

Mortensen, P. 1970 A preliminary study of the chipped stone industry from Beidha, an early Neolithic village in Southern Jordan. Acta Archaeologica 41: 1-55.

Purschwitz C. 2013   Ba‘ja 2012: Abiotic Resources and Early Neolithic Raw Material Procurement in the Greater Petra Area (ARGPA) - Research Aims and First Results. Neo-Lithics 1/13: 3-10.

Purschwitz, C.  in press  Die lithische Ökonomie von Feuerstein im Frühneolithikum der Größeren Petra Region, Südlevante. Studies in Early Near Eastern Production, Subsistence, and Environment 19. Berlin: ex oriente. 

Purschwitz, C. in prep. a The Lithological Landscape of the Greter Petra Region, Southern Levant. Availability of Flint and   other Abiotic Ressources. In:  C. McCartney, F. Briois, L. Astruc (eds), Near Eastern Lithic technologies on the move. Interactions and Contexts in the development of Neolithic traditions. Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on PPN Chipped and Ground Stone Industries of the Near East Nicosia, November 23rd - 27th 2016.

Purschwitz, C. in prep. b A MPPNB bidirectional blade workshop at Shkârat Msaied and its socioeconomic implications. In: C. McCartney, F. Briois, L. Astruc (eds), Near Eastern Lithic technologies on the move. Interactions and Contexts in the development of Neolithic traditions. Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on PPN Chipped and Ground Stone Industries of the Near East Nicosia, November 23rd - 27th 2016.

SM2015 arrowheads exposed at Shkarat Msaied (drawing by C. Purschwitz).

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