LRJ as a transitional industry

2 minute read

I was reading this morning an interesting paper from last year by Damien Flas Flas:2011, who considered the context of archaeological assemblages grouped as Lincombian-Ranisian-Jerzmanowician industry in northern Europe. This awkwardly-named archaeological grouping is one of the “transitional” initial Upper Paleolithic industries of Europe, plausibly made by Neandertals but involving artifacts built on a blade-based reduction strategy.

Flas tentatively concludes that LRJ was produced by Neandertals, mainly because of its early date, the late appearance of Aurignacian in northwestern Europe, and the lack of technical connections to traditions that were plausibly made by modern humans. I will share the portion of the text where he discusses the lack of such links:

Recently, maybe because an acculturation process related to the Aurignacian complex has been challenged on the basis of chronological and stratigraphic data (e.g. Bordes 2003; d'Errico et al. 1998; Zilho 2006a), other industries have been proposed as proxies for the spread of AMH and as acculturators driving the last Neanderthals to develop the transitional industries (Bar-Yosef 2007; Hoffecker 2009; Mellars 2005). In Central Europe, the Bohunician has been seen as a complex related to the spread of AMH from the Near East (Bar-Yosef and Svoboda 2003; Koz?owski 2004). Indeed, it shows similarities with the assemblages in layers 12 of Boker-Tachtit (Skrdla 2003; Tostevin 2003), and Tostevin (2007) has set out in a detailed way how the Szeletian assemblage from Vedrovice V may be seen as the result of acculturation of the local Middle Paleolithic (Keilmessergruppe from Kulna Cave) by the Bohunician complex.
However, the extension of this model to include a scenario whereby LRJ Neanderthals are acculturated by Bohunician AMH finds little support in the evidence, and is thus a weak hypothesis. There are no human remains, either in the Near East or in Central Europe, showing that this Emireo-Bohunician complex is made by AMH, and it could alternatively correspond to the diffusion of technical ideas rather than to a population dispersal (Tostevin 2003). Moreover, the relationship between Boker Tachtit (in the Negev) and the Bohunician (in Moravia) is based on technological similarities, but intermediary assemblages between these two distant regions are rare (Bar-Yosef and Svoboda 2003; Koz?owski 2004) and sometimes show variability (as at Temnata and Bacho Kiro: Teyssandier 2008; Tsanova 2008). It would be also necessary to assess other European late Middle Paleolithic industries that could potentially play a role in the emergence of the Bohunician (Koz?owski 2001), such as the Polish sites of Piekary IIa and Ksiecia Jozefa (Sitlivy et al. 2007a, 2007b; Zilho 2006a), as well as Korolevo I/IIb (Ukrainia: Monigal et al. 2006) and the Bulgarian Moustero-Levalloisian with leaf-points of Samuilitsa and Muselievo (Tsanova 2008). Even if the hypothesis that the Bohunician corresponds to an AMH dispersal from the Near East is accepted, the LRJ shows different objectives and reduction strategies from the Bohunician. More generally, it is difficult to see any lithic innovations in Bachokirian or Bohunician industries that could provide the stimulus for long-distance acculturation.

He posits a transformation from some Mousterian variant, based on the specialization toward “laminar blanks” (that is, cores suitable for striking blades). I find very interesting the implication of information exchange and possible dispersal among late Neandertals in the northern tier of Europe.

Related: my post from last year on Kent’s Cavern dating, “The radiocarbon dating paper without a radiocarbon date”. The Kent’s Cavern maxilla overlies some artifacts attributed to LRJ traditions.